well I swore I wouldn’t, but my old man–who has a nihilistic streak–talked me into going to Interstellar.
I don’t like Christopher Nolan. I don’t like his movies. I don’t like the person I have decided he is based on his movies (a sociopath). I don’t like the grinding, relentless Hans Zimmer scores for his movies. I don’t like the plots of his movies or the main characters in his movies. I don’t like the reception of his movies, where he’s supposed to be some sort of dark brilliant genius because he made a city go upside down or time run backwards.
I think Christopher Nolan has never loved anyone, and that the range of emotions he experiences is much, much narrower than your average fully-functioning adult. I think this has been a common criticism of his films–their coldness, their lack of any kind of realistic-seeming relationship or human bond–and I think Interstellar represents his attempt to confront this criticism, by making a gloriously melodramatic paean to love as the defining feature of humanity. In this sense, the movie is a terrible failure.
However, all that being said, this is by far the best Nolan enterprise I’ve ever seen. It was just melodramatic enough to hold my heartstrings hostage until the last 20 minutes or so at which point I became deeply bored. It looked great, obviously, I’m not made of stone. And quite frankly it was the best Hans Zimmer score I’ve ever heard. Several times during the film I found myself thinking “this score isn’t making me wish I were dead!” which is high praise for any of Hollywood’s Big Four (Williams, Shore, Zimmer, Newton-Howard). For once he kept it pretty chill and tasteful, trading his usual dark churning ostinatos for light churning ostinatos that sounded more like Philipp Glass and less like a shitty first-person shooter game. And I thought the use of pipe organ as primary instrument was pretty brilliant.
Also, there was some gripping drama, as in the epic sequence when cowardly Matt Damon fucks up the ship and then brave Matthew Mcconaughey has to match the spin and dock the thing on the other thing and Anne Hathaway, being a woman, blacks out, but McConaughey of course doesn’t and all is saved
Here are my diverse thoughts:
- it wasn’t until the end of the film that I realized the main character’s LAST name was Cooper, not his first name. Which makes the plot point where Casey Affleck makes the big deal out of naming his second son “Cooper” after his father very weird, because wouldn’t that mean the kid’s name is “Cooper Cooper”? I was very distracted by this.
- the central problem of “solving gravity” was literally never clear to me and thus I didn’t understand the ending of the film
- I really liked TARS. I thought it was the best humorous robot sidekick I have ever seen. I liked how McConaughey was so excited to see TARS at the end.
- In classic Nolan fashion, every plot point that I would have liked to see more fully explored was skimmed over. Like when they return from the water world and the Peripheral Black Character has been waiting in the ship for 23 years. I was like, hell yeah, lets explore the ramifications of this! I wanted to know what he’d been doing, how insane he had gone, I wanted him to be like “I forgot what you guys looked like,” I wanted him to have developed a very deep and intricate relationship with the robot who stayed on board. I wanted there to be consequences of his mind being broken by solitude, like maybe he goes crazy later. Instead he was just like “I’ve been waiting for you. Also I didn’t solve black holes sorry” and then it was just back to business as usual, an hour-long shot of McConnaughey crying watching the videos of his inexplicably furious daughter. Also the 23-years-alone dude physically was completely unchanged save for a streak of white in his beard. Come on Christopher Nolan!
- why would the daughter be so mad even as a grownup?? Surely you would come to realize that your dad had been trying to save the earth, which would seem excusable. Could a person truly remain that utterly selfish even once she became a brilliant grownup scientist literally working on the exact same problem her dad went into space to try to solve? Sending those hateful messages into space! What an asshole.
- was pretty into evil Matt Damon
- Wes Bentley! I haven’t seen you since Hector was a pup
- The time loop thing is always such a downer. It’s so thought-provoking as a concept but all attempts to tie everything neatly together, narratively speaking, always end in sorrow. He told himself to stay? But then he gave himself the NASA coordinates?? There’s some sort of God character who gives a shit about humanity? The morse code thing, “give me the data on the black hole,” what the fuck are you talking about? Data???
- So NASA is secretly working frantically to save the human race, and yet they have somehow not realized that apparently the only living human who can drive their space ship is just working on a farm down the road? It took a miraculous encounter to bring them together? NASA doesn’t seem very good at its job
- I love all the melodrama about the aging, his daughter becoming an old woman while he is still a young man, etc., but in classic Nolan fashion, this was finally resolved so perfunctorily that I was laughing in the theater. “Hi Dad thanks for the whole watch thing. But I have my own kids now, so you should go.” “Where?” “I don’t know, back into outer space?” “Ok”
- Also, like any serious Mr. Show fan, I could not stop imagining her saying “Goodbye Daddy, I’m dying.” He wasted his life spreading mustard and mayonnaise from separate jars! a.k.a. saving humanity from itself
- first and foremost though, what I felt during this film was a deep, deep exhaustion with MEN. I am so tired of men making movies about men and about being men. I am so tired of Dads being able to conquer space-time because they want to protect their families so badly. I am so tired of close-up shots of a man’s sweating face as he confronts and overcomes the sublime. This has been the primary trope of art since like 1815 and I can’t believe we aren’t, as a group, completely sick of it yet. I am so tired of Anne Hathaway blacking out while Matthew McConnaughey stays strong. I am so tired of the particular kind of bravery and heroism that cinema tells us we should want in our men–this sort of goal-oriented, solo conqueror mentality. All the times peripheral characters are like “no way, the top scientists in the world have been working on this problem for 100 years and it’s unsolvable” and then by sheer dint of loving his family hard enough some random dude is like “wait a minute what if we do THIS” and all the scientists are like “IT JUST MIGHT WORK.” Are we supposed to identify with McConnaughey, sitting on a dying planet being sad he didn’t get to fly a spaceship to the moon?
- also, movies like this will never fully work on me, because I don’t get why it’s such a given that humanity must be saved. Those shots of the dying earth that we killed through the exact same hubris and goal-orientation that’s going to get us off the planet (leaving behind all the dogs and cats and lions and bears and plants and everything else that will never be able to exist again because we needed to have Exxon and McDonalds), TO ME, all that shit is like, Jesus Christ, the end can not come soon enough. The idea of humanity bravely going off to do it all again on some other poor fucking planet fills me with ennui yet these movies want me to be stirred. I don’t get it.
- Matthew McConnaughey is not a good actor. You forget that until the McConnaughaissance he had primarily been known for doing truly execratory romantic comedies. I was very, very sick of his stupid McConnaughey voice by the end of the film. I kept thinking about his Oscar speech when he said he was his own hero. Which was the plot of the film!!!! “IT WAS ME! I BROUGHT ME HERE…..IN THE FUTURE”
All movies from now on should be called Dudes and the Dudes Who Love Them