Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” is less than stellar

Christopher Nolan is one of the best mainstream filmmakers working today. There are better, I won’t argue that with you, but there are only a select few artists in the mainstream who can consistently make blockbusters that are as visually pleasing, thought-provoking, and tense as those that bear the stamp of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company.

Nolan is one of the only filmmakers whose movies I will see without knowing anything about them. I went into “Interstellar” having seen a trailer or two, and not much else. I knew it was sci-fi, a genre I love, and from a man whose previous original projects included “Inception,” “Memento,” and “The Prestige.” Those are all fantastic mind-bending films which have a lot of flair. It’s hard to argue with a pedigree like that (although many online Steven Spielberg fans will argue with you about it until neither of you enjoys the discussion anymore).

Interstellar tries really hard to fit the same mold, but it just didn’t work for me in the same way Nolan’s earlier films did. Simply put: Interstellar is a decent film, but I left it in the theatre (along with eighty dollars, but that’s another story). My mind was already on tomorrow by the time the lights came up. I didn’t find myself immediately wanting to rewatch it, which is the way I felt after “Memento,” “The Prestige,” and “Inception.”

This may be because Interstellar uses less sleight-of-hand to keep audiences guessing.

Although the plot of the movie (I’ll keep it vague, promise) revolves around some fairly advanced astrophysics, information or understanding is never withheld from the audience. The critical scenes in the movie all have clearly defined stakes and rules. The movie progresses from plot point to plot point in a linear fashion. And even when the film ventures into strange territory and advanced theoretical concepts, there’s never much of a sense of mystery or wonder.

The cinematography is jaw-dropping and breaks its back to instill meaning and scale into the void left by a compelling plot. The score by Hans Zimmer is well-constructed, but unobtrusive (not usually a word I would use to describe the work of Hans Zimmer).

Matthew McConaughey as Cooper is the emotional center of the movie, and it is largely the strength of his performance that anchors the movie. Nolan clearly understood this, as he hangs the success this film on emotional appeal.

I’m a cerebral person. Although I can appreciate a good tearjerker or a quiet movie which silently swims on emotional subtext, I’ll take the guessing game of “Memento” over that stuff any day. At least in a Christopher Nolan film.

I left the theatre underwhelmed; my girlfriend came out sobbing.

I can’t say that “Interstellar” was a bad film; it clearly connected with her, and others I have spoken to about the film echo her sentiment. The film strikes a resounding emotional note. And for some people, that’s enough. Strike that note in the cold vacuum of space though, and it produces no sound.

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