It’s been a few months since I saw Interstellar, (I know, I’m extremely late to the game with this one, but I’ve been rather busy lately…and then there was Christmas…and New Year’s Eve…anyway, the review’s here now). Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s not exactly an indy gem, nor is the director an unknown experimental auteur. Goodness no, this is Christopher Nolan, arguably this generations most famous and beloved filmmaker, venturing into deep space and even deeper time in order to provide us with one of the more thrilling, provocative, engaging, breathtaking, spectacular, and by the way…expensive…visions of of the universe ever presented on screen.
Well, in case you do live under a rock, let’s at least give it a proper introduction:
“A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.”
Interstellar is, so far, the worst movie of 2014. As I’m writing this it’s January 2015, but I have a lot of last years movies to catch up on before the Oscars hit in February. Hence, I cannot definitively say that it will end up being the worst movie of 2014, but it remains unchallenged.
Yes, you read that correctly! Interstellar is not just a bad Christopher Nolan film, it’s a plain ol’ mouldy cheese-chunk of a movie. To do this right, we have to discuss:
Impressive? Heavens yes! Infallible? Hell no!
Let me lay the cards out on the table. I am a fan of Christopher Nolan! In fact, I’m a big fan. I think you’d have to be a deeply cynical and cinematically negligent toad in order to dismiss the seismic impact this man has had on filmmaking in the last decade. He, in contrast to most of the industry around him, has focused his steely eyes on smart filmmaking. Instead of pandering to easily satisfied mouth breathers, Nolan has consistently tinkered together complex contraptions that require genuine engagement from the audience. He dragged the world into the cinema by their collars and made them appreciate true quality. In order to do this, while simultaneously bringing in the cash, he has had to dance strategically with the devil. With Batman Begins, Nolan found a way to weave his own personal obsessions into the body of a blockbuster, and it completely worked. Since then the budgets have grown steeply and it is now impossible to imagine a Nolan film made for less than $ 100 million.
As for me, I’ve almost always found flaws in his patterns. Here’s how the Nolan-verse appears to me:
And as you can see, most of his films only nick greatness but do tend to deliver. Interstellar is so much worse than usual, but why? Two words: Emotional vacuum!
Christopher Nolan is an icy-cold filmmaker. Like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, “his heart remains three sizes too small”. Love, amity, romance, and family are four notions that all exist in dimensions outside his universe. The man cannot, to save his life or anyone else’s, make an emotional film. Did you feel yourself tearing up when Rachel died in The Dark Knight? How about when Mal flung herself pointlessly from a building in Inception, or when Julia drowned in The Prestige? I know you didn’t because I didn’t, and I’ve never met anyone who has. Nolan repeats one trick that he’s convinced himself works: (A man) – (the woman he loves) = (sadness). He’s been getting away with it for years, but no more!
Traumatic loss only works if you build it correctly. It’s not enough to have Leonardo DiCaprio talk about how much he loved his wife…I need to love her too. I need to see that ‘special’ thing they had on screen, enough to identify with it at least. And as a mechanic surveying the broken wreck that is Interstellar, I say “well, there’s your problem.”.
I could write a thesis on how ineffective the drama in this movie is, and that itself would probably be a more emotionally involving text, but for now let’s cut straight to the hollow heart of it.
Nolan claims that Interstellar was primarily inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s a lie. Aside from some trippy VFX shots and silent space moments, there’s almost nothing there to remind us of Kubrick’s epic. It appears, on the other hand, that someone has handed Chris a dusty little DVD of Robert Zemeckis’ Contact from 1997.
Contact centres around a little girl whose father passes away from heart failure. She then grows up to become a scientist at SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Life) and eventually locks onto a signal from outer space, possibly from an alien civilisation. Plot-wise the movie then dives into all manner of discussion surrounding the psychological, political, and religious implications of such an event, but thematically it is just about a little girl searching across the heavens for her long lost father.
Contact is a lovely movie that’s, most importantly, heart-felt and warm. Interstellar cheaply steals all of it’s core concepts and reproduces them poorly.
At the center of Interstellar we have Cooper and his daughter Murph. The two are supposed to have a unique bond, and I’ll admit that in the beginning I was onboard with that idea, but it wouldn’t last long. (Incidentally, Cooper also has a son who he apparently doesn’t care about at all.)
Cooper, with the help of a magical dimensional phenomenon that spells out coordinates in the dust on Murph’s bedroom floor (yes, it’s that stupid!), finds a now-secret NASA space program. This future NASA group, lead by Michael Caine, have scraped together the last of earths resources to send a mission across interstellar space through a wormhole and save the human race from extinction. Wouldn’t you know it though, they haven’t bothered to nominate a pilot! Argh! Oh well, no worries, Cooper is conveniently a brilliant ex-pilot who knows everything that’s necessary for the mission (yes, it’s that stupid!).
So he weighs the inevitability of never again seeing his children against seeing some trippy space shit and decides after about 2 minutes that he wants the trippy space shit. Utterly heartless and totally unbelievable, but away we go. Next thing, we’re in space with Anne Hathaway, and it’s at this point that the crew decides they should explain to Cooper what a wormhole actually is (yes, it’s that stupid!). 5 minutes later they go through it and we get an IMAX experience that, truth-be-told, will have you at hello. It’s an extremely short lived high however, before Nolan decides that he wants to yet again play with time subjectivity.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Cooper and the gang land on a water covered planet where time passes more slowly; one hour on the surface equals seven years everywhere else. They have some trouble and one of their crew is lost. This leaves them with a vote of whether to leave and continue the mission or search for the missing man…
Except that…this makes no sense. If one hour of planet time constitutes seven years of universe time, then they can in fact have their cake and eat it too. Leave, finish your mission, and then travel back to save your man within seven years and he’ll only have been floating around in water for an hour. Hell, do it in less than 2 and he’ll only have to twiddle his thumbs for 20 minutes.
No, no, they leave and consider it a lost cause. Next up is Nolan’s favourite planet: “Iceland”.
Batman Begins, Inception, and now Interstellar all have major sequences shot in Iceland. Add to this that Insomnia and Man of Steel featured icy landscapes, and it becomes clear that Nolan likes his films to be as cold on the outside as they are on the inside.
Fine, polar surroundings or not, what matters is the story. On this ice planet we meet Dr. Mann, played by Matt Damon. He’s supposed to be a brilliant scientist, but then spontaneously turns “space-crazy”, tries to throw Cooper off a cliff, and attempts to leave the team for dead. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I think it’s something to do with starting humanity again instead of saving it…but I wouldn’t expect Nolan to bother setting up a logical motive. He’s space-crazy, what more motivation do you need?
So this extraordinarily brilliant scientist opens an airlock before docking and kills himself. Genius. Cooper, on the other hand, who needed the concept of a wormhole explained to him with a pencil and paper, puts every copy of the Guinness book of world records to shame and manages to dock with the erratically spinning spaceship by…trying really hard (yes, it’s that stupid).
With little to no fuel left, the only option remaining is to fly stupidly close to a black hole and use it as a sling shot. Instead, Cooper ejects halfway through and falls into it. Once again…genius. Instead to dying like every physics textbook tells us he would, he travels to the fifth dimension where he can traverse all of space and time simultaneously. He uses his new Godlike powers to tap out the dusty morse code in Murph bedroom and tells himself to “STAY” (YES, IT’S THAT STUPID!). At least it’s the end now, right?
Cooper helps Murph solve a difficult math problem that allows the population of earth to travel deep into space via a circular spaceship, then magically exits the black hole alive 40-odd years into the future.
He meets Murph, now a 90 year old Ellen Burstyn lying in a hospital bed, and has a totally empty conversation with her about what he should do with the rest of his life. He never asks about his own son, doesn’t broach the subject of what she’s done with her life, nor tells her anything about his adventures. He instead leaves to meet up with Anne Hathaway, who inexplicably has aged just as little as him despite not falling into the black hole herself. Finally, this three hour car crash ends with a triumphant “Directed by Christopher Nolan”.
Fuck you Christopher Nolan! I saw it at a midnight IMAX screening and it bored me into anger!
I can forgive the conveniently dumb choices made by conveniently dumb characters. I can overlook the poorly told plot and scientific jargon that even the actors themselves clearly didn’t understand. In fact, I can even accept that Michael Caine ages 21 years without changing his shirt (I didn’t even bother to bring that one up!). What I cannot abide by is the astounding lack of emotion. The relationship between Cooper and Murph could have been something special, but Nolan instead chose to focus on how cool Einstein’s theory of relativity is. Instead of using it as a device to progress the story, he makes it the story.
Contrast this with Contact, which understands that in order for a relationship to pay off it needs to be properly constructed. In fact, we spend less time with Ellie and her father than we do with Cooper and Murph, but care far more. Ted calls his daughter “sparks”, buys her a CB radio, and nurtures her optimistic curiosity about the stars. Her love for him is immediately apparent because you love him too, and their relationship invites you to observe fondly. Cooper, on the other hand, dismisses his daughter as an idiot when the script requires it and then abandons her for no genuinely good reason. Score!
No, you’re a bad parent because you abandoned your kid on a dying planet and lied to her about coming back knowing full well that the chances of returning were limited at best…and because you hate her. There’s no reason why the responsibility of flying the ship couldn’t have been passed on to someone else without children. You just wanted to see the stars, didn’t you Cooper? Didn’t you??!!
The point is that Nolan has taken a delicious sugar-coated bit of roast nutritious pork and turned it into spam. The musical score is interesting, but completely inappropriate for a film that doesn’t know whether it wants to suck you into challenging darkness or warm your heart with sappy sentimentally.
Put plainly; I didn’t like it, and if you do then you’re an idiot. In fact it’s worse…you’re a Nolanite!
Nolanites are a pernicious brainwashed group of Nolan-apologists who had their critical faculties flushed out by the combined power of The Dark Knight and Inception, and now provide Christophers films with positive word of mouth advertisement free of charge. They’re responsible for things like this:
Every review I’ve read or heard and every person I’ve spoken to has given Interstellar a “passable” review at best. Most were extremely disappointed. There is no conceivable way that it could settle at a 72% Certified Fresh on the Tomatometer. That number is highly suspicious, but this goes beyond muddying reviews. In 2012, professional film critics who panned The Dark Knight Rises were targeted with death threats from Nolanites. Christy Lemire, Andrew Urban, and Christopher Tookey hated the film, and were swamped with letters and comments warning them to tread carefully. Marshall Fine, of Hollywood and Fine, was not only threatened, but had his website flushed with comments and traffic until the server crashed. Remember, this was before any of the general public had even seen the film for themselves.
Luckily, the Oscars have not rewarded Nolan’s creepy cult-nurturing turd and merely threw him a few “better-luck-next-time” technical nominations. Ha Ha! Still, it raked in over four times its budget in profits, so there’s a good chance that he’ll commit the same sin again two years from now.
Chris, I know there isn’t a snowballs chance in hell of you ever hearing about this blog, much less reading it, but I can’t sleep at night knowing that I didn’t at least try to help you and your impenetrable ego bubble. DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN! You’re clearly not up to it. Shrink your budgets and focus on what you’re good at; cool nifty stuff. Leave humanism and love to better filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Richard Linklater. I can only hope that, in the years to come, Interstellar will be correctly viewed as the giant misstep that it is. Nolanites, like Beliebers, have to realize that they’re nurturing a cancerous tumour and one day will be blamed for it. If you want your favourite artist to remain great then you have to slap him around a little and let him know when he’s been a “bad dog!”.
“Bad dog, Nolan! Bad Dog!”
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