Thursday, April 23, 2015

In short: Interstellar (2014)

Not to sound like the head of the Christopher Nolan Appreciation Society (again), but then, if the guy continues to direct films I really rather massively appreciate, I hardly have a choice, or do I?

Anyway, a few notes on all the things I loved about this particular example for the fact you can indeed make a high budget mainstream Hollywood SF movie that is neither desperately stupid nor full of dishonest bathos (*cough* Gravity *cough*). Not that Interstellar is afraid of writing its feelings big; it does however put a lot of effort into coming by them the honest way, which is to say, by actually building the characters and themes these emotions spring from with great care, and consequently to great effect.

For my tastes, Interstellar is one among a rather small number of earnest-minded big SF movies that also manage to get the balance right between visionary aspirations, a sober view of the way the universe works, and a deeply human(ist) yearning for humanity to be or become more than just mere cogs in a mechanist system. And although this sort of thing of course always threatens to dissolve into an aspirational speech on how great humanity is because it is capable of love (this is after all a film that posits love as a transcendent force as real and built into the universe itself as gravity), the film doesn’t forget that its humanity also is a highly destructive force, at best straining to follow those impulses that transcend the evolutionary struggle for survival. It’s just not all there is; and – even though I’m philosophically a wee bit more pessimistic about humanity as such or love’s grand place in the universe outside the human heart – I really prefer this to the Cold Equations we use as an excuse not to become any better than we are.

That the film is as convincing as it is does of course also have a lot to do with some excellent and nuanced performances, with Jessica Chastain’s grown-up Murph and Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper being able to carry the film’s more problematic scenes through their difficulties. It’s also difficult to praise Nolan’s direction too much, I think. The organic way the plot’s emphasis shifts from Cooper’s plotline to Murph’s, mirroring the film’s thoughts about the connection between the big Out There and the Down Here, using the parallels between their parts of the plot until they unite again in the best way possible. It’s all excellent stuff.

And of course, it’s pretty needless to even mention the quality of the effects, or Hans Zimmer’s score, and so on, because in these more technical aspects, mainstream Hollywood is always dependable. Yet even in the times of the intelligent superhero movie, it’s still not quite often enough that these technical powers stand in service of a film actually worth the effort and the huge amounts of money thrown at it as to not mention this at all.

No comments: