Thoughts on… “Interstellar”

I was one of those people who didn’t “oooh” and “aaah” at Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. It gave me food for thought, it was suspenseful, and visually stunning, but I also felt it was deeply flawed. Especially compared to its nearest predecessor, Gravity, which I absolutely loved (the way I love everything Cuarón has done). Where Gravity is tight, compact, and focused, Interstellar is expansive, and ultimately overreaching.

To me, the biggest problem with Nolan’s movie is that it tries to be technical and emotional at the same time, which only works if you’re Kubrick and the movie’s 2001. While I was happy to finally see Nolan make a movie about the “human touch,” he doesn’t seem to be able to let go of his trademark brain teasers, which end up swallowing genuine emotion and replacing it with cheap sentimentality.

This is what happens to Interstellar‘s emotional arc: the intensity of the connection between father and daughter (with just a whiff of the Electra complex), so well portrayed in the first, heart-rending half of the movie, isn’t sustained all the way through to the ending. Rather, it’s swapped for well-placed tugs at the audience’s heartstrings which merely serve to heighten the suspense before the final resolution. The same happens with all other emotional relationships shown in the movie.

So, while I was deeply touched by the different range of emotions explored both in the Earth-part and early space-part of the film, the preoccupation with technicalities of black hole theory and keeping the audience sufficiently brain-teased in the final 60 minutes overshadowed and muted the emotional impact of earlier events. I left the theater trying to work out the technical/scientific puzzle posed at the end of the movie, instead of working through the heightened emotional state provoked in me earlier, which made me feel like I was messed with, and not in a good nerdy way.

It is nevertheless one of the best big-budget movies of 2014, and certainly one of the more widely appealing ones from the sci-fi genre, since it’s not an art film. I recommend that you watch it for its strong emotions and strong performances, not for its science.

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