Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just watched...

...Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar."

My busy life usually only allows for films to be seen via Netflix or on cable (DVRs are a miracle invention, I tell ya), but every now and then, a film comes along that requires a trip to the theater. My husband had heard that the epic visuals in "Interstellar" should be seen on a big screen, so off we went last night to see this nearly three hour sci-fi adventure. And it was certainly worth it.

Director Nolan (who also wrote and directed "Inception," previously here, as well as the astounding films "Memento," "Insomnia," and the horrific, effective nightmare that was "The Dark Knight Rises") based the meat of this film starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, and Ellen Burstyn on the scientific theories of renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Without giving too much away, I will say that the film starts with a dying earth and an intergalactic space mission to find another suitable planet for human beings. When I first started reading press about "Interstellar" just before it was released, there were some snarky comments from reviewers and talking heads about how this is the first "cli-fi" film, meaning a film about "climate change" and a future dealing with its effects. Of course I wouldn't mind a bit if that is what the film turned out to be since climate change is--or should be--one of the top concerns of the entire globe right now, but I was pleased to discover that there was no heavy-handed commentary, à la the simplistic and clunky "Avatar." Instead, climate change was simply presented as a fait accompli. We see it, and we move forward with the plot.

I was also very impressed with how Nolan manages to make such an epic spectacle into such an intimate experience, psychologically speaking, both for the characters and us. It was also quite anxiety-laden which served the story line quite well. There is a long sequence about half way through that cuts back and forth between two very different scenes in a supremely effective manner. And every actor displays their respective talents at capturing and rendering raw emotion. There are some spectacular moments from McConaughey and Chastain in particular. But what is worth noting is that there was no back and forth between big sci-fi scenes and small emotional scenes: often the emotion was about the sci-fi plotlines we were witness to, which is a marvel of script writing. We see the bonds of love but also the type of disappointing behavior, born of fear, that threatens lives.

But the most delightful, incredibly engrossing part of "Interstellar" is the science fiction, which it turns out, is closer to science fact. Worm holes, time dilation, black holes, and relativity are addressed, based in the actuality of astrophysics. Neil de Grasse Tyson even commented on the veracity of the many scientific premises at work in the film.

The special effects were truly remarkable in that they are not noticeable. They blend in seamlessly with the story. And that must have something to do with the fact that Nolan did not use green screen effects but chose instead to use projection, and miniatures to achieve the perfect reality of the film. The unmistakable homages to past science fiction are also present, particularly Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Recommend? Yes, enthusiastically, with the caveat that you really should be familiar with some of these basic physics principles before you see the film, so you are not adrift.


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