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Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)

Editor’s Note: 

HMG-CN welcomes interns who are interested in journalism. HMG-CN is pleased to have Jason Ooi, who is a junior at Whitney High School and an aspiring film critic, join our team.

 

By Jason Ooi

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

We live in a reality that often times rewards big budget blockbusters at the expense of the more independent arthouse films. Christopher Nolan provides the much needed middle-ground; he is easily the most ambitious director of blockbusters, simultaneously creating thought provoking and visually stunning films that still manage to draw in large crowds.

Interstellar is a visually stunning science fiction film that goes farther than any other movie both technically and distance-wise, while maintaining a very dramatic familial value intensive core. It depicts an, albeit generic, desolate Earth, which is thoroughly and intriguingly showcased throughout the film, running out of food plagued by copious, life threatening amounts of dust. It follows Cooper, played powerfully by Matthew McConaughey, who takes the burden of survival into his own hands, as he transcends galaxies in search of humanity’s next home.

Visually, this movie is absolutely perfect. The vastness and loneliness of space is heavily emphasized through beautiful special effects and editing, and the creativity that went into each different world visited was a refreshing take on an otherwise stale genre. In Interstellar, space felt real and almost tangible, and the special effects do nothing but accentuate that feeling. The cinematography was amazing in that it evokes beauty from the boundless depths of space, yet never detracts from its dangerousness.

I criticized Gravity for being a plotless spectacle that puts all of its eggs in the visual basket, but I’m glad to say that Interstellar did not succumb to the same optical excess. Despite some very minor stock characterizations and some formulaic clichés that encompass the film, as well as some expositional laziness, the dramatic elements were actually very well done. You could actually feel the familial relationships, and the overwhelming influence that Cooper’s children had on his actions and motives. In fact, this movie isn’t so much about a Man trying to save civilization as a whole so much as it is about a Man willing to do what’s necessary to ensure his children a full life untainted. I do have to criticize the dialogue at points for completely cheesy and laughable, but thankfully, for every bad line, there was an equally great one to be found.

The characters that this film flaunted were generally very forgettable due to their hackneyed sense of unrealistic bravery. This flaw really made some of the character-relevant subplots feel forced and unnecessary. The real standouts in terms of character novelty however, comes with the implementation of the robots, who provided comedic relief, and honestly felt more human than most of the supporting characters, eliciting a similar response to that of puppies in cinema.

The performances were all very solid. Matthew McConaughey, was brutally real as the Cooper, and ceaselessly works that McConaughey charm. Anne Hathaway did great with what she was given in terms of acting, but as previously mentioned, played a very frustrating, surface level character. Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain were both great as Murphy, their similarity adding greatly to the fluidity of the passage of time that this film so emotionally expresses. Much to my surprise, Foy, matched the on-screen magnitude of McConaughey, created a beautiful relationship through some great chemistry, and showed considerable potential through her very strong performance.

Hans Zimmer, Nolan’s regular composer, works his usual magic in Interstellar. The score is very solid and does a great job of portraying both the bleakness of space and the bravery and courageousness of its pioneers, but I found it to be very trite at times. That being said, a lot of scenes actually didn’t require the extra layer of soundtrack in them, and Nolan should have been more confident in his own ability to convey emotion without cheaply forcing music upon his audience. The soundtrack is undeniably good though, so I don’t really blame Nolan for wanting to show it off as much a he did.

The movie incapacitated me throughout its 3 hour runtime: a very surprising feat. It provided me with one of the greatest theater experiences that I have yet to encounter, and is definitely worth a watch while it’s still fresh and circulating theaters.

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