Thursday, June 25, 2015

Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form 2015 Hugo nominee

Interstellar is visually magnificent, exciting, thought-provoking, and a bit long.

It pains me to say that last bit. I wanted to love every second of it. In the end, I couldn't, though I did love most of it. Parts of it did just drag, and there's no way around that.

The basic story, especially its opening, is familiar. A near-future Earth is struggling against drought and famine, and nearly everything is being sacrificed to food production.  Former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is now a struggling farmer with two children, daughter Murphy (played by Mackenzie Foy at age ten, Ellen Burstyn as an adult), and son Tom (played by Timothée Chalamet at age fifteen, and Casey Affleck as an adult. He's appalled by the shrunken prospects facing his children, though Tom, at least, doesn't seem to share his father's distaste for life as a farmer.

And then weird things start to happen, and Murphy, the child who shares her father's restless, inquiring mind, won't ignore them. The weird things lead Cooper to the discovery of a research center--where the last remnants of NASA, its funding, and its personnel are working on a plan to send a spaceship through a wormhole to find a new habitable world for humanity. Cooper, of course, becomes part of the crew, leader of this mission to save humanity, even though it means leaving his children behind, which breaks his heart.

We then get Cooper's and Murphy's stories alternately. Murphy gets the education Tom isn't interested in, from the scientists at the secret NASA facility, and works on the science that will be necessary to get any substantial part of humanity to whatever new world her dad finds. Cooper and his crewmates pass through the wormhole, follow data sent by the previous team, and check out possible habitable planets--all the while struggling with the time dilation effects of relativity, and what it means for ever seeing their families again.

And the weird things start happening again, on Earth with Murphy, and in space with Cooper, suggesting that someone is taking an interest in humanity's struggle.

There is deceit and betrayal in both parts of the story, and persistence, loyalty, insight, and ingenuity.

Unfortunately, I felt that all three sections (the introduction to Earth's drought and famine followed by finding the NASA site; Murphy's research career and horrified discovery of scientific deceit, combined with her growing sense of betrayal that her father has not, as promised, come back; Cooper and crewmates' exploration of New Earth prospects and discovery of the "others" who are attempting to communicate with humanity) drag at certain points, stretching out some bits longer than they will really bear.

Overall, though, this was visually magnificent and an exciting, rewarding story.

Bonus extra for those of us who grew up with the utterly inappropriate whoosh as the Enterprise sped past on our tv screens, Interstellar uses the silence of space for dramatic effect.



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