Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Interstellar – 2014

tumblr_mxwr56t2Dp1qdl1hxo2_1280Remember, remember! The sixth of November,
The adventure, grandeur and might.
Nolan has shown, the puzzling unknown,
In the place where there is no light.
A film is released, a tremendous relief,
For the masses who eagerly wait.
Compared to the rest, it’s not quite his best;
But “Interstellar” is truly great!

In recent memory, the release of a film from any director has not been accompanied by such a universal level of fist-clenching anticipation like the works of Christopher Nolan. He is a brave director, an ambitious, intelligent man who stops at nothing to send his audiences on an incredibly visual, mind-bending ride.
His latest instalment “Interstellar”, many major critics’ ‘most anticipated film of 2014’ has finally arrived, and of course, it has been accompanied with immense hype and excitement. Having just witnessed the latest Nolan spectacle first hand, it must be said that he has once again failed to disappoint.
Venturing into the outer realms of our solar system, into unknown galaxies, worlds and atmospheres is always fun when it comes to different artistic interpretations, but with “Interstellar”, there was an eerily realistic feeling about it all that made the viewing experience just that, “an experience”!

Mankind is facing an imminent demise. It’s the not too distant future and all the world’s food supplies have gone, apart from a definite supply of corn. With the future of the human race becoming increasingly unfeasible, Cooper, a former NASA test pilot played by the one and only Matthew McConaughey, is sent on an extensive expedition into the vast unknown, with the hope of finding a new habitable world for the human race to start over once again.
Cooper is unsure of when he will return, or if we will at all, but it’s a mission he has been chosen to embark on, and thus, he must face the hardest struggle of all, leaving his family behind.
Aboard the numerous spacecrafts with fellow companions Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Roomily (David Gyasi), Cooper and the crew attempt interstellar travel and voyage into unfathomable locations, and the journey is nothing like we have ever witnessed before.


Now come the cold hard facts.
Is “Interstellar” a perfect film? Absolutely not.
Is it Nolan’s best work? No.
Is it an incredible visual adventure? Yes, without question.
Was it overhyped? Yes, but what did you expect? It’s Christopher Nolan!
Is it entertaining?
 The simple answer is, yes, like you’d never believe.
That is, at certain points, not in it’s entirety though. As previously mentioned, “Interstellar” is not a perfect film, in fact, it is riddled with plot holes and confusing elements throughout the 169-minute runtime. 

It seems that the visuals act as a way of dampening these rather important floors with the film as far as story and development goes.
For example, we are lead to believe the entire world and all it’s inhabitants are suffering an impending extinction, yet whilst on earth, we never leave a midwest American neighbourhood. The first act of the film spends a lot of time (granted, quite necessarily) developing McConaughey’s family and backstory, all the while establishing the forthcoming mission, but we are forced to assume that what is occurring in McConaughey’s backyard cornfield is happening worldwide.
It would have been nice to have the global issue put into perspective, rather than have the struggle, and overall story localised so heavily. 

695616-082827d8-60ac-11e4-a822-f0e45dcacc2eRather than barrage “Interstellar” with criticism which it does not deserve at all, there are plenty of positives to focus on and mention, especially regarding the themes at hand.
To tackle space, time, inter-dimensional travel, inter-galactic adventure, maths, science, formulas and theories, all the while linking it back to themes that are ultimately more important such as human instinct, love, devotion, sacrifice, compassion, curiosity and survival is something of an unfathomable feet in filmmaking; but not impossible.
What Christopher Nolan has been able to achieve with “Interstellar” is nothing short of extraordinary.
The visuals are absolutely incredible, but personally, the icing on the cake for me was the score from Hans Zimmer. The immensely diverse visuals (which I shall mention later) are accompanied by what may be the best score of the year.
The sci-fi themed music is excellent, but it’s the accompanying organ that provides the most effect. There are plenty of silent moments whilst in space, but it’s through the score that we are able to witness the terror, the menace and simply harrowing capabilities of the organ – it is perfect. 

o-INTERSTELLAR-TRAILER-facebookThe visuals are amazing. Watching featurettes on “Interstellar”, in which cast and crew were interviewed, it was mentioned that Nolan wanted to create the most realistic depiction of a black hole he possibly could. The end result is jaw-dropping to say the least.
In order to create what is now being hailed as the “most factually accurate representation of a black hole in cinematic history”, Nolan sought assistance from astrophysicists and scientists alike to create the image, 800,000 Gigabytes in size…Astonishing. 

Another notable quality about the visuals was the complete lack of green screen during creation.
No, they didn’t actually film in space, but the imagery wasn’t simply enhanced in post production upon a green screen, but generated in a different way, which is more tiresome, but the end result speaks for itself.
Creating planetary environments in everyday locations had such an effect on the screen, because the actors were genuinely ‘there’. Commitment goes a long way in filmmaking, and “Interstellar” proves it.
Lastly, the recurring angle within the film is that of ‘the mounted shot’. Nolan has been quoted as saying he “wanted to use the IMAX camera as a GoPro”, so to speak. There are numerous shots from the outside of the spacecraft, and they add so much artistry, effect and visual potency to the adventure, which works so incredibly well.

interstellarThere have been reviewers who have dismissed the link between “Interstellar” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Those who do not see the clear connections are lying!
Not only are there moments that appear to be taken straight out of “2001”, Nolan has labelled the film, along with “Metropolis” and “Blade Runner” as major inspirational sources for the film.
Towards the climax of the film, things take a turn for the stranger and more absurd (a bit like “2001”). The way it is handled is somewhat farfetched, but there are so many clever and creative elements thrown in there, it’s obvious it has been thought over for endless amounts of time.
Although there are major examples of error in narrative structure, it is a credit to Christopher and Jonathan Nolan for writing such an elaborate story.

Performances all round are great, but of course, it’s all about McConaughey. “The McConaissance” continues with “Interstellar”, and OSCAR buzz has already emerged. I don’t think he will win again this year, but you never know; he’ll definitely be a contender, he is truly excellent as Cooper. The emotion and roundedness of his acting is show-stealing and yet another addition in to the list of masterful McConaughey performances.

interstellar_aAs far as supporting roles go, many of the big names aren’t given enough screen time to really develop into anyone you really ‘care’ for. The ones who do have a larger portion, like Anne Hathaway for example, don’t generate the same amount of connection and sympathy as Cooper does.
It says a lot when the best supporting role is a talking robot…
TARS, voiced by Bill Irwin is a fantastic technological sidekick who provides the majority of the film’s humour, which is refreshing in amongst the constant tension and brief moments of sheer, pure darkness.
Credit must be given where credit is due however. John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Topher Grace and Mackenzie Foy all give wonderful performances, it’s just it felt like they needed to be present for much longer given the drawn out first act and overall lengthy runtime.

Nolan’s films are incredible as a whole. He is a modern visionary with a classical mindset for me. He knows how to generate a nostalgic sense of tension, emotion and overall entertainment. The nostalgic inclusion of IMAX 70mm film used for “Interstellar” as opposed to digital is just another example.
Whether it be from his intelligent scripts, his original ideas or the overall ambition, Nolan knows how to make a solid, powerful and gargantuan film.

interstellar (1) My favourite of his is “Memento”, one of his earlier works. I feel a sense of his roots in each one of his recent films, and with “Interstellar”, there aren’t many clear-cut references to his past works; all I can say is that there are brief moneys that reminded me of “Inception”, even to a point where there similar looking landscapes; but ultimately, “Interstellar” is in a league of it’s own when it comes to scale.
It may not be Nolan’s ‘finest’ picture, but for an engulfing, visually arresting and bold take on space adventure, it stands superior to all his past works. 

To conclude, the latest, highly anticipated picture from Christopher Nolan has not disappointed. It is truly enthralling, mesmerising and captivating from the word go. He takes interplanetary exploration out of the Discovery Channel and onto the silver screen like none have done before. It is an incredible adventure that combines so much, (some would argue slightly too much); but nevertheless, “Interstellar” is a must-see!



5 comments on “Interstellar – 2014

  1. Noémie
    November 9, 2014

    That’s funny because I agree with most of this part :

    “Is “Interstellar” a perfect film? Absolutely not.
    Is it Nolan’s best work? No.
    Is it an incredible visual adventure? Yes, without question.
    Was it overhyped? Yes, but what did you expect? It’s Christopher Nolan!
    Is it entertaining? The simple answer is, yes, like you’d never believe.
    That is, at certain points, not in it’s entirety though. As previously mentioned, “Interstellar” is not a perfect film, in fact, it is riddled with plot holes and confusing elements throughout the 169-minute runtime.
    It seems that the visuals act as a way of dampening these rather important floors with the film as far as story and development goes.”

    So my first thought on your review is: “Why did you give 4.5/5???

    It is a visually, very, very beautiful movie. Very well made . That is right. But I feel like we should not pass over all the imperfections (and there are not just a few) that this movie has, juste because it is very beautifuly made.

    For instance, why taking so much time with that black hole as you described in your review (when you think about it, do people need that much to know how a black hole really looks like?) and not making any effort to make people look like they really are 23 years older??? (Michael Caine and David Gyasi, come on…)

    There are too many incoherences and I feel like I’m being fooled by how beautiful it is. On a very different scale, this is one of the reasons why I really didn’t like “Avengers” and “Captain America, Winter Soldier”. (I said very different scale!)

    Too bad for Nolan, “Gravity” came out same time last year. The movies are very different and you can not compare them too much. Except that they completely changed the way we look at space movies. (By the way, I would recommend “Moon”, which was really good too). “Gravity” could almost be called “minimalist” compared with what happened and was made with “Interstellar”. But “Gravity” did something that “Interstellar” dit not : blowing me away! The score was great, Sandra Bullock was incredible, it was visually perfect, you couldn’t keep your mind away from it. For interstellar, the score was very good, the actors were very good (thumb down for Matt Damon though…and I love Matt Damon), it was visually incredible…and it was (too) long. Nolan’s ambition was huge and he did not fulfill them all. That is not what I call a complete success, or an excellent movie but a (very?) good movie. And that is the biggest difference with “Gravity”.

    What I liked about Nolan before was that “Twist” touch, always used so smartly. I also like that everything was so intelligent in the writting. That was my biggest disappointment with “The Dark Knight Rises” and it is also one (smaller) with “Interstellar”. Christopher Nolan, are you trying to fool us by making us think that we’re intelligent? Is it to reach more audience? Because that’s exactly how I see it. So I don’t thank you at all for showing us with no subtlety at all who is “the ghost” and how he appears before even going halfway through the movie!

    So, I would say that it is a good movie.
    Is it better than the “The Dark Knight Rises”? Hell yes!
    Is it better than the 7 other Nolan’s movies I’ve seen before? Nope, only “Batman Begins” and “Insomnia”…and of course “Dark Knight Rises”.
    Is it worth 9.1/10 on IMDB? Hell no!

    It’ll be a 3.5/5 for me.

    • wmsteele
      November 10, 2014

      I was excited there for a minute! Could it be possible? We agree on something?! Haha
      Firstly I would like to say that my grading system takes everything into account, even to the point where if certain elements are particularly strong , it can warrant a higher score on its own. So, in the case of Interstellar, the Hans Zimmer organ score was astonishingly good. It was haunting and truly frightening at points.
      Speaking of frightening – Matt Damon was EXCELLENT! Are you serious?!
      I loved how he wasn’t advertised as a major cast member. His character was a such a fascinating one, and a brilliant antagonist equivalent. The film needed one, more so than Michael Caine.
      On top of that, the performances were excellent, the visuals were next level and the “experience” was everything I was hoping for.

      Sure, the writing was a little incoherent at times – even downright silly, but it should be excused given the cast list of other fantastic qualities in the film.
      The Nolan brothers apparently studied quantum physics in preparation for the film in order to have a grasp on what they were actually dealing with. It falls short because they’re trying to throw in as much expositional dialogue as they can to make the audience understand. It’s like 6 years of research boiled into 3 hours.

      And I do believe Nolan thinks his audiences are intelligent. I think there are directors who would have made an absolute mess of this film of it were I their hands. I love a filmmaker who tests the audience but still had faith. I don’t think the ghost Hong was obvious at all! That’s what I love about Nolan; he has a full-circle approach. You get puzzled/intrigued at the beginning, and then towards the conclusion, there are throwbacks to the beginning, making everything ‘click’. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve said “ohhhhh!” Internally when watching one of his films haha!

      I was tossing up between a 4 and a 4.5. Honestly, I wish I could meet in the middle, but the fact that I left the cinema not knowing what to say and being unable to get it off my mind for the next couple of days justifies the higher ranking. 3.5 is far too low for me. I’d give that to “Dark Knight Rises”, if I were feeling generous. At least we agree about that one 😛

      • Noémie
        November 10, 2014

        3.5 is far too high for the Dark Knight Rises haha. I already felf generous when I gave a 3…
        And Matt Damon !! Seriously ? I bet he’ll be nominated for the Razzie Awards this year. It hurts me to say that because he really is a great actor but I felt like his only good scene was when he wakes up crying…great! I really felt like he was so out of it and that everybody could have done the same. That’s true that the film needed a brilliant antagonist. It just didn’t get it 😉

        About the score. it was good but I was disappointed when I saw it was Hans Zimmer. He’s usually better than that.

        None of the performances was incredible. It was good for all of them (except…well you got that) but is not worth any Oscar nomination. (If McConaughey is…I’ll be very frustrated. He was incredible in DBC but only “quite good” in this one). And I’m not talking about Casey Affleck’s character…

        I didn’t get many “ohhhh” because I saw most of it coming. I remember looking at my watch when it “clicked” in my head about the ghost. And it was exactly 17.05 and the movie started at 15.45…I was shoked when I saw that there was still a good half of the movie to go! So then you just know pretty much everything that will happen next. Not exactly how, and not exactly if they will find the solution or not (even if you don’t doubt too much on that) but you still know. I want to be surprised!

        I got one “ohhh” and that was when Matt Damon appeared (and when I realised how it went after that…such a disappointment).

        When the movie started, the first thing I said was: It was ok!

        I’ll quote the following from a youtube video that I’ve seen after my first comment: “it’s a movie about a girl who’s dad flies to a black hole and through the power of love travels back in time to his daughter’s bedroom to haunt an old wristwatch so it can taps up the secret to the universe in mose code….we cannot predend it didn’t happen”

        As I said. Enourmous ambition but the result didn’t follow.
        Sometimes directors or even music bands, I feel like as they made such a good work in the past you’re not allowed to criticise any new thing. Just because it’s Nolan and it looks amazing it’s worth 4.5/5? You can say everything about the amount of work (and I believe you) and how incredible it is visually. And that’s what made it to 3.5 and not 3 or 2.5. How will you grade a movie as visually (or more) impressive with a (much) better plot and better overall performances and score? I only say that because I do believe that Nolan can do better than what he just did.

        Oh and I also believe that he should improve the way he directs actors (I don’t have this issue with Interstellar only).

  2. wmsteele
    November 10, 2014

    Is that quote from Screen Junkies Movie Fights by any chance…??? haha!
    I completely understand the last paragraph too! I think that Nolan has reached that level now where criticism is a rare occurrence, but the fact for me remains that I was left speechless with the film, as were my friends I saw it with. I say in basically every one of my reviews that it boils down to the overall experience of the film.
    For you, I think that because you saw everything coming, and you checked the time, you became less invested in the film, story, character etc.
    I made it my soul intention not to be distracted by anything for the entire runtime and invest 150% of my focus to the film. I planned my drinking schedule so I didn’t have to get up, and I also ate just before entering. I think I my ‘experience’ was much different to yours (not saying it was better and thats why my score is higher), just that I think I had a better time with it.
    If I can be blown away by big, spectacular visuals that actually possesses some degree of substance (unlike Michael Bay for example), I’ll be happy. If the story is a good one, I’ll be even happier.
    “Gone Girl” is a great example of an ‘experience’ that was perfect, capped off by a sensational story!
    I don’t know, I guess it can also be compared to the question of “does a 4/5 translate to an 8/10?”. Well in maths it does, but not at all for a review!
    I wouldn’t dare give this a 9/10. No way! Out of 10, i’d give it an 8.2 or .3. There’s not as much to work with when the score is out of 5 haha!

    • Noémie
      November 11, 2014

      Exactly! Was in my mailbox right after I first commented here and I was “Oh my god, I agree so much with them !! (I mean 2 of them). Well I would not say the movie sucks though.

      And for the movies I just checked the watch not because I was bored, but too know how far ahead I got how it will finish.

      Concerning the drinking, I usually don’t have to get up during a movie, even if I drink a lot so no issue with that. I ate candies though but I don’t feel that it changed my experience haha. I don’t really see a movie session without eating candies or popcorn! So when I’m blown away with a movie, it’s usually in the same conditions than when I saw Interstellar. I feel like if the movie is good enough, you don’t need to “prepare” that much. I also felt like the movie was too long (mainly because of Matt Damon). I always rate over 10 but with full points so it doesn’t change much the way I do so it’s still worth a 7 for me than a 9. If I had would be more precise it would get 7.1 or 7.2 anyway.

      For Gone Girl, I also guessed what was happening to her but it was just a guess. I was not a 100% sure and so many things that actually surprised me happened after that. Very well written (even if…yes, it was a book first, I guess it helps), clever, really well directed and great actors (Ben Affleck is not one of my favourites but he really surprised me on that one!). I don’t call it perfect and it’s not my favourite Fincher’s movie but the experience was great and it took me a bit of time to actually think about that movie and get out of it. That’s what I ask (usually) with movies.

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