Thursday, September 23, 2021

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Film Review

Almost stellar



Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain

Rated PG-13

169 minutes

Cinemark 20 showtimes: 2:25, 3:40, 4:55, 6:15, 7:30, 8:45, 9:20 and 10:05

Prep Iowa

Christopher Nolan isn’t the first director to start making blockbusters — he’s just the one who has done it the best. Nolan’s greatest accomplishment in his movie-making career has been to show the world that one needn’t dumb down material to make it appeal to the masses. Even when making films about purely populist material (“Batman”), Nolan has constantly reasserted that a director doesn’t have to reduce the scope of his or her vision in directly inverse proportion to the size of his or her budget. Nolan’s latest effort, “Interstellar,” takes that notion a step above anything else he’s ever done.

“Interstellar” stars Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, a NASA pilot-turned-farmer, living in a not-too-distant version of Earth. For reasons only hinted at, Earth’s crops are dying out one at a time, and its people are edging ever closer to the brink of starvation and extinction. Eventually, Cooper’s path crosses with that of a secret government cabal led by a scientist (played by Michael Caine) trying to save humanity by finding it a new home. The last hope for the planet lies on the other side of a wormhole that has appeared near Saturn, and that offers the tantalizing hope of new, habitable worlds.

From there, “Interstellar” wears its inspirations on its sleeve. From the technology on display, to the color palette and camera angles, “Interstellar” owes a great deal to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Nolan makes no attempt to hide his admiration for Kubrick’s space masterpiece, and “Interstellar” plays out with all of the former film’s luscious visual cues but with a storyline that’s much better laid out and immersive.

Unfortunately, “Interstellar” is also plagued by many of the same issues as Nolan’s 2012 dissapointment, “The Dark Knight Rises.” In short, while Nolan has never been afraid to dream big, he’s allowed his vision to become unwieldy.

Nolan gives viewers a lot to chew on with his work. Films like “Memento” and “Inception” gave the audience rich, fully-realized worlds to explore within the narrative, and he’s always made it a point to populate those worlds with a full compliment of interesting secondary and tertiary characters with their own motivations and plot arcs. It’s a seven-course meal of an experience, and Nolan’s most admirable hallmark.

But in “Interstellar,” Nolan seems to have overloaded his plate. Everyone — from Cooper, to Anne Hathaway’s Amelia, to Caine’s Professor Brand — has his or her own reason for wanting to see the mission completed, and his or her own vision of what “completed” means. It’s a lot to take in, and when it’s coupled with the infinite scale upon which the story is told, it can be overwhelming. And it is for that reason that “Interstellar” never completely connects with the audience.

There are moments of sublime beauty in the film, and the underlying story of love touches on some genuinely beautiful moments. But those moments are like buoys in an ocean — something for viewers to cling to for a brief moment before once again getting lost in the vastness that threatens to engulf them.

Ultimately, “Interstellar” is a virtual must-see. It’s gorgeous, well-paced and features one of the smarter scripts this year. But whether the story is a victim of hype or hubris, the fact remains that Nolan’s space epic is surprisingly lacking in heart. For as much as Cooper and Amelia talk to each other about the importance of love, Nolan does more telling in that regard than showing, and you are left never feeling like Cooper’s family is more important to the film than the giant set pieces. CV

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