Movie Review: Inscrutable “Interstellar” — All You Need Is Love?

I don’t want to give anything away. Not that I could because I really had no idea what anyone was talking about, except that what it is really all about is love.

"Intersellar" --

“Interstellar” — Matthew McConaughey is Cooper, a man who goes to the ends of the earth to save the world. We think …

Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan. On screens throughout New England.

By Tim Jackson

In Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey is Cooper, a man who goes to the ends of the earth to save the world. Actually, he goes to the ends of the universe to save the people of earth. Or maybe he is going to the ends of another universe to save the earth of the future, or maybe he is going to the ends of time and space to save his daughter. Something like this or that. I got lost along the way, but I do know my seat was shaking because this is IMAX, 4K Digital, and it’s damned loud.

Back to the story. The world will end. That’s for sure. It’s gotten very dusty and all the crops are failing. That makes Cooper sad because he has a son whom he loves and daughter whom loves even more, and his wife died of cancer, and he is farming and not flying. Because there is no longer any use for a standing army or even for NASA, and having been the world’s greatest test pilot, Cooper is getting antsy.

But he will get his chance. He is super smart, as is his young daughter, who is receiving mysterious coded warnings that will soon send her dad into outer space, which makes her extraordinarily angry. Hopefully, Cooper will reunite with her, but first he must cross several dimensions, dive through worm holes, zoom across black holes, and follow the instructions of an important (but hidden away) scientist played by Michael Caine. He also has a really, really smart daughter. And lo and behold, that is Anne Hathaway. Boy, does she look great in a space helmet! Better even than Sandra Bullock (in Gravity) and her lipstick never ever runs out. In the future women are the equal of men in every way, just a little more emotional and a heck of a lot prettier.

I got a little lost when Caine and Hathaway, as Professor Brand and Amelia, talked about the mathematical formulas for relative gravity and stuff beyond my earthbound intellect. I needed more thrills. And just in time, they were off into space, or something very much like it. And it is very exciting because Hans Zimmer has scored this intergalactic jumble within an inch of its life. Except for when it’s silent, because in space it’s really quiet.

I don’t want to give anything more away. Not that I could because I really had no idea what anyone was talking about, except that what it is really all about is love. We are often reminded that Cooper loves his daughter almost more than life itself (remember this IS about love). That will be a big plot point, though it will take nearly two and half hours to get there.

On this tense mission to save humankind there are plenty of plot twists and surprises. Like when Cooper and Amelia and cohorts find another ship and in it sits a big Ziploc bag (of the old-fashioned kind used to facilitate space travel for years through hibernation). They unzip it and out pops – Matt Damon! We haven’t seen him in a space suit since last year in Elysium. He is called Mr. Mann. He throws a wrench in the works.

Charles Middleton as Ming the Merclless --

Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless — when you look like that you don’t have to make sense.

I know there are those who can follow these intergalactic shenanigans and their attendant philosophical folderol, and for whom this is all very deep and meaningful, but I’m exhausted by it (I know, I know – it’s based on real science). Anne Hathaway on Jimmy Fallon even said the story made her cry. The only times I teared up is when I was confronted with some of the silliest dialogue I’ve heard since the early Flash Gordon serials. Buster Crabbe (Flash) and the incomparable Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless) did a pretty good job of delivering preposterous sci-fi dialogue. But I must salute these very recognizable A-list actors, who are able to deliver both scientific gobbledegook and grand soap opera clichés with equal gravitas.

Perhaps I shouldn’t make fun of this movie because I recognize it was very expensive to create, and the design and effects are stupendous. However, I recall having a similar reaction at Inception, the 2010 Christopher Nolan movie-event. In that film there is a famous final shot of a spinning top. If it stops spinning we’re in reality, if not we’re in dreamland. Or visa versa. It cuts to black before the answer is revealed. Some guy sitting next to me, with all the astonishment of Newton realizing that both a falling apple and the moon were pulled by the same force, exclaimed: “I’ll never forget this day.” Oh, brother. Dreams within dreams and galaxies within galaxies – anything goes and there are no rules – I lose track and interest.

But by all means go see it. Nolan creates extravaganzas that Hollywood needs to keep afloat. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry — you’ll kiss twelve dollars good-bye. As Mike Meyers, in the guise of Linda Richman on the old Saturday Night Live “Coffee Talk” sketch, might say: “End of the earth, wormholes, the relativity of gravity and dimensionality – discuss.”

Tim Jackson is an assistant professor at the New England Institute of Art in the Digital Film and Video Department. His music career in Boston began in the 1970s and includes some 20 groups, many recordings, national and international tours, and contributions to film soundtracks. He studied theater and English as an undergraduate and has also has worked helter skelter as an actor and member of SAG and AFTRA since the 1980s. He has directed a trio of documentaries: Chaos and Order: Making American Theater about the American Repertory Theater, and Radical Jesters, which profiles the practices of 11 interventionist artists and agit-prop performance groups. His third documentary, When Things Go Wrong, about the Boston singer/songwriter Robin Lane, with whom he has worked for 30 years, has just been completed. He is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. You can read more of his work on his blog.

1 Comment

  1. Gerald Peary on November 19, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Very funny review, and I didn’t get any of that science stuff either. But, my did they talk! What a talkie sci-fi movie! As for that love stuff, that was borrowed, I think, from Tarkovsky who, at his most inscrutable, still calls for Love, Love, Love.

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