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Interstellar (2014)


Nick Olson
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The Interstellar pushback-against-the-naysayers brigade smells victory.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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This may even be my favorite Nolan film, which isn't to say it's the best, though it's certainly his most satisfying film on an aesthetic level.

McConaughey is perfectly cast. He keeps me engaged even when the film starts to wobble and then, finally, breaks apart.

Edited by Ryan H.
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Yeah, the sound design in particular was pretty lousy, like Nolan hadn't learned anything from all the complaints about Bane's indecipherable dialogue in The Dark Knight Rises.

"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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"...though it's certainly his most satisfying film on an aesthetic level."

I'd be interested to hear more about this, Ryan.

Me too. For the most part, I found this to be his sloppiest work, visually and editorially.

 

 

I thought it had some magnificent visuals, but I can't say I was particularly struck by the camerawork or editing, although it's entirely possible that a second viewing would change my mind. 

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

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"...though it's certainly his most satisfying film on an aesthetic level."

I'd be interested to hear more about this, Ryan.

Me too. For the most part, I found this to be his sloppiest work, visually and editorially.
I don't have time to get into this at length now, unfortunately.

Nolan has always been a clumsy filmmaker when working on this scale and Interstellar is hardly a total transformation. But while there are sections of Interstellar that are bewilderingly inept, there are also moments and sequences that are more elegantly constructed than I would ever have expected to see in a Nolan film.

Edited by Ryan H.
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"...though it's certainly his most satisfying film on an aesthetic level."

I'd be interested to hear more about this, Ryan.

Me too. For the most part, I found this to be his sloppiest work, visually and editorially.

 

 

I thought it had some magnificent visuals, but I can't say I was particularly struck by the camerawork or editing,...

 

 

"It wasn't very graceful, but it was very, very efficient." - Cooper

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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Spoilerish first impressions. I meant to jot down a couple of notes. An hour later, I was still writing.

 

I haven't read more than a handful of short comments in this thread, so now it's time to go back to the beginning and read all the way through....

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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Jeff, I've read a lot of your reviews over the years, but I can't remember reading one I've enjoyed more than that one.

 

I encourage everyone to click on Jeff's link and read his thoughts, which I hope he publishes more broadly (Patheos, perhaps?).

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christopher Nolan Breaks Silence on 'Interstellar' Sound (Exclusive)

Describing his approach to the movie’s sound mix as “adventurous and creative,” Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview Friday, “Many of the filmmakers I’ve admired over the years have used sound in bold and adventurous ways. I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue. Clarity of story, clarity of emotions—I  try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal—picture and sound.”

Hollywood Reporter, November 15

"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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Mark Steyn, who is currently fighting the real-life climate scientist Dr Michael Mann in court:

 

Coop knows whereof he speaks. He used to be an astronaut. Now he's a farmer. Almost everybody is. And not Archer Daniels Midland-type mega-farmers, but broken-down family-farmers living in weathered, creaky homesteads where you talk about burying prematurely deceased kin out in the back forty. The hardscrabble land yields less and less each year because of the mysterious, devastating "blight", which blows in and leaves the neighborhood in dust so thick it's like John Steinbeck with a James Cameron budget. My old comrade John Podhoretz observes:

 

It is notable that the terms "global warming" and "climate change" are not used to describe the environmental depredation of the Earth—notable because that would be the easiest cultural shorthand for Nolan to use. It feels like there's a reason for their absence.

 

I'd go a little further than that. Nolan actually goes to a bit of trouble to identify the problem as "non-anthropogenic" climate change. NASA's top boffin (Michael Caine, not on best form) explains that the Blight feeds on nitrogen - which is 80 per cent of the atmosphere, but, unlike CO2 emissions, nothing to do with man.

 

So America has returned to that locally-grown environmentally sustainable family-farm elysium "progressives" have been pining for since Woodstock. . . .

 

The movie "Mann" is one of several astronauts out there in search of new worlds. The other guys are just referred to by one-word surnames, but "Dr Mann" is never referred to as anything but "Dr Mann". In other words, the Nolan brothers appear to have consciously chosen to give their villain the character of a "climate scientist": "Dr Mann represents the best of us," says a starry-eyed Anne Hathaway early on. Given the film's themes, it's difficult to believe the Nolans' choice of name for their bad guy is pure coincidence. . . .

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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I don't think this has come up already in this thread -- forgive me if I'm wrong -- but John Podhoretz's review reminds me of something that puzzled me at the time I saw the film, but which, because I was fighting the onset of a fever, I wasn't sure was just inattentiveness/distractedness on my part. The issue: What's with the son in this story? What's the point of his role?

 

Even worse, from a storytelling point of view, there is a character (Cooper’s son) whose presence is taken for granted in a very upsetting way at the movie’s beginning: Cooper appears consumed with love for his daughter but barely acknowledges his son. The boy seems to be there only to serve as a major plot point in the movie’s final act. But Interstellar’s initial cut must have run too long—as it is, the movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes—and Nolan must have had to eliminate the boy’s storyline. So when he suddenly emerges again as a player at a crucial moment, the film’s climax goes out of whack.

 

I remember seeing the actor who played the grown son, wondering where he came from, who he was supposed to be, etc. It took me until his second or third appearance, if memory serves, to figure it out, although it's possible he uses his name or otherwise is clearly ID'd the moment that actor first appears.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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There's a whole scene at the beginning at the family dining table with the young son participating in a family conversation and rolling his eyes at his sister's behavior. He is also instructed to fix the flat tire at the beginning, and then ends up freaking out when his dad starts driving the truck anyway.

 

I agree that the son should have made more of an impression at the beginning, but his importance later didn't surprise me. The focus on the father/daughter bond makes sense because it's Murphy who complicates the scientific approach to things by observing the "ghost."

Edited by Overstreet

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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Yeah, at least one critic (can't remember who, now) has taken the film to task for basically treating the son as though he doesn't really matter.

 

Me, I got a kick out of the Ocean's Eleven reunion. Or maybe it was a Gerry reunion. (Let the reader understand.)

"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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This might be my favourite thing I've read on INTERSTELLAR. This is a person on the same wavelength as me as far as Nolan's films go.

 

 

Yes, Interstellar ultimately is about love; but I’d argue that it’s not about a force that conquers all, or anything so glib. Sentimental, perhaps. For the constant of love in Interstellar is how we are all conquered by time. We are trapped by the scale of the universe, but in recognizance of these truths comes a kind of tragic reckoning, if you’re willing to follow the thought. I myself didn’t entirely catch it in the act of watching the movie. It was only thinking about it, later. Or maybe feeling is the right way of putting it, because again, it’s not that literal, it’s a movie; it’s emotional.

 

On the filmmaking:

 

A movie is, itself, an act of relativistic time compression. All movies are a capture of moments of time reconstructed into a semblance of persistence. As Interstellar’s principal character comes to understand time, the movie’s editing fragments further and further, buttressing the relativistic dialogue. There’s this assumption that Nolan’s reliance on expository dialogue is where he prizes coherence, but it’s really because of his formalist interest in showing it, and mostly by the very nature of editing, as opposed to just by virtue of images. The editing and narrative structure of Interstellar tells you everything you need to know about General Relativity. It’s there in that sublime edit of the biophonic sounds of Earth over the void of space; a perspective only offered when you connect an image and a disparate sound into something grander.

 

Edited by Anders

"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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Saw this for a second time with my wife and older son (an aspiring aerospace engineer), and they both loved it.  I felt it was much stronger on second viewing, and (I may be repeating myself here) I came away even more convinced that with this film, Nolan has made huge strides in character development and emotional depth. 

 

Two or three Sundays ago, there was a very good profile of Nolan in the NYT Magazine.  In the article, he related that the core of Interstellar (for him, anyway) is the father-daughter relationship, with which I wholeheartedly agree.  As time slips past ever more quickly, and I get ready to send my oldest off to college next summer, the whole time/love/parenthood interface resonated very strongly with me.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I dunno.  I've got to agree with those who had mixed reactions to this.  Sure there was some great stuff in this, some nifty scenes and touching moments.  But there was also some parts that were jarringly clunky for me.  Anne Hathaway's spiel about love might have worked if there had actually been something that truly lead up to it in her character, but there just wasn't anything going on with her and especially in regards to her "relationship" with the man in question for this to have any weight or meaning.  I was really left with the feeling that this spiel was just jammed right in there and was kind of thinking, "why are you all of a sudden talking about this when there was little (any?) indication that you even cared for the guy?  This certainly doesn't work when it comes to the dialogue that is basically expressing the central thrust of the whole movie, and throughout it the viewer is sitting there wondering where the motivation was for her to be talking about it all, like this, in the first place.  It's not good when the central theme of the whole film is just jammed in where it feels like it's completely coming from left field and a person is sitting there wondering what the heck is going on.... asking themselves what they might have missed in the film.  

 

So, to sum it up, instead of being impacted by what she was saying I was sitting there wondering why she was talking about it, and trying to figure out what I had missed.  Thus, this also carried on into future dealings with the theme.

 

Warning.  The following thoughts might ruin the film for some who have already seen it.  So in a sense it's a real spoiler. 

 

Another thing that I was thinking about in this regard, was that this whole business of love, in the context of the film, was connected to the idea that it is basically an instinct that we had devoloped through material evolution.  But when one reads into what many (most?) of materialist scientists are really saying surrounding this subject there includes this idea that our conscious thoughts are simply delusions created by our biological brain and that we really have no freewill and just carry on like biological robots as part of a determined universe.  In other words, in their view, love is a delusion.  

 

So this is a film about love that is built on belief systems that many are espousing which would make love "null and void" and the concept meaningless.  Of course, I know that wasn't the filmmaker's intention and I would hate to take away from anyone whom the film spoke to in this regards.  It's just that I sometimes can't dissociate the story from the horrific ideas that the worldview it espouses would actually mean, and this from many who are claiming these things in real life and trying to teach them to our children.  For me, the love that they were talking about in this film, would be a delusion, according to the worldview that the film has built this "love" on.  I've learned to much about some of this stuff to live in the "lie" anymore.  Apologies to whomever that offends.

 

Sorry if this tars the film for some.

 

Also.  When it comes to time travel movies there are usually conundrums.  But often they can get confusing enough that a person can let them slide because it just isn't obvious enough to be jarring.  The conundrum in this movie was right front and center for me though.   If the human race came from the future "evolution" (or outside of time in a fifth dimension, or whatever) into the past in order to save itself, then how did it get into this future (or whatever) to begin with.  It would have died out before it got to the future on the first pass.

Edited by Attica
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* * * SPOILERS * * *

 

I'm fine with causality loops, to a point. I'm a huge fan of The Terminator, after all, and consider it vastly superior to all of its sequels (including, yes, T2). But generally speaking, causality-loop movies have had an ironic twist or an element of tragedy or something. Skynet tried to destroy John Connor... and in doing so they guaranteed his existence. Sarah Connor tried to destroy Skynet... and in doing so she guaranteed *its* existence. (This latter point is from a Terminator deleted scene and not from the film itself, per se, but still.) Etc. But the causality loop in Interstellar lacks that ironic/tragic element.

 

And it's made even stranger by the fact that *the plot device that made the time travel possible in the first place* was created as *part* of the loop. In The Terminator, the time machine was created with the intention of *changing* the timeline and ended up *fulfilling* it instead -- that's the ironic twist. In Interstellar, we passed through a wormhole that our descendants created and sent back in time so that we could pass through the wormhole and create our descendants... or something like that. There's no ironic "Wow" moment there, it's just a solipsistic "Huh".

"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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"There's no ironic "Wow" moment there, it's just a solipsistic "Huh".

 
 
Exactly.  It's clunky, and too obviously so.  But it's also probably saying that ghosts don't really exist, so for that matter anything spiritual, nevermind God.  All there is for consciousness in the universe is really US (being that are living), and the only "transcendance" will be in some higher form of US.  Again, all of this in a worldview that I had touched on before in regards to "love."
Edited by Attica
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But it's also probably saying that ghosts don't really exist, so for that matter anything spiritual, nevermind God.  All there is for consciousness in the universe is really US (being that are living), and the only "transcendance" will be in some higher form of US.  Again, all of this in a worldview that I had touched on before in regards to "love."

This is my biggest issue with Interstellar--its answers to all the religious questions about love, existence, and the nature of humanity are are summed up by Cooper: "it was us, all along." Where similar films like 2001 and The Tree of Life have a sense of transcendence and mystery, there is little mystery at the end of Interstellar. Except for why Cooper and Murph culminate their decades-long search for one another with an awkward three-minute conversation resulting in his abandoning her for outer space...again.

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But it's also probably saying that ghosts don't really exist, so for that matter anything spiritual, nevermind God.  All there is for consciousness in the universe is really US (being that are living), and the only "transcendance" will be in some higher form of US.  Again, all of this in a worldview that I had touched on before in regards to "love."

This is my biggest issue with Interstellar--its answers to all the religious questions about love, existence, and the nature of humanity are are summed up by Cooper: "it was us, all along." Where similar films like 2001 and The Tree of Life have a sense of transcendence and mystery, there is little mystery at the end of Interstellar. Except for why Cooper and Murph culminate their decades-long search for one another with an awkward three-minute conversation resulting in his abandoning her for outer space...again.

 

 

 

Yeah.  The film suggests that he will find his true love.  But really, his daughter who he'll have only met that once for all of 5 minutes would be long past dead by any time that he returned.   He also could have taken his sweet time on the space station and then after awhile gone and rescued the other lady and it would have only been hours or days in her timeline.  At least if that one planet is anything like the water planet, which it may not be.  I can't remember if that was mentioned. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw Interstellar yesterday, and liked it a lot. Hey, I have an 8-year-old daughter who is inquisitive and an explorer, and I adore her. Like for Andrew, the father-daughter aspects of this movie hit home for me in powerful ways. Of course, I also have a twelve-year-old son, so like the unnamed critic Peter references, I thought Coop treated his son poorly. Although, he did name the grandson "Coop," so I don't see that he minded all that much.

 

In its grandeur and preference for "hard" sci-fi, Interstellar obviously draws from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact. It lacks the frenetic, roller-coaster feeling of Gravity, but deals with similar themes of loneliness and isolation. I guess a big difference there is that Gravity utilizes touches of the Divine to soften the isolation, whereas Interstellar sees no one out there but us, and so the isolation drives its characters crazy. Some of the design elements harken to Star Wars. But the movie I thought of the most in connection with Interstellar is Frequency. Where Frequency was a father-son sci-fi thriller, Interstellar is a father-daughter epic drama. But both rely on time-delayed communications between the father and his child, both deal with characters who grew up without a father and now having the chance to reconnect with him, and both play with questions of watching your kid grow up before your eyes while you stay young. 

 

I'm glad I saw it, three-hour runtime notwithstanding. I found the ending dumb and cludgy, but thought most of the film was successful in what it was trying to accomplish.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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