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.

Questions about a (possible) Nolan-directed 007 film

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan's production company

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

WARNING: This is very much putting the cart before the horse. Nobody has said Christopher Nolan *will* direct Bond 24. The U.K. Daily Mail has reported only that the director has been *approached* about the job. Bear all that in mind before reading the following.

This week, the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. reported that Christopher Nolan, director of three Batman movies from 2005 through 2012, had been “approached” about directing Bond 24.

The writer, Baz Bagimboye, had a number of scoops about Skyfall, the most recent 007 movie, that proved to be correct. So, it got the attention of a lot of fans. If Nolan eventually signs on the dotted line, it raises a number of questions about Bond 24. Among them:

1. What happens to writer John Logan? Logan was brought in by director Sam Mendes to rewrite Skyfall. Eon Productions originally announced that Peter Morgan would collaborate with scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Eventually, Morgan left without getting a screen credit. But Logan evidently impressed somebody because he was hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25 while Purvis and Wade departed the series.

But things can change, as Morgan can attest. Christopher Nolan is fond of writing his own movies, either by himself (Inception) or collaborating with his brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer (the three Batman movies or the upcoming Man of Steel, which was produced by Nolan). If Nolan comes aboard, will Logan stay or go?

2. Do other members of Nolan’s posse also participate? Nolan has a production company, Syncopy. That logo ended up being featured at the start of the third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, along with the logos of Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Ditto for Man of Steel. The Syncopy group includes Emma Thomas, a producer who’s married to Nolan, and Charles Roven, another producer. Also, Nolan frequently collaborates with Wally Pfister as director of photography. Pfister is directing Transcendence a movie scheduled for a 2014 release.

While Eon may be interested in Nolan’s services as a director, would it also hire Nolan-affiliated producers such as Thomas and Roven? Eon, led by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, has its own group of supporting producers, including Gregg Wilson, the son of Michael. On the other hand, Eon has probably would be open to hiring Pfister. That would be similar to Skyfall, where Roger Deakins was brought on as director of photography because Mendes wanted him.

3. Would Hans Zimmer be the newest 007 composer? Zimmer also works frequently with Nolan. Again, that’s a situation similar to Skyfall, where Thomas Newman was hired as composer because of his relationship with Mendes. A Zimmer-scored Bond 24 might be similar to Skyfall in other ways. Mendes said that Nolan’s The Dark Knight from 2008 influenced the 2012 007 movie. Some tracks of Newman’s score (particularly the Shanghai sequences and the action sequences at the Macao casino) sounded similar to Zimmer’s music for Nolan’s Batman films.

4. What would the running time of a Nolan-directed Bond 24 be? Probably not short. Batman Begins was 140 minutes, The Dark Knight was 152 minutes, Inception was 148 minutes and The Dark Knight Rises was a whopping 165 minutes.

UPDATE (May 22): The Latinos Post Web site has a short article about actresses Nolan has cast in various movies and whether they could become part of the cast of a Nolan-directed Bond 24.