Sunday, 9 November 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

Previous Review: Kill The Messenger
Next Review: John Wick

These days, few filmmakers dare to reach high enough to challenge our minds and continuously put us on the edge of our seats every time. From the backwards narrative structure of Memento, the illusionary gripping Prestige, the socio-political Dark Knight Trilogy, the dream heist Inception that offers layers of dreaming consciousness, Nolan never ceases to deliver one thought-provoking film after another.

This time around, the Nolans (script was written by both brothers) decided take us into the farthest mysteries of space-time by exploring matters of theoretical physics, to inspire us to venture out to the unknown, to reach for the skies. Most importantly, to encourage space exploration, specifically interstellar travel for the survival of our species. Before the release of the film, expectations were high with Interstellar being touted as the most highly anticipated sci-fi film of the year.

It should be no surprise that Interstellar offers another mind-challenging movie-going experience for the audience. Despite its long running time, the film is thoroughly engaging with its jaw-dropping, astounding plot twists (especially with its overambitious third act) and foreshadowing that heightens the suspense in the film. Furthermore, Nolan adds more depth to the film's main premise with some thought-provoking matters such as importance of time, personal interests vs global necessity (is it worthy to sacrifice the time with our children when the survival of our species is at risk?) through a simple father-daughter relationship story, watching the characters as they face the reality of a universe that's far bigger than them.

The film questions what things in life that really matter to us, to explore and see the world in a larger picture with our limited lifespan. Despite the seriousness and dramatic tension in the film, there are some occasionally funny scenes through the interaction between the human characters and the intelligent yet sarcastic robots, TARS and CASE.

Interstellar is as spectacular as Nolan's previous films, by showing us the wonder of space beyond our imagination. Interstellar delivers in terms of spectacle and they're all breathtaking to look at, from Saturn’s giant rings, the 4-th dimensional space when a spacecraft enters a wormhole, the exploration of two different planets, the stunning rendition of a spinning black hole and the possibility of extra-dimensional space. All of them are explored in ways that makes me admire the movie very much and I personally respect the director's attempt in showing us these things. Interstellar is considered to be Nolan’s most ambitious film to date.

However, it seems that Nolan’s reach finally exceeds his grasp. Interstellar isn't as accessible as Nolan’s previous movies due to its dense scientific theories. The general audience might find the theoretical physics presented in the film too hard to understand. Its attempt to tackle some of the complicated theoretical physics concepts and philosophical ideas seemed to be rather heavy-handed this time around, especially the film's extremely audacious last act.

The film is filled with scientific jargon (space-time dimensions, relativity, time dilation, quantum gravity, gravitational singularity, event horizon, etc) and this could leave certain audience feeling completely underwhelmed. Moreover, the exposition-heavy dialogues feels like characters delivering science lessons to each other. I do understand that exposition is a necessity in science fiction (to spoon-feed the audience with knowledge on science so that we know what's going on) but it's just doesn't feel natural in certain scenes, perhaps this is due to the complexity nature of the scientific concepts presented in the film. Don't get me wrong, the film is great and it succeeds intellectually on many levels, but I believe that only a handful of audience are capable of understanding it.

The film greatest strength lies on its underlying scientific concepts and intriguing plot, but not its characters (with the exception of McConaughey's character). All the enlisted casts are considered to be Hollywood's most talented actors but the film chooses to under-develop character relationships and allows science to take a lead role in the story. Despite stellar performances from each of the casts, none of the supporting characters are particularly memorable as their roles aren't well-realized as intended. Many of the characters have very little depth, due to the limited screen time and the need to explain heavy-handed scientific concepts to the audience. Even though Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Sir Michael Caine and Matt Damon each have their own moments, but that's just not enough to provide a deep memorable impression to the audience.

The heart of Interstellar lies with the bond between the father (Cooper, Matthew McConaughey's character) and his daughter (Murph, Mackenzie Foy's/Jessica Chastain's character) and McConaughey managed to provide a stand-out performance as a strong, likeable and relatable yet conflicted lead character: on one hand, he needs to reach for the stars and beyond to save humanity, while the other never wanting to let go of his family. There's a scene in the film when Cooper sheds tears of love and despair while watching 23 years of video messages left by his son and a recent one from his daughter back on Earth due to time dilation effect is particularly heartbreaking and would certainly evoke an emotional response from the audience.

Overall, Nolan succeeded in taking various complex theoretical physics concepts and use them all together to make a tightly woven story, which is a remarkable feat. Despite its flaws, Interstellar is still an engaging watch and one hell of a journey getting to the end.

Rating: 8/10

Note: This is NOT an "everyman" movie. The Nolans had worked closely with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to ensure the film was grounded in the science as much as possible.

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars; now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt”. - Cooper

"In the first half of the 20th century, it was not expected that quantum mechanics would make possible transistors and microchips, mobile phones and computers, lasers and M.R.I. scanners. Radio waves were described by their co-discoverer in 1888 as "an interesting laboratory experiment" with "no useful purpose" whatsoever and are now used in innumerable ways (radar, weather prediction, medicine, television, wireless computing and emergency response), positrons are used in hospital tomography scans, and special and general relativity, which explain black holes also enable satellite-based GPS and satellite navigation. Electric power generation and transmission, motors, and lighting all stemmed from previous theoretical work on electricity and magnetism; air conditioning and refrigeration resulted from thermodynamics. Therefore, it is impossible to predict how seemingly esoteric knowledge may affect society in the future."

Previous Review: Kill The Messenger
Next Review: John Wick

Feature Article: Things to know about Interstellar Explained

1 comment:

  1. Interstellar is just simply awesome, Christopher Nolan never let me down at all time !! Brilliant !