Saturday, November 15, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers:  Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast:       Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine

The Earth has become almost uninhabitable due to plunder of resources by mankind and the resulting shortage in food supply. Cooper, an ex-pilot who trained at NASA many years ago, is living as a farmer with his two children and their grand-dad. Possessing still an inquisitive mind, he discovers a secret NASA site with the help of his daughter. There he learns that Earth won’t be habitable for much long and his children’s generation will be its last if they are not able to populate another Earth like planet. They have discovered a wormhole near Saturn and he is invited to go on for a mission which involves travelling through the wormhole to another galaxy in order to check the habitats of potential Earth-like planets. They have two plans-Plan A is solving an equation as they travel which will help in migration of people to the potentially habitable planet or failing, that Plan B, which means using the samples they are taking with them to produce man-kind there. Cooper obviously prefers the former plan since he wants to save his children he is leaving behind along with all the humans that are left on Earth. Problem with their near-light speed travel is that they will age much slower than people in Earth because of Time Dilation.

I caught Inception on the second day of its release and saw it again twice on big screen subsequently. Difference between then and now is that I am not arsed about Christopher Nolan anymore. He is overrated by all and sundry these days and I didn't find his Dark Knight trilogy to be all that. Since Inception, he also served as executive producer for ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Transcendence’, two very average films. So I wasn't expecting much from Interstellar and was prepared to be pleasantly surprised if it turned out to be any good. The factors mentioned above were not the only reasons for my pessimism. With, ‘Interstellar’ he is dabbling with the sci-fi genre for the first time. Some people might call ‘Inception’ a sci-fi film but in my opinion it was more of a fantasy action film centered on a very interesting idea about which they were not obligated to explain whether it is scientifically possible. In ‘Interstellar’, he is supposed to deal with things that are theoretically possible based on the known laws of our universe or other credible scientific postulations. The problem with that is, for a film with such big ambitions, how are you going to do the expositions without it feeling just that to the audience. He did them seamlessly in his films like ‘Memento’, ‘Inception’ and ‘The Prestige’, but those were more related to the suspension of disbelief by the audience and keeping up with the narrative techniques. All these films had very suspect scientific rationale behind their central ideas (creating duplicates in The Prestige for eg) but we were not bothered by it since we were caught up in figuring out the brilliant and complex narrative methods he was using. Another problem with him handling a sci-fi film for me is that all my favourite ones from this genre deals with existential questions (2001: A Space Odyssey, Bladerunner etc) and Nolan is not someone who creates rich characters that we care for. The only one that I cared particularly care for was Guy Pearce’s Leonard in ‘Memento’, which I rate as his best film.

So was I pleasantly surprised by Interstellar? The answer is a big fucking NO!!! As expected expositions were terrible, especially in the first half. Did I care for any of the characters? The answer is again as you might expect: N-fucking-O. The only interesting character in the film was TARS and it was a fucking robot. In a film whose central idea is a protagonist who is conflicted by choosing between trying to save his children or instead stand for the greater good my saving the species-I only cared for a robot. You may say that the most interesting character in 2001: A Space Odyssey was also a robot called Hal-9000. Yes that is true, but it/him was the central character in that story. Did Interstellar touch upon all the sci-fi/Hollywood film clichés? Reluctant hero-check, an Icarus like figure who backstabs the crew-check, token black man in the crew-check, token romance angle-check, a big deception by a father figure-check. I was laughing my arse off (not literally) when Anne Hathaway’s character started theorizing about love as a rationale for picking the next target planet since that is where her boyfriend went. Give me a fucking break! Also the set-piece action/thrill sequences felt like Nolan doing them by numbers so that audience don't get too bored.

The positives for the film are of course the stunning visuals and Hans Zimmer’s fantastic soundtrack. The technical effort behind the film should be appreciated but Nolan just forgot about the basics. I am a person who is very much interested in Cosmology, theoretical physics principles behind the origin of our galaxies, Big Bang etc and I have watched many episodes of BBC’s horizon documentaries relating to those things. If you want to engage your brain in a thrilling way, you are better off watching those than the three hour long Interstellar. Towards the end of it, Cooper jumps into a black hole and goes back in time to help his daughter solve the equations. As far as I know, our scientists don’t have much idea about what happens after the Event Horizon is crossed because the Standard Model breakdowns and nothing is supposed to escape from it. So the scientific veracity of the things shown after that point in the film might be questionable but it might be a case of him imagining things. But truly, I don’t give two shits about it to crack my head on making sense of the film. The most interesting thing that happened was that the server in the cinema hall, where I watched it, hung up when Cooper was meeting his aged daughter right at the end. When they rebooted it, the film started ten minutes prior to that point which was like us going back in time. But the film was still shit.

I have seen some people comparing it with Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’. Gravity was just a disaster film that happened to be set in near space. The things that went right for that film was its near real time length of ninety minutes which didn’t give us time to think too much about any of its silliness. It didn’t aim to be much more than a cool action flick that is purely a genre film and any weak points that it had, was to do with the back-story bit that they tried to shoe horn with some existentialism thrown in. Interstellar is much more close to the level of Transcendence than even a film like ‘Sunshine’, forget 2001. It is the weakest film that Christopher Nolan has directed so far. It is based on Jonathan Nolan’s story and script and Steven Speilberg was initially supposed to direct it. That may explain some of the sappiness.

Rating: 3/5