‘Interstellar’ review: Ambitious, but falls short of expectations

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Interstellar review: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and David Gyasi in Interstellar
Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Brand) and David Gyasi (Romily) in Interstellar

Movie synopsis

In the not-too-distant future, the earth is dying. Strange occurrences lead a former pilot (Matthew McConaughey) to a hidden NASA facility, where he and a bunch of other scientists (Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi and Wes Bentley) are tasked to leave the earth to find a solution in a wormhole that appeared a few years ago.

Interstellar review in a nutshell

It has epic scenes and an epic score. Matthew McConaughey is pretty great in it, though his drawl is indecipherable at times. But you’ll probably have to rewatch the movie, or read someone else’s analysis, to understand the “science” behind it.

Would I recommend you to watch it?

Do you like grand movies? You’ll like this.

Do you like space movies? You’ll like this.

Do you like sciency movies full of mumbo jumbo where the climax hinges on a very weird, non-science concept? You’ll LOVE THIS MOVIE.

Click here to jump to the bottom for where you can watch Interstellar.

Otherwise, continue reading for a full, spoiler-filled review.

Full review of Interstellar (with spoilers for the entire movie)

A divisive film thus far, Interstellar has split the internet into two camps of people: Those who love the film like crazy and think that it’s THE GREATEST FILM EVER, and those who’re like — “Meh.”

I’m somewhere in between. I don’t think that it’s so-so, but it’s far from the greatest film ever for me. I’m confused as to why it’s currently #11 on the IMDb Top 250 list, beating Inception at #14, which I loved way more. (Seriously, I LOVE Inception. LOVE LOVE LOVE Inception. It’s tied with The Avengers for my favourite movie of all time.)

Updated on 3 June 2020: Never mind, it’s at #30 now, with Inception at #13. I’m glad things are back in the correct order, though Interstellar beating Psycho (#40), Raiders of the Lost Ark (#56), The Shining (#61) etc.? Really?

Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Mackenzie Foy (young Murphy Cooper), and Timothée Chalamet (young Tom Cooper) in Interstellar
Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Mackenzie Foy (young Murphy Cooper), and Timothée Chalamet (young Tom Cooper) in Interstellar

First off, I didn’t understand the movie fully while watching it, because my legendary hearing problems discriminate against accents of any sort, enabling me to get only about 80 percent of what people say in any given movie. Which isn’t really the movie’s fault, but if the 20 percent I missed happens to be a crucial part of the plot, as it was in this case: goodbye clarity, hello confusion.

Or maybe I should start off by outlining what I *do* understand.

A father (Matthew McConaughey) leaves Earth to discover habitable planets in other galaxies — an endeavour made possible only because of a wormhole that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere about 50 years ago — because Earth is dying and they are running out of food and breathable air. (Why is Earth dying? Dunno.) They don’t discover habitable planets, at least, not in time for people on Earth to get there. The other way to save humanity is to solve some equation that somehow unveils the secret of bending gravity (though why that would save humanity, I also have no idea). Only they don’t have the formula to do so.

The father somehow discovers some data in the ass end of nowhere in the galaxy on the other side of the wormhole that would enable the equation to be solved, and then he drops into a black hole, which for unknown reasons, turns into infinite versions of his daughter’s room when she was a girl — otherwise known as a tesseract — and then manages to communicate the data to his super smart daughter (Jessica Chastain), who returns to her bedroom in her father’s house when she’s older, and discovers that her father was her childhood “ghost” who kept knocking things over in her room and sending her messages through Morse code and binary.

Jessica Chastain as older Murphy Cooper
Jessica Chastain as older Murphy Cooper in Interstellar

Oh, did I mention that while in the tessaract, he sets in motion the events that would lead him to discover the secret headquarters of NASA in the first place, and therefore leave Earth on this interstellar trip to save humanity? Thereby creating a time loop that ends where he started. So it’s like time travel. Because time is relative. That is the one thing I understood out of all the “science” thrown around in the movie, if nothing else.

The outline of the plot is easy to understand. The astrophysics, interstellar travel and dropping into a black hole that turns out to be a tessaract of infinite versions of his daughter’s room? Not so much.

Also, Cooper spends most of the movie trying to get back to his daughter — his daughter only, because who cares about his son, am I right? — and in the end he’s reunited with her when she’s very old for only a few short moments, before she encourages him to go and look for someone to spend the rest of his life with. So he leaves again to look for Brand. Right.

Jessica Chastian as older Murphy and Casey Affleck as older Tom
My reaction after watching Interstellar = Casey Affleck

I’ll give Christopher Nolan this, and it’s a word that’s been bandied about by all critics concerning the movie: It’s ambitious alright. A father really loves his daughter, and through his love, he saves humanity, because love is powerful enough to be something physical in Nolan’s imagined universe — that’s how Cooper drops into the black hole and ends up in the space between infinite versions of his daughter’s room. (Strangely, he doesn’t seem to be as concerned about his son, played by a young Timothée Chalamet.) I just don’t understand what makes the movie GREAT in the eyes of its fervent champions. The fact that Nolan turned love into a dimension that can be travelled in? That time is relative? Wormholes are cool? Gravity can be bent as long as you have the right formula? Human beings need each other to survive, or else they’ll develop space madness? Somebody enlighten me.

For me, it just didn’t have the oomph of Inception‘s concept: That you can go into people’s dreams to steal/plant ideas, *and* you can delve into more than one dream layer, where whatever happens in the previous layer affects the next. (Also, Inception made way more sense to me than Interstellar. “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space”? Huh???)

Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey on the set of Interstellar
Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey on the set of Interstellar

Still, not understanding a movie doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy its individual parts. The sequence on the planet of one-foot deep water was riveting, including the part where they return to their ship and find out that 23 years have passed when it had only been a few hours for them. (Though why, of all places, Nolan would dream up of a planet made up of one-foot deep ocean is a mystery).

The spinning rotation docking scene was magnificent too. You *know* they are going to succeed, but the score and the visuals and the tension combine to create a gorgeous cinematic moment.

My favourite scene in Interstellar, and one of the only parts of Interstellar that I think back fondly on.

Oh hey, Matt Damon is in the movie! I think *that’s* the movie’s best kept secret, not the plot.

The snowy barren planet where they meet Matt Damon's character
The snowy barren planet on Interstellar where they meet Matt Damon’s character

Also, Matthew McConaughey can WEEP.

I still think Christopher Nolan is brilliant. But I had higher hopes for Interstellar, based on all the hype about it before it came out. To walk out of the theatre with a “huh?” feeling wasn’t what I wanted to feel at all. Nor was the “huh, that’s it?” feeling that replaced it, after my confusion about the plot was cleared up.

On a related note: This Entertainment Weekly article explains the plot of the movie better than I can. Bear in mind that the writer is snarky, and he didn’t like Interstellar, but it does clear a lot of things up. Especially since I couldn’t catch everything that was said during the movie, so I was puzzled how Cooper figured out that the dust was in binary, or how he discovered the coordinates to the secret HQ of NASA, or even what Plan A was. There’s also a follow-up article that includes readers’ reactions, some of which are rage-filled because they are part of the camp who think it’s THE GREATEST FILM EVER. But it’s all pretty fun to read.

Where to watch Interstellar

Streaming services: Interstellar is not on Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu. It may be on HBO Max, but because I can’t access HBO Max, I can’t confirm it.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Microsoft, FandangoNOW, Redbox

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