In the not too distant future, our planet is dying; crops are failing and people are struggling to live through dust storms and the breakdown of technology. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is drafted into a secret NASA mission to travel through a mysterious wormhole, and find out whether another planet can sustain human life.
Interstellar has been in development for what feels like forever, but in the wake of last year’s Gravity the question as to whether audiences have a desire to see another outer space disaster movie arises.
Matthew McConaughey was obviously cast to play the everyman; the man who the audience see themselves in and therefore, relate to. McConaughey does fine with the role, but there is nothing here to stretch him as an actor, and nothing that we haven’t seen the actor do before. Nolan regulars Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine turn up as a father daughter science team, Matt Damon brings some sympathy to the film as a stranded astronaut, but it is Jessica Chastain who has both the most interesting and the most engaging role in the film, as Cooper’s daughter Murph. Chastain plays the role simply, but always manages to make the character believable and sympathetic.
The screenplay, written by Jonathan Nolan and director Christopher Nolan, borrows heavily from the influential space moves of the past. There are obvious nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as a feeling that the film is a cross between Titanic and Gravity, by way of any road movie you care to think of. The science has surely been simplified for the audience, but there is still far too much exposition and explanation throughout the film, for the final 20 minutes to go without such heavy-handed clarification. The most engaging moments are the human ones, and most of those take place on Earth, but this location is sidelined once Coop and his crew go into space, so this aspect is left wanting. There is a significant time jump made during one planetary visit, and while this is the cause of much of the human emotional moments in the film, it all feels just a little too manipulative to be completely accepted. As well as this, the use of robots in the film may be an intentional misdirect, but it leaves the audience spending much of the film waiting for them to turn homicidal.
Christopher Nolan, it seems, decided to focus on the visual and otherworldly aspects of Interstellar, and allowed the human elements to fall by the wayside. All of the performances are competent, but they all feel a little flat and underdeveloped, with the focus instead given to the special effects and the realisation of the world explored in the film; none of which are truly the point of the story. Yes, the film is visually impressive, but like we have learned with the Transformers franchise, there has to be a lot more to a story for it to engage the audience than just looking good. There is the odd moment of true human interaction, but these are too far and few between to support the film.
In all, Interstellar is an ambitious, visually impressive film, which suffers from clunky dialogue, a misplaced focus, and a lack of human emotion and interaction. Jessica Chastain shines through as the character who could potentially, have been the heart of the tale, but instead the focus is switched to Matthew McConaughey, who is fine in the role, but nothing spectacular. This is obviously Nolan’s homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the unbalanced tone, exposition and focus mean that Interstellar feels like a missed opportunity.