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Interstellar (2014)


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Christian wrote:

: Was Lithgow McConaughey's father, or father-in-law?

 

Oh, now that you ask, I'm not sure. But after a bit of Googling, "father-in-law" seems like the more accurate response. One of the children's grandfathers, at any rate.

 

: Also, what did you make of Lithgow's comment about Cooper needing to repopulate the earth? It's not like he was some wayward bachelor, uninterested in children.

 

I remember the line, but it barely registered, for me.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'll be seeing it tomorrow night. Since I was notably more positive toward Inception than a lot of folks here, there's a chance he won't be. On the other hand, I've been steeled by the mixed reviews to expect something disappointing. Hopefully, at the least, it'll be frustratingly talk-about-able.

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Nbooth wrote:

: Hopefully, at the least, it'll be frustratingly talk-about-able.

 

That would match the experience of it being frustratingly listen-to-able.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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So is Christian the only one who liked this?

 

I liked it well enough.

 

Until the last half hour, I was positive on the film, which I guess means I'm positive on the film. 

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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So is Christian the only one who liked this?

 

I liked it well enough.

 

Until the last half hour, I was positive on the film, which I guess means I'm positive on the film. 

 

 

I don't get that. I can think of films that I was "positive on" until the last half hour, and then the last half hour spoiled it. The Artist and the Model, for example... which I was quite positive on until the final moments. I am negative on that film.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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 don't get that. I can think of films that I was "positive on" until the last half hour, and then the last half hour spoiled it. The Artist and the Model, for example... which I was quite positive on until the final moments. I am negative on that film.

 

Touché. I am right with you. I can think of films I was pleading with in the final seconds not to ruin it…some do, some don't. So yeah. In this case, I guess I am willing to think of Interstellar less as a whole and more as an experience of the sum of its parts, and to the extent that the first two hours (and maybe even the first two and a half hours) offered experiences I appreciated, I am willing to say the whole is worth experiencing, even if it unravels in the end. 

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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I found the film implausible in the first third, clunky in the second third, and then downright dismissable in the third third -- but as Christian noted, my objections have mainly to do with the script. Nobody here acts like a believable human being, either individually or socially. But I also found the film's commitment to hard science (Kip Thorne is an executive producer!) to be something of a problem when the film reaches its climax and tries to push *beyond* that hard science, before ultimately *ignoring* it altogether.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm, unsurprisingly, very enthusiastic about this film. Ambition and beauty are so rare in big budget cinema at this scale.

 

Films that I'm sure Nolan watched beforehand: CONTACT, A.I., THE TREE OF LIFE, THE RIGHT STUFF.

 

Also, McConaughey is very good here and perfect for the role. He anchors the film in a fairly "grounded" humanity, ironically for a test-pilot. I actually buy him as a Yeager, Shepard, Glenn type.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Anders wrote:
: Films that I'm sure Nolan watched beforehand: CONTACT . . .

 

Yes, the lousy ending of this film reminded me of the lousy ending of that film, too.

 

Heh. And both films star Matthew McConaughey, too!

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My review.
 

If you love art and science, and in particular if you love astrophysics, space travel and movies about them, it will be hard not to love Interstellar. By this I mean not that you will be bound to love it, but that you will take it hard if you don’t. A film like Interstellar is a rare event, and if such a film falls short, it stings in a way that the day-to-day failures of conventional Hollywood fare don’t.

 

Here's the heart of my critique, I guess:
 

Alas, at the big, mind-blowing climax, the film wraps around on itself in a curious, Mobius-like way that is touching with respect to the character drama, and possibly provocative with respect to normal assumptions about causality (can the effect precede the cause?), but which I find to undermine any suggestion of cosmic mystery and meaning. Consider this a vague spoiler warning: The pattern that looked like a face was only a reflection; the footsteps we were following turned out to be our own. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

The climax confirms Nolan’s status as a puzzle-maker rather than a poet, a technocrat rather than a visionary. He can’t resist the impulse to explain the trick, to reveal the identity of the man behind the curtain, which of course dissolves the aura of mystery and awe around Oz the Great and Powerful. The monoliths in 2001 are loci of mystery and awe because they are never explained; the more closely we inspect them, the more inexplicable they become. In Interstellar, there’s an equation for everything.

And then comes the denouement, where it finally feels like Nolan has lost his nerve. Here at last he seems to be pandering, offering the comforting closure viewers want rather than the bracing inevitability the story needs. Another spoiler warning: You don’t get to be the Star Child, or abandon your family to fly away in the mother ship, and get to go home again. It doesn’t work that way.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Steven, I was interested in your "feels like Nolan has lost his nerve" comment since it seems to run counter to your initial response earlier in this thread. I don't say that as a "gotcha" but to wonder if your assessment changed or developed. 

I confess I've been thinking a little about the question of whether there is a more daring or authentic film here that Nolan wanted to make or whether his ambitions are simply to do modest things on a grand scale.

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Steven, I was interested in your "feels like Nolan has lost his nerve" comment since it seems to run counter to your initial response earlier in this thread. I don't say that as a "gotcha" but to wonder if your assessment changed or developed. 

I confess I've been thinking a little about the question of whether there is a more daring or authentic film here that Nolan wanted to make or whether his ambitions are simply to do modest things on a grand scale.

 

At first I was confused by your question, Ken, since I don't think my take on the film has changed in this respect. However, looking back, I see that you used a similar phrase, "failure of nerve," earlier in connection with the poetry/prose question. Is that what you're referring to? If so, no, I think I'm using my phrase to refer to something quite different.

 

For what it's worth, on my way home from the screening I called my friend Jimmy and complained that the film needed a more "ruthless" denouement of the sort that Nolan generally not only had no problem delivering, but actually seemed positively drawn toward. Instead, he settled for a more crowd-pleasing denouement.

 

Likewise, the day before our exchange in this thread, I wrote in a Twitter message to Peter that when the black hole collapses it leaves Coop "conveniently" near Saturn so he can be picked him, adding dismissively, "Of course, everyone gets to go back home, don't they."

 

It's this "convenient," crowd-pleasing denouement, rather than the more "ruthless," typically Nolanesque ending that I thought the movie needed, that I had in mind when I used that phrase "lost his nerve." (Note the explanation that follows: "Here at last he seems to be pandering, offering the comforting closure viewers want rather than the bracing inevitability the story needs. Another spoiler warning: You don’t get to be the Star Child, or abandon your family to fly away in the mother ship, and get to go home again. It doesn’t work that way.")

 

So, the failure of poetry for me is something that happens throughout the film; it would be there even if Nolan had kept his nerve for the more "ruthless" denouement that I thought the film needed. 

 

So I stand by my earlier response to you that I don't see the film's prosaic quality or lack of poetry as a "failure of nerve" particularly (though I don't say it isn't either; I'm just not sure the issues commends itself to me in those terms). But with respect to the choices at the denouement I think it seemed to me from the start as a "loss of nerve." 

Does that help?

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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The "spoiler" that SDG refers to is just another example of how nobody in this movie behaves like real people.

 

Cooper -- and his daughter -- saved humanity. Cooper's daughter went on to have children and grandchildren. Cooper himself is, presumably, a figure of some legendary status. Even if people don't know the *entire* story, they know that he's an explorer who vanished decades ago, and they probably know that his daughter thinks he had something to do with her making the discovery that saved humanity in the end. At any rate, people know enough about Cooper that, when they found him floating in space, they sent him to live in a replica of his home on Earth.

 

So, when Cooper walks into the hospital room to see his daughter, he encounters all these descendants of his... and he says *nothing* to them. And they say *nothing* to him. Seriously? Your grandfather or great-grandfather is a legend who helped save humanity, and you say *nothing* to him when he steps in the room? You don't even look at him with an appropriate silent awe? Seriously?

 

The last scenes in this movie are so blatantly unreal that I half-expect people to start coming up with the sort of "this whole last act is the fantasy world that he is trapped in now" theories that they came up with for Minority Report and Inception.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Well, I'm joining the naysayers here.

Argh, I really hate saying that (not that I'm joining the naysayers, but that I'm having to naysay a movie I've been looking forward to since well...it's inception)

What we have here is a visually stunning mess. Like Gravity. Cept Gravity's script is more tight knit and makes far more sense.

What we have here is a wondrous exploration of the mystery and possibility like Contact, cept Contact leaves the mystery alive, and allows for beings beyond our understanding to actually care enough about us to help us along the way. Also it takes a moment to say "They should have sent a poet." Contrast that with Dr. Mann's throwaway deadpan delivery of "it's undeniably beautiful." and you really get to the heart of why Sagan was writing a love story to space exploration and Nolan wrote a love story to survival instinct.

And that's my biggest problem with this movie, for all its talk about love transcending time and space, really the heart of the story is about survival instinct. I won't go too deeply into why that is, but suffice to say what Steven mentions above about reflection is honestly my biggest disappointment in the movie. If it was gonna go there, be willing to go there all the way, be willing to show the attachment and feeling of love as an actual quantifiable phenomenon that gives Cooper the power to return to his daughter, rather than just another survival mechanism.

Also, the denouement. I think the movie should have ended as

Cooper is floating in space with Bram's hand imprinted on the reflection in his visor.

we don't need the denouement of the happy ending.

The boxy 2001 Monolith (and yes I noticed that before Peter mentioned it) like robots are funny, but ultimately just a bit too weird, like Nolan really really wanted them to look like that and wouldn't have it any other way. Homage I guess, but I think better homage might have been served like in Moon (gosh when will we get a sci fi movie as good as Moon again?) you have a Hal 2000 like robot that has questionable intentions. Instead they're really just comic relief.

Lastly, the character played by Casey Affleck just really annoyed me. This kid who loves his father and farming slowly morphs into this

abusive bearded drunk stereotype that is really just there as foil for Murph and Topher Grace's character who I'm not sure is ever named

. I was also annoyed by the fact that absolutely no one asked why in the heck anyone would want to colonize a planet orbiting a black hole. That really just screams temporary housing.

Oh and the big idea thing...the supposedly really cool

fifth dimension ship/effect/whatever the heck you call that that allows Cooper to observe and somewhat affect his daughter's life throughout time just comes across a little creepy and voyeuristic, like some fifth dimensional time travelers are hiding behind your bookshelf observing you through the cracks. I mean, I get it, it's sweet, and really how else are you gonna conceive of such an idea...it's definitely pure imagination. Unfortunately it's about the most imaginative thing in the whole movie, and that's kinda sad.

and as I said above, the whole reason for its existence just really fell short for me.

I'm sure I could think of some other stuff, like those really awkward script choices...."the door's not working, oh wait, not it is never mind." or let's bring Murph into the room just cause two characters are talking about her and then awkwardly have her leave by saying she came in to ask if she could take a nap in Bram's office.

i will say one thing in favor. It's visually stunning, it's cinematically quite the experience, and a bit mindbending. The music actually worked for me and since I didn't see it in IMAX I didn't have any problems with understanding dialogue or the sound mix. But as for that former stuff, you could say all the same things about Inception, or any Nolan movie really...but just like Inception, Prestige, Dark Knight Rises, and even Memento (though that one worked out well), the trick becomes the story, and the magician can't wait to tell you how he did it, and that just really doesn't work for me any more. We can only live with so many "What a twist" Shyamalan like movies, and Nolan loves to make them...but like Shyamalan, it got old quick.

 

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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One thing about the climax to this film never made sense to me:

 

Matthew McConaughey insists that "we" were the ones sending messages to ourselves all along, but who created the wormhole that McConaughey and the others passed through in the first place? I figured there kind of *had* to be some sort of "alien" intelligence out there, but the film seemed very unclear on this point, and I couldn't ignore the fact that the film kept focusing our attention on McConaughey and his insistence that "we" were the ones saving ourselves.

 

Now comes MTV News, which I think may have solved the mystery here. I quote:

 

Some future iteration of the human race (so we survive) made a five-dimensional space that humans can experience . . .

 

So is that where Anders is getting the A.I. connection? Does McConaughey encounter a sort of future evolved version of himself i.e. his descendants?

 

Needless to say, this just underlines SDG's concerns about cause and effect that much more.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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That's what I gathered as well from McConaughey's dialogue. He specifically says

evolved versions of ourselves created this fifth dimensional space, after TARS assumes it's some advanced alien species, Cooper doesn't agree. What I really believe happened is that the future humans remembered what had happened with Cooper, and said, oh hey if we want to exist we're gonna have to create that fifth dimension thing, so they do, and the wormhole as well, and they don't actually create the wormhole to bring the people to any of those planets they visited, but just so that Cooper can pass through the black hole and use the time space thingy

Edited by Justin Hanvey

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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If that's really what the movie says, then the movie is even dumber than I thought.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I liked it quite a lot overall, even though I figured out that Cooper was going to go into the black hole and use gravity to communicate through time as the ghost in Murphy's room as soon as they started talking about Gargantua. For quite a while, I was thinking, "It's cool to have a big-budget movie that doesn't have a villain," and then Damon's character happened. I appreciate why the story had to go in that direction, but it made more sense plot-wise than character-wise.

 

And yeah, the climax depends on

some major timey-wimey plot logic. If we're to take Cooper's word about future evolved humans constructing the tesseract (yay words!) as the truth, then a whole lot of effects come before their causes could.

 

Darn it, I'm starting to like it less the more I think about it.

It's the side effects that save us.
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So I stand by my earlier response to you that I don't see the film's prosaic quality or lack of poetry as a "failure of nerve" particularly (though I don't say it isn't either; I'm just not sure the issues commends itself to me in those terms). But with respect to the choices at the denouement I think it seemed to me from the start as a "loss of nerve." 

Does that help?

 

It clarifies your use of the term.

To me "loss of nerve" implies that on some level the filmmaker (in this case Nolan) wanted or thought he should make a different film but did not follow through.

 

I'm not sure I have any indication that this isn't the exact film Nolan wanted to make--which is why Hollywood loves him.

 

Though, I suppose, one can talk about the *film's* loss of nerve as a means of suggestion there is an organic/Platnoic way the film should go, irrespective of the artist...one that follows the rules of good storytelling as we understand them.

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1. This movie is a trainwreck. Specifically, it's a collision of about four good episodes of The Twilight Zone. Or it's one over-extended episode of a Moffat-penned Doctor Who. But here's the thing: if Moffat can--and has--done the same thing in 45 minutes, and if Serling could do it in 20--and do it better--there's absolutely no reason to inflate it to three grueling hours. It's not that I mind the twist; it's perfectly serviceable and all that (and I don't mind the fact that it doesn't reach 2001-levels of transcendence). But it's a twist designed to carry a tight little TV episode--a short movie, at the most.

 

2. This is Golden Age SF all over: elements of Simak, perhaps; the expected references to Clark; even the twist is a particularly Golden Age sort of thing, I think.

 

3. The visual reference to Borges' "Library of Babel" was cool. I definitely think, comparing this to the Borgesian elements in Inception, that there's some interesting work to be done with Nolan and the older writer.

 

4. The robots are the worst-designed robots I've ever seen, and that includes the flying one in Flubber.

 

5. And all that exposition.... Lord have mercy, that exposition. The endless Talking About Deep Things. And not in an entertaining way, either (I could handle it if it were entertaining)--the dialogue here is dull, ponderous.

 

6. How saggy is this movie? It's so poorly constructed that it features a scene where one character records a message, which we get to see in full, only to repeat the same message--in full!--barely ten minutes later. And absolutely nothing is added--no nuances to the message, no startling revelations--it's just dull repetition for the sake of repetition.

 

7. This movie made me angry. I've never felt that with a Nolan film. Discontented, sure. Frustrated into fruitful speculation, definitely. Actually angry? That's new.

Edited by NBooth
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SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.

 

Thinking about the 2001 parallels, it occurs to me that one of the things Nolan may have done here is deliberately inserted Arthur C. Clarke's prose into Stanley Kubrick's poetry. Specifically: all this talk of humans "evolving" into fifth-dimensional beings makes me think of a chapter in Clarke's novel (which, if memory serves, he copied-and-pasted into all the sequel novels) that *explains* where the aliens behind the monoliths came from: they were once physical beings, then they transferred their consciousnesses into machines, and then they learned how to do without physical bodies altogether, etc. When I hear that Interstellar is rooted in the idea that human beings evolved into wormhole-makers and the like, *that* is what it reminds me of.

 

But of course, many fans of Kubrick's film have prized it precisely because Kubrick *doesn't* say where the monoliths came from, because it is content to let the monoliths be a symbol, an icon that is open to interpretation, etc. But Nolan didn't want to follow in Kubrick's footsteps. He wanted to follow in Clarke's.

 

Just a theory.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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