Thursday, February 23, 2017

Interstellar

Subtitled: How my mind was blown and remains in pieces


Some of my friends got together to watch, Interstellar

Once we got to my friend's house, I discovered it was directed by Christopher Nolan, who I knew directed Inception and The Dark Knight, so I was rather pleased and excited.  

By the time the film was over, I was confused, challenged, and desperately seeking answers.

In the style of Inception, this film is very confusing with multiple layers and unique perspectives on life and reality in general.  Where Inception explores the idea of the subconscious and dreams, Interstellar delves into the mysteries of time and space and the relationship between them, as well as concepts of family and love.

This movie centers around Matthew McConaughey's character, a single father of two, and former space craft pilot turned farmer.  In his time, Earth is in a state of environmental upheaval, with dust storms ravaging all the food supplies and making life miserable.

A fun fact I noticed was at the beginning.  There were interviews of people who apparently were describing the condition of Earth at the time of the start of the movie.  I distinctly recognized the interviews--one in particular, in which a man had a patch over his eye--from a documentary about the Dustbowl in the 1930s I watched in school.  They were the exact clips which was kind of interesting.  I liked the idea of history repeating itself, and reusing the clips kind of drove home the idea that if we don't change, things won't get better.

Matthew McConaughey's daughter Murph is convinced that there is a ghost sending her messages in her room by pushing books off the shelf in a pattern similar to Morse code signals, and works out the message to be "stay".  Matthew McConaughey is nevertheless convinced by NASA--which has been functioning underground for some time--to go back into piloting and help man a mission.

The mission is explained to be travelling through a wormhole located near Saturn and searching for habitable land and planets for the human race to travel to.  McConaughey agrees, and sets off on the journey with a few other pilots, including Anne Hathaway's character.

Spoilers for the rest of this article!

If you've stayed for the spoiler section, I will assume that you have seen the film and don't need extensive descriptions or summaries.

If you are being a rebel and are in the spoilery section, begone with you!  Go watch the movie and come back.  It's a pretty good movie across the board, and if you're like my friend, it may just become one of your favorites!


Let's talk about the awesome things about Interstellar--things I loved!--first.

Matthew McConaughey


This movie balanced heavily on McConaughey's shoulders.  He is sort of like the everyman character we follow through the story and make revelations with alongside him.  

One of the most important moments where McConaughey's character (and the audience through him) acquire information is during the scene when he is watching the videos his kids sent him while he was in space.  

I have a few problems with the scene which I will get to later, but one of my favorite parts and really the redeeming factor of the piece in my opinion is McConaughey's performance which is very heartwrenching to watch, and wonderfully acted in my opinion.  

I also heavily enjoyed McConaughey's interactions with Murph at the beginning of the film--his conflicting need to leave her but his desire to leave on a good note and the frustration that comes when she refuses to let him go easily.


Lighting, Sound, and Framing


The first thing I noticed in this film was the gorgeous lighting.  I expect it now, from Christopher Nolan, and I was not disappointed.  

Lighting in a film should not only serve to make it possible for the audience to see (though it certainly should fulfill that requirement and lots of films today are so dark this is impossible) but it should also hint at the audience what kind of emotion or vibe should be felt in the scene.  

A lot of this emotion can be acquired using color grading in post production, and each and every shot in this film appears to be meticulously lit and edited in post.  I appreciate this attention to detail!

The sound was also very fulfilling and unique in some parts.  Some films in space like to fill their rockets zooming through a black sky with a heavy score and dramatic flourishes, but one thing I really appreciated about Interstellar and found rather unique was that most of the shots outside the spaceship were completely and utterly silent.  

It was very unnerving and emphasized the loneliness and other-worldliness of space.  This was a really great move on the filmmaker's behalf.

This last bit kind of goes along with the other things I mentioned, but the framing of the film was also very well done--in a rather asymmetrical and artistic way.  Again, it's just this attention to detail that makes me appreciate the work that went into the film and makes it so aesthetic.

Casting


This is sort of a minor thing, but something that really stood out to me on my first viewing was the similarity between young Murph and older Murph.  It's not really a big deal, but I was just impressed that the filmmakers found two great actresses who looked so similar and fit the roles so well.

Music 


My friend Adamson went into the film having read a plot synopsis and listening to the score multiple times, and just based on the music he convinced himself that it was going to be a great film.

I must confess that the music was really beautiful, particularly the organ fugue motif at the ending.  I think some scenes could have used just a little more score to really drive the emotion of the moment home, but overall the music was rather subtle and powerful in the background.

As far as I can recall, it never really took center stage like music often does in movies.  I think with such beautiful composure it could have been given a moment to shine, but I appreciated it for it's calmer role as it infiltrated the subconscience of the audience member.


CGI


The computer generated imagery in this film was just flawless.  On only one occasion was I reminded that most of what I was seeing was animated, basically, and that was when the rocket first took off.

Other than that, everything flowed senselessly and I never was jolted out of the story which is a huge accomplishment for a film that takes place in space for the majority of its run time.


Risk Taking


Interstellar is unlike most films I have seen.  It calls to mind only a couple other films like Gravity or 2001: A Space Odyssey as any self-respecting space movie should.

But Interstellar remained unique and I appreciate films that are not cookie-cutter and really strive to dig deep and convey real messages.

This film is also very confusing and risks alienating a lot of lazy, passive audiences as it goes on.  I respect the filmmakers for making it anyway, because they seemed to have a passion for the story and weren't just pandering to any audience with disposable ticket money.

Scientific Accuracy


I may not be an expert in science, but the my favorite scientific field of study is definitely astronomy.  From what I have learned in astronomy courses and based off other scientists' analysis of Interstellar, the majority of concepts featured in the film are actually plausible and presented accurately.

What extra work it must have taken to ensure everything made sense scientifically!  What risks of too much exposition or confusion were taken!  And what a pay off--this movie is a million times better because every thing makes sense if you really dig deep.

Deepness


Not only does this movie have a lot of scientific info and background, but it also deals with some philosophical questions which (surprise, surprise) I ADORE!!

I admire any film that is willing to explore deep themes and raise questions from their audiences concerning those subjects.

I will admit that in only a couple of moments the questions seemed a little forced (the scene where Anne Hathaway's character describes how she feels love transcends space and time) and maybe they weren't really developed fully, but they are still present and I am happy that this movie doesn't rely completely on beautiful visuals or complicated plots, and really gives some food for thought.

Interstellar is a pretty stellar film (see what I did there??  eh?  EH?)

But it isn't a perfect film and I wouldn't rank it above a comparable film like Inception which had a lot of the positives Interstellar has, but less negatives.  Let's talk about the things that fell just a bit short in this film, in my opinion.

Matt Damon


Matt Damon's character is introduced, turns crazy suddenly, and dies.  The film gave me no reason to care about him and I barely understood his motive for becoming a traitor.

This whole subplot felt rather shoe-horned in and irrelevant ultimately.  Yes I was surprised when he turned, mostly because we had no warning it was coming (which I wish we had), and yes I was surprised when he died, but after the shock, I felt nothing.

Shock for the sake of shock in a film is ineffective.  The trick is to shock an audience, get their emotions all jumbled, and then hit them with some strong feels.

If, for instance, we had time to understand Matt Damon's character and really care about him, we would be shocked when he died, and then hit with a sadness wave because even though he was a "bad guy" we still liked him.

As it was, I didn't care about him.

Anne Hathaway


I generally like Anne Hathaway, but I wasn't a huge fan of her character.  I liked the bit of banter she had with Matthew McConaughey's character, but other than that, she didn't feel very deep.

She had a crush on an astronaut who was likely dead, which was sad, and she had a kind of wacko father which was also sad.  This seems like enough back ground to get me to care about her, but for some reason, I really didn't.

Once McConaughey was in the black hole, Hathaway's character kind of fizzled off until she came back at the very end which was not only frustrating, but also seemed poorly planned.

I didn't hate her character, but I didn't love her either.  Maybe this is why I feel like a lot of pressure was put on McConaughey's shoulders.

The other problem is a petty one that many people will disagree with.  I sometimes dislike when well-known actors are used in films just because seeing their face jolts me out of the story.  When Hathaway first came on screen, I recognized her instantly of course, and was reminded that what I was witnessing was just a movie made in the real world, and not true space travel which was a bit disappointing.

It kind of undoes a lot of the work done to make the CGI environment as believable as possible, in my opinion.

Video Communication


I have a question: how is it possible to send videos to the space ship once it has gone through the worm hole?  Is there a satellite that beams them through a worm hole?  I don't know, the whole concept seemed poorly fleshed out and just a trifle too convenient--just another method of getting us to feel bad for McConaughey.  I don't like when movies tell me what to feel.

Plot Questions


I'll be honest, I really don't know exactly what happened.  The whole plot line is really a paradox, because how did McConaughey move the books on the shelf if he had to first go through the worm hole and into the black hole in order to do so?  It ends up being a cycle of causation.

If the mysterious "they" who turned out to actually just be McConaughey acting through the black hole are supposed to be responsible for putting the worm hole near Saturn, how does that work?  How could McConaughey cause a worm hole to appear?  HOW?

I will concede that a lot of these questions may be answered by a second run through or something, but as it stands, the movie leaves a lot of loose ends that frustrate me.


Ending


The ending was very drawn out.  I think the film could have ended as McConaughey headed back home.  The whole scene with Murph dying and then Hathaway on the other planet seemed a little stretched out.  I prefer when movies leave the endings open...like Inception!!

Sorry to keep comparing this film to Inception, but remember the spinning top shot?  That one shot spawned about a million YouTube theory videos and blog posts and drove people wild.  Interstellar unfortunately left nothing to the imagination and kind of beat its story into the ground.

Rather than a "wow, let me look at this more!" feeling when it was over, I felt more like "well, that's that."  Don't let your audience settle down or feel comfortable with your ending, filmmakers!



So what is my conclusion?

Interstellar is a film worth seeing.  It leaves a lot of questions open about general topics (though not as much about the specific characters or story) and if taken in the correct way it can really challenge people and force them to think.

It is a film that isn't afraid to make an audience actually pay attention and think ahead.  It has it's weak points, but all in all it is a beautifully made, thoughtfully crafted film, and we movie lovers ought to support that kind of production.

Have you seen Interstellar?  Yea, or nay?

3 comments:

  1. I'm going to read this as soon as I see the movie- it's been on my list for a while now. :)

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  2. Oh! Almost forgot! Your new design looks lovely. I almost thought I'd come to the wrong website before I realized that you'd freshened up for spring. ^_^

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    1. Please report back with your opinion once you see the film!

      Aw, thank you :D
      I thought it would be nice to change things up a bit.

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