Monday, November 17, 2014

Interstellar

By Sati. Monday, November 17, 2014 , , , , , , ,
(SPOILERS!)

I remember when Inception was released among all that ridiculous praise it got. Then I remember watching the movie and thinking 'Really? That's it? That's the movie people give 10/10 to'? Interstellar is in comparison so boring, dumb and irritating I would have gladly see Inception three times instead of it.

Hell, I'd gladly make that damn spinning top my screen-saver.

Behold Interstellar, the film that manages to make that gorgeous Dylan Thomas' poem annoying because Nolan just has to have it repeated several times until you go 'oh my, is it a metaphor for the characters? Thank you Christopher for assuming I'm daft and making sure the poem is repeated enough of times so that a simple moron like me understands your genius".
The film is praised for being ambitious. When that ambition amounts to movie this silly, you really shouldn't praise it. In Nolan's case ambition goes with having an ego the size of space itself. Is he a good director? Yes. Is he a good writer? Absolutely not. Nolan's characters are always painted with insanely thick brush and the only reason these people are coming off as real people and not caricatures is thanks to actors.

Nolan and his brother Jonathan who also co-wrote the script here also have the tendency to have incredibly lazy third acts to their movies - to name examples a James Bond movie rip-off in Inception and the whole Harvey Dent situation in The Dark Knight which felt rushed and so easy (not to mention the awful make up). Interstellar's climax, while easily the most consistently emotional part of the film, is just an embarrassment to witness.
There's also not much originality in this film. Earth is dying and we need to find a new planet. That's it. That's the set up. But the movie wastes what felt like 10 years on that set up. The first somewhat interesting thing that happens is the actual launch into space. But it's still a disappointing scene. Up until that point it's just a bunch of exposition, telegraphing the plot twist at least 5 times and incredibly ugly cinematography. It's dark, it's shot without any imagination and the scenes at the farm are presented as dully as they are written.

After the launch - and that was a big shock for me - the film's visual side improved only slightly. That the script will be lame, I knew going in. It's Nolan after all. But this? A film of this budget and this is its visual side? There are couple nice shots here and there but honestly only the terrific sequence of docking of the spinning, disintegrating Endurance is worth seeing in the theater. It's the film's peak and its only unforgettable moment where for 2 minutes everything works.
That sequence is also the only time Zimmer's score shone. I don't know why people say it's louder than dialogue - unfortunately I had no problem hearing the lines Nolan brothers came up with. The claims regarding Zimmer's music calling this 'his best work' and 'best soundtrack of the year' are simply incomprehensible to me. It's not even in top 3 of his best work for Nolan, let alone his overall compositions. Inception at least had a variety of memorable melodies that constantly added to the movie. Here it's just Zimmer playing at being Phantom of the Opera and soundtrack kinda sorta just being there. It blends too much with everything else without actually adding anything to the movie.

In fact only the terrific "Mountains", played in one of the very few moments in the film that had genuine tension and excitement, is brilliant both as its used in the movie and as a stand alone track.

But the film's most lovely emotional moment has no sound at all - it's in the very good messages from home moment when the camera cuts to show us Cooper who is crying hysterically. The sound is gone many times in the film, to illustrate that 'there is no sound in space' fact that we heard about so often when Gravity was premiering last year. But it's a musing, it's a part of trivia, it's Nolan trying to make it all realistic while he can, before  bending the laws of everything in third act and having the audacity to have stuff like 'Love is the one thing that transcends time and space' said to us in what is supposed to be a smart science fiction film.
But this sequence - the messages from home moment - was wonderful. What got to me was how we are told about things, horrible things and they have an impact - we see Cooper's son with his son and then we find out that the child died. We aren't being told what happened (at that point of the movie) but we see Cooper's son broken up about it. That felt more powerful to me that any amount of Amelia's words about the power of love. That was real, profound, emotional. Not gimmickry with which the film is filled, until the point you want to vomit.

From technical stand point, something that should be the film's saving grace, the film is not good. And the story? The idea that there are other galaxies out there with potentially habitable worlds is fascinating but leave it to the Nolan brothers to use that set up for a ridiculously dumb and cliched plot with a scientist going nuts. Really, that's what you came up with?

See there is this big secret that Matt Damon was even in this movie. Who the fuck cares, really? Why make it a big secret that a well known actor has a cameo here? What's the point? Especially that other than Damon's dedicated acting his sequences are just awful. It feels like a filler moment, a distraction. That time could be spent on something far more interesting than predictable tale of Dr. Mann.
I was actually trying so hard not to laugh when Damon proceeded to climb downhill after McConaughey in super slow speed while mumbling some nonsense at him.

But it's all brilliant writing comparing to the level of pure insanity that is the bookshelf sequence. Stuff like 'they created three dimensional scene to help you understand their five dimension worlds' is being uttered. McConaughey is floating around in a recreation of his daughter's room, multiplied. He communicates with her by throwing books on the floor. He then teaches her quantum mechanics with the use of a watch.

Believe me - it's actually MUCH dumber than it sounds.
I was absolutely speechless. This is being compared to Shyamalan's twists by many but I consider it to be a great insult to the guy - no twist of his was that fundamentally moronic. Actual physicists were consulted when that movie was being made and yet no one told Nolan 'Dude, this is fucking awful idea'? I know nothing about physics but here's the thing - as a movie goer, one that is collage educated no less, that movie didn't make it easy for me to buy this even with this much exposition. No, no - it didn't do anything to make me buy this idea. And there is another issue - I simply don't care if it's possible. The film has not interested me enough to even research that idea.

Listen, I'm far from being a cynic. In fact it's been 18 days and I'm still lamenting over the fact that Begin Again did not have a romantic ending. I believe love is a genuine miracle, one that makes PEOPLE do amazing things. But the idea that it can actually influence dimensions is something so profoundly silly no amount of explanations and reasoning could convince me.
Given the ludicrous rewrites of the 2008 - and far superior - draft of the script Nolan ego pushed him to have I'm inclined to think nobody involved knew what they were doing. For example - in the first draft of the script there is a romance and even a sex scene between Brand and Cooper. Given the story's ideas on how powerful love is - the ending made sense - excuse me I misspoke - the ending made more sense - than the one in the actual movie, where Cooper is essentially going after this woman who he doesn't have much connection to, who was in love with someone else. It's all preposterous, no matter how lovely the ending looked on screen. You think about it for more than 30 seconds, it collapses on its ass.

We actually had Jonathan Nolan say that the wormhole that would allow Cooper to reach Amelia is now closed. So what feels like a hopeful, albeit profoundly retarded ending in the film is in actuality - what? Cooper just spinning around in space? Amelia being on new planet alone? Have they put in more than 5 minutes to actually talk this ending through?

Say it with me - INCOMPETENCE.
See had they left the romance arc in this version of the story,  LOVE would probably create a new wormhole and angels and unicorns would carry Cooper to Amelia magically. But Nolan, in his tin hollow chest, has zero understating for passion so he wouldn't know how to film a sex scene to begin with.

The acting is good from everyone really, but Jessica Chastain is terribly inconsistent. She is completely unbelievable as her character in the scenes where she doesn't look constipated with rage, when the script asks her to be relaxed and curious she simply isn't. She can be so sympathetic in her roles but she plays Murphy with perpetual bitch face on. It was impossible to care for this girl - she is jaded and in her sweeter moments I completely didn't buy what she was selling. Edward and Bella's daughter outacted the shit out of her as little Murphy. Mackenzie Foy was especially amazing in the moment Murphy realizes Cooper has no idea when - or even if - he is coming back. That was heartbreaking.

In fact Casey Affleck who had far less screentime is so much better than Chastain here too. Wes Bentley is also really good as is David Gyasi. Michael Caine gets stuck with a thankless role with ridiculous twist at the end of it. There's also miscast Topher Grace whose character brings nothing into the movie. No, sorry - he participates in a ridiculous moment where poor Jessica Chastain gets to shout 'Eureka!.

Oh, the horror!
Anne Hathaway is doing beautifully even with all the limitations her character has to struggle with thanks to Nolan's deplorable treatment of women again. In this movie love is a force more powerful than science. Yet when Amelia tells the crew to go to the planet that is more likely to be a habitable world, Cooper uses love against her - someone she loves is on that planet so obviously she gets treated like stupid, emotional, untrustworthy female while a man is the one who makes a decision.

That the script has absolutely no consistency is one thing. That Nolan is being a misogynistic prick while simultaneously turning otherwise sympathetic Cooper into an asshole? Now, that is unforgivable.
Still, Hathaway hits all the right notes and creates a courageous and interesting character that you root for. But the film belongs to Matthew McConaughey, whose performance is the best thing about it and in all honesty I think without his dedicated work, that thing would be completely unwatchable. I think Matthew deserves Oscar nomination, because for him to actually create something so good while having this script to work with, it's truly an accomplishment.

McConaughey makes us care about his character and sells the film's most impossible moments like him shouting in agony for Murphy to notice him. He is game for the film's insanity and brings in his entire talent and charm to bring this character to life. Without him that ride wouldn't be worth taking at all.
Interstellar indeed doesn't "go gently into that good night" - it's inconsistent, heavy with exposition, tiresome with all the ridiculous twists and turns and disappointing visual side. Everything in this movie is laboured to the point it lacks any kind of finesse, flow, room to breathe.

Had all those years ago Interstellar was released in the place of Inception, it would have impact, even with all these issues. But almost exactly a year ago we saw a science fiction movie that proved that all you need to have to make a good space movie is a talented cinematographer, director who is not obsessed with technology to the point of it clouding his judgment, two good actors and an elegant, simple, coherent script.

In the cinematic world post Gravity, Interstellar is simply forgettable.

Interstellar (169 min, 2014)
Plot: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain



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45 comments:

  1. I had a totally different opinion on this, but I swear what I said about the score drowning out the actors was true. There were at least 3 moments where I was like "What the fuck did they just say?" I swear I'm not an old person losing my hearing! lol Nice review, It made me laugh. I kind of wish I would've had to the chance to read his original script.

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    1. Normally I'd say maybe I didn't notice the sound issue because there are subtitles in cinemas here but I don't read the subtitles so really I noticed nothing wrong, but Caine last scene was kinda hard to hear.

      I'm sure the script is online somewhere, I know there are few articles highlighting the differences

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    2. Oh yes, and concerning the sound issues, apparently different versions/theaters have different results. For instance, when I saw the regular version at one theater, the sound was fine. But then when I saw the IMAX version at another theater, the sound completely drowned out the dialogue at points. I guess it just depends what version or what theater you see it at?

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    3. Maybe that's it, I saw it in regular theater :)

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    4. Ahh..you're right. That was really easy to find. lol

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    5. Yeah I bet Nolan nerds are writing all kinds of thesis about both scripts....I really feel the first one was far superior

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    6. I don't know, there was some weird shit there. Then again, there was some weird shit here..

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    7. It's all together weird, but the new one made so little sense :/

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  2. Heh, I'm not sure it's possible for us to disagree more on this movie. I've seen a few people who didn't like this one, but your's is by far the most scathing I've come across yet, haha! Still, pretty interesting seeing a completely different take on the film from my own. At least we agree that scene with Cooper watching all the footage from home was quite excellent. :P

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    1. Well, I don't tend to be kind to films that waste my time and also insult the intelligence of the audience :)

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  3. I'm glad you mentioned the character development issue. I was disappointed with the lack of character development for Hathaway and Wes Bentley. I briefly mentioned how irritated I was that Bentley was written off too quickly, but Hathaway deserves some kudos for working with such a limited amount of character development.

    I think you were much harsher in your review of the film than I was, but I can't disagree with your commentary. The bookshelf scene was just so...I just can't. It was just so crazy. I just can't even talk about it. It was one of those "what the" moments (not in a good way) for me in the theater. I rarely have those. I know that Nolan is known for cheesy dialogue, but the bookshelf in the black hole idea was just so bad. It's like what were they thinking? Seriously, like a physicist consulted on that? How...what...in the world?

    I had such high hopes for 'Interstellar.' *Sigh. I did like the film, it just wasn't as good as I had hoped.

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    1. Bentley was written off too fast but at least that was one of the very few times in the film when I was actually surprised.

      I really don't understand how anyone can write this stuff and actually film it without realizing this is was fucking stupid.

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  4. Indeed Interstellar is kind of a dumb blockbuster and for me not as thought-provoking as rotten tomatoes claims it is. You make some valid points even though I don't agree with everything you say. I was ok with the soundtrack, if I had to defend the man I think Zimmer did something different than the usual blockbuster scores

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    1. Oh it was definitely different and the score itself was not bad, just crazy over hyped and it didn't add as much as his other compositions added to Nolan's films

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  5. I thought I was the only person in the universe (outside my family) who didn't love Inception. I liked the premise, but the movie itself was underwhelming. Everyone kept raving about how brilliant it was, and I was thinking really? Did we watch the same film? :-)

    I suspect I won't be crazy about Interstellar either, but I'll probably give it a go when it comes to Netflix. I am definitely not excited enough about it to spring for a movie ticket. Actually, besides Gone Girl, it's been ages since I was excited enough about a movie to actually hit the theater.

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    1. Yeah that whole staircase that doesn't end? Oh my, what a boner inducing moment for an audience...Interstellar's ideas are just as basic while Nolan thinks they are awesome.

      Yeah I just wait for few as well, not necessarily see it in the theater movies, the first of those may be Avengers 2 :)

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  6. While I did like the film, I too wasn't fond of Damon's appearance only because I felt that it went into conventional territory and there could've been so much more about other ideas about humanity and science.

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    1. Exactly, it was just a standard sci-fi movie plot development in the end

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  7. I'm sorry you didn't like it. I would disagree and say that I loved it, but I can't exactly fault you for that or disliking Christopher Nolan (you are talking to somebody who has written multiple articles voicing my dislike for the work of Jean-Luc Godard). However, I might just have something right up your alley.

    I started a blogathon to coincide with the release of Interstellar, and even though you didn't like the movie, I thought you might still enjoy the activity I made to go with it. I was thinking maybe you'd enjoy a chance to put together your own interstellar mission and perhaps see if you can come up with something you find more satisfactory:

    http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/2014/10/voyage-to-stars-blogathon.html

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    1. Thanks so much for the invite, but I'm far too busy to participate in anything other than Fisti's Twice a Best Actress series now

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  8. Great review! I liked the film, but there are a lot of what you said that I agreed with. The bookshelf scene is where it came apart; the science behind it might be logical, but it just doesn't make sense (and completely throws off the atmosphere of the film). Matthew McConaughey's performance is one of the reasons to watch this; while they're all probably campaigning nominations for this movie, I think only McConaughey would walk with one. There were parts of the film that did remind me of Gravity, but Gravity was so much more than Interstellar.

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    1. Thank you! I don't think anyone is getting nominated for this but the suggestions that Chastain should really puzzle me, many people seem to be nominating her in their line ups :/ Yep Gravity was so so so much better!

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  9. Phew! We're almost on the edge of different poles, Sati. However, I understand most of your points (although I must disagree mostly).
    Yet, I share the same point about the casts, I would like to see more screentime for David Gyasi and Wes Bentley, as well as, Casey Affleck and Mackenzie Foy. It's very rare to see gems like Gyasi or Bentley in any great ensemble, but I like them so great here. Same as Mackenzie, she's able to deliver the most heartbreaking scene this year through her performance here.
    Well, great review anyway!

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    1. Thank you! You are so right about all of those guys, I was impressed the most with Foy because other stuff I saw her in she wasn't any good but she was so wonderful here.

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  10. Sorry Sati, you lost me right after the first paragraph. Whilst I'm going to deny the film has flaws, it's certainly asking a lot of its audience, but I still feel like it was an enthralling, impressive experience. Each to their own!

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  11. "boring, dumb and irritating" Ouch! I actually thought you'd give it a higher rating as I remember you said you might give it 5/10. I hear ya though, the irritating thing are the Nolan groupies who think this movie is the best thing since sliced bread and they'll defend it to no end. I like parts of it but there are so many issues I have w/ this movie, there are as many plot holes as there are wormholes! I didn't mention Topher Grace in my review, I completely forgot about him as it was such a strange character, talk about being completely thankless. It's even worse than having Damon and you know how much I hated that pointless subplot.

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    1. 4,7/10 is 5/10 :) Everything in my scale between 4,6 to 5,5 would be 5/10.

      Yeah no wonder you forgot Topher although the expression he had on his face in that Eureka scene after Chastain kisses him summed up how ridiculous that moment was :)

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  12. There were some real problems with this, some plot contrivances and iffy script but I loved the ambition of it. It tried to do something spectacular and it might not have worked all the time but no-one else is attempting this kind of stuff so I have to hand it to Nolan for that. Not as good as it could have been but I still enjoyed it.

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    1. Well I'm not sure about that no one is attempting this kind of stuff part....Cuaron did a year ago and he did much better.

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  13. Lovely review! I still have to see this, but I am still looking forward to it. Matt Damon's role in the film was spoiled for me, as was the entire plot, and looking back on it, the plot does seem quite inconsistent. I think that I will like this more than you did, but I know for sure that this will not even touch Gravity, which is my favourite film of 2013 and is in my top five films of the decade so far.

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    1. Thank you! Gravity is my favorite from last year too, probably in top 5 of the decade as well. This was just worse on every level apart from Matt's work which was as good as Sandra's if not better in many scenes

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  14. You and I agree a lot on movies, and I'm still iffy about seeing this one. Inception WAS one of those forgettable movies that I could have easily skipped, and with this film being almost 3 hours, I'm not sure if I want to waste that much of my time :(

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    1. This is so much worse than Inception :/

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  15. Wowzers! Not a fan I see. It's definitely a divisive film. I gotta say I kinda loved it.

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  16. I've yet to see it myself but it's interesting, and perhaps not surprising, to see it dividing viewer opinion. Good read Sati.

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    1. Thanks! Well I hope you'll like it more than I did :)

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  17. Great review Margaret! Even though I did not hate Interstellar just like you, I did not enjoy it either. Gravity was so much better in the visual sense. I was disappointed that I could not see more beautiful shots.

    Agree about Nolan's writing skills too. I found nothing exceptionally original here. But what surprises me is that even technical work is not as good as it could be, especially sounds. I found sound editing odd.

    But hell, 5 is the lowest rating I've seen so far, haha

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    1. Thanks! I was honestly shocked how crappy most of the film looked.

      Oh, I've seen 3-4 being given to this one :) I think 5 is fair - I hated some things, while loving other elements. It was simply an average movie.

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  18. Excellent review! I liked the film a lot more, but I think I was just content to go with it on some of the shakier plot twists and turns. It was much more about the experience for me, and it was quite a cinematic ride. I love the performances, and the look of the film worked, even if it's far from Nolan's best shot film. Zimmer's score isn't particularly memorable on its own, though I do think it works well in the movie. Happy to disagree on this one. :)

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    1. Thank you, glad you did enjoy the experience, I only enjoyed parts of it :)

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  19. Yup, that's exactly it. I was already a bit annoyed with the melodramatics (not the videos, those were great) but when they said that love was the answer I lost it. I couldn't believe that a movie about such interesting scientific theories was ending with love, and so poorly at that. It was beyond lame. But I did enjoy everything else.

    Hmm yeah, thinking about it now, Damon's part was probably a bit useless, there just for the suspense and to make the mission harder. Though I liked hating his character so much.

    I wish Wes Bentley had more screen time!

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    1. Oh yeah Bentley was fabulous! But it was a big surprise when he was gone all of the sudden, very effective moment.

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  20. BLESS YOUR ENTIRE SOUL!
    Your review it's so on point, really. Although in a part (i loved the space cinematography), i then agree with everything you say, not gonna lie, i almost felt sleep while watching it on the cinema, i want out so angry, dissapointed and felling robbed

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