Interstellar is a film set at in the future, when the earth and its resources are ‘dying’. Mathew McConaughey plays the all-American hero, Cooper, who is aided by scientist Dr Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter, biologist Amelia Brand, played by Anne Hathaway. This is about as successful a casting decision as when producers decided, “Denise Richards – nuclear physicist, what do you think?” Further hilarious miscasting includes Ellen Burstyn as the elderly Murph; following the batbrilliant (sic) producer’s presumption that old people don’t look or sound anything like their younger counterparts.
Brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, of Batman fame, co-wrote the screenplay and may have disappeared up their own black holes in the process. (Have this team gone batty? Remember the brilliant Memento?)
The story opens with McConaughey, an ex-astronaut and single father, eking out a living on a farm plagued by encroaching dust storms and crop diseases. Various scientific explanations are given for the planet’s malaise, suffice to say, that survival of the human race is imperative. (The supposition that this lot of might not be worth saving crossed my mind.)
We meet McConaughey’s family, his ten-year-old daughter, Murph, well played by Mackenzie Foy; and his son, Tom, also well played by Timothée Chalamet. John Lithgow gets an honourable mention as the much put-upon father-in-law, Donald, and a further nod goes to Casey Affleck, playing the adult son, Tom. In fact, the supporting cast, (and Hal-type robots), do a far better job than the leads. McConaughey’s artistic range alternating from crybaby to smug bastard…just give him a minute or two.
Anyhoooo, the audience is asked to believe that McConaughey is the ONLY ex astronaut on earth capable of undertaking the mission, through a mysteriously well-placed wormhole. He abandons his family and gives in to his long-suppressed urge for adventure. (Single-parenting being a thankless, relentless task, better left to the elderly.) Hathaway, despite a wonderful performance in Les Miserables, has resorted to tremulous brown-eyed stares resembling those of a bewildered Pekinese.
In truth, the only lead character worth sitting through this film for is…SPACE. The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema and related FX are outstanding. The viewer will find themselves enchanted by the bleak expanses of the galaxy, with some footage shot in 70mm IMAX, in Iceland; the spectacle of thousand-foot waves and clouds-that-freeze are really something to behold.
Back on Earth, the adult Murph, (Jessica Chastain) is now a NASA scientist having grown up without her father, but befriended by Professor Brand, whose own daughter (Hathaway) is on the mission with McConaughey. Without giving too much away, the story attempts to bring together the themes of multi-dimensional space and time and the theories of relativity and gravitational telephony; all interspersed with a bit of homespun Morse code and dollops of mawkish sentimentality. The repeated use of Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night…rage rage rage against the dying of the light” merely illuminates the difference between brilliant clarity of writing and the dim-fuggery of a stupid script.
The rest of the crew turn in valiant efforts, particularly the editor, Lee Smith, who must have aged space-years in marshaling the footage down to a mere two hours and forty-nine minutes.
Interstellar depicts space in all its grandeur, but it is hampered by a poor screenplay, wooden dialogue, and mostly awful acting.
And the Oscar goes to… Outer Space!