Review: Interstellar

It’s impossible for humans to travel back in time.  Unless they’re in a movie theater.

This review of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” will go out of its way not to spoil anything.  This will be light on plot and more focused on the experience.

It might even be better to call it a primer on “Interstellar” rather than a review.

Let start by getting the basic story and my reaction out of the way.

Going through a global dust bowl, Earth is dying and NASA embarks on a long shot mission to prevent mankind’s extinction.  It’s a film that made me want to nominate Nolan for sainthood, continues his streak of not making a bad film and makes allusions to all the sci-fi films we loved as kids.

You will hear complaints about the final act.  My response is this is still a science fiction film.  Deal with it.

There you go!  Short and sweet.Interstellar

Not so short is the runtime, which counting previews is about three hours.  While I’d *always* recommend a nice, refreshing Coca-Cola to enlighten your trip to the theater, save that for next time.  It’s imperative that your bladder be empty for “Interstellar.”

Still, that’s no excuse to skip out on a popcorn and a pack of Junior Mints.

It’s also unique that Nolan gave “Interstellar” an early release on 35mm film/70mm IMAX three days before the general release.  Since early in the last decade (starting with “Star Wars: Episode III” if I remember correctly) movies have gradually been shown on DLP digital projectors.

In fact, it was a real struggle (reel?) to explain to moviegoers what exactly 35mm film is.

You start by saying 35mm is actual film as opposed to a digital file.  Then they squint and reply, “Is that 1080p?”

After that, you try comparing it to a VHS vs. streaming a movie on Netflix until they ask, “What’s a VHS?”  Then you wonder if you should follow up “Interstellar” by watching “Idiocracy.”

I finally cracked, in a nice way, and said to one college-age person, “My friend, if you watched movies as a kid you’ll remember what film looks like.”

Moving on to the sainthood for Nolan part.  What makes me such a staunch Nolan fan is that more than any current filmmaker he knows how to make movies feel big again.

Watching “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” at the IMAX and just having to tilt my neck up to see the whole picture had a big impact.  For two and a half hours I was care-free, just like when I’d sit on the very front row of the theater to escape into a movie way back in elementary school.

I didn’t mind the scratch marks that came with film, for a long time that was just all we knew.  As much as I love how clear DLP is, films broken in by projectors are just as vital.

Nolan films also feel big in how he packages them.  Plot details are kept under tight security.  The trailers, for the most part, don’t give away much of the story.  Models and practical effects are used as often as possible, harkening back to what I would call the peak of balanced, grounded movie effects (basically that time from 1982’s “The Thing” to “Jurassic Park”).

Too often people sabotage a movie by leaking scripts, stalking film crews/sets with cameras and robbing audiences of the chance to be  truly surprised.

Watching on film also makes sense in the context of the story.  The future in “Interstellar” looks a lot like our present.  This is because we’ve stopped focusing on new inventions and become a “caretaker” generation dedicated to growing food.  You know, survival.

There are a few clear advancements, namely robots with artificial intelligence.  But reverting from digital to film to see a movie about humanity reverting from a tech culture to an agrarian culture is a little extra fun.

I wonder how much just the idea of no new cell phones every year will frighten today’s movie-going teens.  A lot, I hope.

Not the leave the actors out, this film is carried by fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey as Cooper,  God bless him.  With Nolan crediting 1983’s “The Right Stuff” for influencing this film I bet naming the main character Cooper was a nod to Mercury astronaut “Gordo” Cooper (who was played by Dennis Quaid, another Texan, in that movie).

Equally worthy of praise are Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy as Cooper’s daughter Murph.  Oh, and if you don’t like Anne Hathaway in this movie I don’t like you.  Finally, tip of the hat to David Gyasi as Romilly and Michael Caine remains Nolan’s good luck charm.

There are other actors who pop up in “Interstellar” but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.

BOTTOM LINE: “Interstellar” made me feel like a kid again.  The less you know about the plot the better.



-As someone who loves “2001: A Space Odyssey” I’m tremendously glad another movie has come around to remind us that when a spaceship rotates it will have gravity on board.  Finally a rotating ship!  None of that “artificial gravity” malarkey.

-John Lithgow also has a supporting part and his character talks about how you can’t have a baseball game without a hot dog.  This marks the second time he’s played someone who prioritizes hot dogs, having a similar conversation with Roy Scheider in “2010.”

-Someway, somehow with the world ending McConaughey manages to always have a beer handy.  In the future facing extinction we will still find the resources to make our adult beverages.