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Interstellar (2014); and The Lalackadaisical Stories of Nolan

December 9, 2014

interstellar-photos-pictures-stillsWhen it comes to entertainment value, Christopher Nolan knows his way around a story board. Interstellar is a fantastic barrage of images that possesses an unconscionable amount of big ideas. Ripe with incredible action sequences and strong performances from its actors, Interstellar exhibits so much untapped potential that it simply boggles the mind. Nevertheless, in terms of coherently telling a story Nolan is about as inept as they come. It would be far too easy to praise Interstellar for exposing audiences to elements of the 5 th dimension or a theoretic view of what could happen to a person going beyond the event horizon into a black hole. But, such high accolades feels unwarranted when taking into account how bland Interstellar is overall. It’s obvious that writing partners and brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan spent more time obsessing over the most minute scientific details than developing their story or characters.

It’s been a long road defending Christopher Nolan from the haters over the years and furthermore a constant battle between the harsh critic and basic moviegoer within myself. Though I have enjoyed, even loved, most of his films throughout the years, I’m aware that none are flawless. Memento’s riveting story and innovative narrative is subject to its gimmicky narrative that without may knock the film’s merits down a few notches. Inception glorious among first viewing, but good luck getting through the convoluted tale after multiple views. The Dark Knight trilogy honestly bored me to tears in the its first installment. Yet, Nolan prompted a powerful, unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger which created a brilliant momentum that carries over into the 3rd installment.  The Prestige could have made it into my top favorite films list had its lazy, outrageous ending not ruined the entire experience.

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Yet, for all the justifications that I have coughed up for Nolan throughout the years, I can longer give in and treat him as a genius creator of thought provoking cinema. With Interstellar, Nolan’s work has come to conjure up memories of M. Night Shyamlan by attempting at razzle and dazzle audiences with enough shiny tricks and ploys that you glance over the gaping holes of incoherence in his stories. Interstellar is a melodramatic, puff piece that blasts so many sirens and whistles at audiences through relentless jargon about space and physics that’s it’s easier to just swallow and digest what Nolan is feeding rather than reflecting on the complexities of the what he’s serving.

Interstellar sets itself in a distant future where life is on its last leg. There’s only corn to eat as crops of wheat and grain have failed due to the high nitrogen levels in Earth’s atmosphere. No pets seem to have survived, just human beings desperate to live another day. Text books have declared the 1969 Moon landing as a fraud and the government has pooled its resources into farmers instead of engineers like Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who struggles to care for his teenage son Tom and adolescent daughter, Murphy. Cooper, an ex-Nasa pilot, who flew something and crashed somewhere (the given details are fuzzy) discovers NASA is far from defunct as previously thought.

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Just as quickly as he discovers this he almost immediately, seemingly the next day, leaves his family to board a shuttle and travel through a worm hole into another galaxy in search of a new planet to regenerate life on. 10-year-old Murphy is devastated due to his lack of communicating why he’s leaving and when he’ll be back, causing a rift that makes her give him the silent treatment before his big trip. In space he must struggle with the laws of relativity of the space-time continuum. The longer he stays in space, the older she becomes and the closer to death the planet grows. It’s up to his ship to figure out a solution.

There is so little about the setting of Interstellar that is covered, making pieces and elements of the story felt thrown together to be help by tape. What has caused these high levels of nitrogen? What is the reason for population decline? What’s the deal with this rocket into the stratosphere of the sun under the guise of population control that’s only briefly mentioned? Is the rest of the planet alive?  The only times we are made aware of the affects that the dying planet has on humans is when it’s convenient enough to advance a scene. At one point in the film, a child conveniently coughs out of nowhere and quickly explains “it’s the dust.” This cough, not present in anyone else or at any other point but this moment, is supposedly so bad that the boy and his mother must immediately evacuate their home. Despite living in this futuristic Dust Bowl, everyone still looks healthy, clean and appears to be doing well on Earth. The issue is due to  Nolan telling you that it’s bad rather than showing, a big no-no and amateur mistake of any writer.

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There’s an abundance of technology readily available in the world of Interstellar that is purely nonsensical. A 2001 HAL  inspired autobot known as the TARS is a bulky, near inconceivable design readied with compartments and capabilities that are only shown when needed to advance the story. These robots can be programmed to be hilarious cut-ups as well as brilliant guides for those on the ship, but they are not able to tell the difference between mountains and raising tides. As my partner perfectly stated “if that’s how robots are in the future, then we fucked up.”

Nolan’s idea of the future is also constrained by his lack of consistency. There’s enough advancement in human society to go to another galaxy through a worm hole and within inches of black holes, but not enough to change the architecture of homes or the model of cars or style of clothing. Everyone looks as though the 1940’s never ended and furthermore they act as if the Dust Bowl never happened. Much like Nolan’s idea of dream states were so clinical and too realistic that it seemed like a complete contrast to dreams in Inception, Nolan’s future seems more like an alternate future in which the past never evolved outside of the occasional technological advances.

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Although the film’s flimsy screenplay is its major downfall, it’s also suffers from its insatiable desire for waterworks. To say that everyone in Interstellar cries repeatedly is a gross understatement. Nolan attempts to deliver everything you could want from an epic blockbuster; tears, excitement, love, and tension, but nowhere do these emotions emerge naturally. Cooper’s lack of explanation to Murphy when he leaves is undoubtedly so that Murphy’s years of bitterness can result in the ultimate payoff of tears that will inevitably come as the film goes on. It’s rare to see genuine moments of love and understanding between characters, namely Cooper’s co-pilot Amelia (Anne Hathaway) who reveals her love for a fellow astronaut just so she can deliver a tart monologue about the power and quantifiable aspect of love.

Is Interstellar a great visual spectacle to behold? Yes, though admittedly I became bored to tears while watching it when the special effects weren’t the highlight. I constantly rolled my eyes at the Interstellar’s triteness and overzealous emotion and it’s bland attempts to shock movie goers. Had this been delivered by a no-name director the masses would be angrily shouting about its lack of consistency and convolutedness. But, because it’s Nolan audiences have certain expectations and are more open to interpretations of his most befuddling stories. Nolan is given a pass because the bar for Hollywood films is set so low, or maybe audiences have set Nolan’s so high, that his pictures are readily accepted as flawless. Regardless, while screen buffs will likely be irritated at Nolan’s poor screenwriting and melodramatics, Interstellar is commendable for its undeniable visual stamina and intrigue.

SEE IT. On the big screen for its beauty, but admit to yourself when it flat out doesn’t make sense.

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