REVIEW: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar poster

Interstellar poster

Normally, this blog wouldn’t review a science fiction movie. But some James Bond fans fancy the notion of Christopher Nolan directing a 007 film (while others despise it). And Interstellar’s director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema has been tapped to photograph Bond 24, to be directed by Sam Mendes.

A number of reviews have discussed at length Interstellar being inspired by the Stanley Kubrick-directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. That influence is undeniable. But Nolan appears to have done other homages.

One is based a 1979 movie by journeyman director Gary Nelson, which more than once referenced Dante’s Inferno (Google it and the answer should be evident. Additional clue: it had a John Barry score). Another, of two small figures fighting amid a barren landscape, seems to be composed similarly to a famous shot in director William Wyler’s 1958 Western film, The Big Country.

What’s more, books also play an important role in Nolan’s film. For example, the camera lets you see a Charles Lindbergh biography, reinforcing the movie’s notion of exploration and adventure. Actually, the importance of books goes beyond that, but we won’t mention more to avoid spoilers.

All of this may be coincidence, but we’re reminded of a comment by the director Stanley Donen in a documentary that nothing in a movie is by chance. He was talking about a famous scene in the musical Singing In The Rain (and how a street stage was made to ensure puddles would form when a rainstorm was simulated). But Donen’s comment is applicable to almost any movie.

Anyway, Nolan likes a big canvas for his films. Interstellar — which takes place on Earth, the solar system and beyond (just like 2001) — is as big as you could want. The story concerns a dying Earth sometime in the future and a last, desperate attempt to ensure mankind can survive, even if it’s not on its home planet.

And yet….

Somewhere in the last third of the movie, Nolan’s story seems to get away from him. Stanley Kubrick, in 2001, made no attempt to explain the movie’s final act. You either went on the ride or you didn’t. Nolan provides striking images but some of his explanations are hard to follow even if the viewer is paying rapt attention.

Interstellar certainly is an emotional film, with a major theme of a father’s relationship to his daughter (and a woman’s relationship to her father). It’s also, technically, a well-made film. Still, there are too many twists in the 169-minute film. Interstellar is by no means a failure, but it seems as if, at some stage, a fresh eye was needed.

Which brings us to one of the reasons for this review.

At first glance, it seems unlikely Nolan will ever get his chance at directing a Bond movie. With Nolan, you have to hire his posse, including his producer-wife Emma Thomas and his screenwriting brother Jonathan Nolan. Christopher Nolan has tremendous control over his projects and it seems unlikely Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would yield the complete control Nolan yields. But who knows for sure?

As for van Hoytema, he delivers interesting images. So he’ll likely do fine on Bond 24. Van Hoytema has confirmed his involvement with Bond 24, according to a STORY on the MI6 James Bond website.

Interstellar, try as it might, is not the second coming of 2001. It’s an interesting attempt to be different than usual fare studios churn out. But, this being the movie business in the 21st century, it still leaves itself open for a sequel. So it’s not that different. GRADE: B-Minus.

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