Interstellar: Review

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I’m a bit late to the party with this one. I’ve been disappointed with the science fiction offerings this year, and with Interstellar pretty much the last big shiny offering in the genre for 2014 I wasn’t feeling optimistic.  I am happy to have my expectations mashed by this beautiful film.

To start with the negatives.  OK, the sole negative.  The loud volume of the soundtrack (which has been discussed at length) was a distraction, in my opinion.  Everything is loud, so much so you can’t hear the dialogue at times.  I take Christopher Nolan’s point that it was an experiment; dialogue perhaps shouldn’t take precedence over other aspects of a film.  He also notes that space rockets etc. ARE loud.  I get this.  But orchestral scores in space needn’t be.

The expected CGI where it appears, especially with the space scenery like black holes and wormholes is fairly restrained, and doesn’t draw attention to itself; it invokes terror or awe and not “oh look CGI.”  I don’t think it is out in 3D and avoiding 3D-esque set pieces has been to its advantage.  The length, slower pace and restraint also called to mind Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Colussus: The Forbin Project, two of my favourite sci fi movies.   I could write a whole other entry on the science fiction movies of the 60s and 70s and very early 80s (such as Aliens).  They’re so different to the current offerings and astonishingly effective, despite or perhaps because of their lack of reliance on technology and effects.

Like Gravity from 2013, Interstellar uses an elegant sufficiency of tech effects,as you’d expect, but allows the story to lead.  Having said that the other worlds depicted are very beautifully and cleverly imagined.  We land on a vast water world which moves from placid to terrifying in minutes, every minute costing the crew days and months in Earth time; a concept of terrifying freakishness.  In itself this world contained enough interesting aspects of mind-bendery to fill a movie of its own.  A different icy world with frozen clouds and overhanging smooth ice cliffs made me want bigger eyes, the better to see it all.

The story is a good one. A scientist father is given a chance to save the world and his family.  The plot is woven through with intriguing scientific concepts, such as gravity’s effect on… well everything, basically, including time and space.  Switcheroos and twists are thrown forward and back consistently the whole way through to keep the pace steady, resulting in a thrilling three hour show.  I rarely rewatch movies in the same way I rarely reread books but this one is possibly an exception, in part due to the clever plotting of the sort where you want to go back and see if you could spot a certain thing coming.

I know it’s sacrilege to say it but I could have done without Michael Caine.  He always seems to play Michael Caine and looks exactly the same in every movie  (he must have a permanent beard and tweed jacket clause) although his and all the characterisations were solid.  I particularly enjoyed Matt Damon’s character perhaps because he played against type for once.

In all, Interstellar combined the best of modern effects with the best of classic science fiction style elements and I suppose even the noisy soundtrack contributed to its originality.  Highly recommended.

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