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Interstellar (2014)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

INTERSTELLAR (2014)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, MacKenzie Foy

Written By: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan Directed By: Christopher Nolan

The Short Version

Solid performances, epic scope, scientific grounding, and breathtaking visuals can’t change the fact that Interstellar is at least an hour too long.  Regardless of its strengths, I can’t imagine sitting through it a second time.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

BULK SWISS FROM COSTCO.

There are some holes in it, but it could be tasty in a smaller package.  Alas, there’s just so much of it that after a while, you just want to give up.


Pairs Well With...

A 12 PACK OF I.P.A.

Beer designed for the long haul, but even if you drink relatively slowly (ha!), you still may run out before the movie ends.

“Time is relative, okay? It can stretch and it can squeeze, but... it can't run backwards.  Just can't.  The only thing that can move across dimensions, like time, is gravity.”


There are two things that Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is very good at: making references to other films, and discussing the concepts of time and relativity.

This makes me think of one of the many movies to which Interstellar gives frequent props: 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Specifically, I’m thinking about “the monkey scene” that is the classic picture’s much-discussed opener.  That scene clocks in at exactly fifteen minutes long, but if you ask most people who’ve watched it, the scene takes anywhere from forty-five minutes to forty-five years to complete.  That’s relativity in action: the difference in temporal perception experienced by persons travelling near the speed of light, hanging out too close to gravity wells, kissing their significant others, or touching hot stoves.

I bet you can see where I’m going with this.

Officially, Interstellar clocks in at an exhausting 169 minutes’ worth of runtime.  Relatively speaking, that plays out as roughly a week.

There’s so much I want to love about Interstellar, and quite a bit that I really do like.  I’m pretty sure I would have liked that stuff more if the total package was an hour shorter.  And if the story had just been allowed to start from the beginning instead of providing a needless glimpse of the ending first.  And if the script didn’t keep going back to the “human beings are horrible a-holes” well over and over and over again.  And if the Luddite crap wasn’t there.  And if they stopped reciting that poem before it got old.  And if someone had remembered that pacing is a thing.  And… yeah.  All that.

Even thinking about this movie bothers me.

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain; they’re all great.  I love the humanity that the bring to their performances.  I’d say the same about Michael Caine, but unfortunately the script keeps putting that poem in his mouth.  (To be fair, someone else recites it, too.  Honestly, it might only have come up three or four times, but relatively speaking, I seem to remember a hundred or so recitals.)

The cinematography and the “made-for-giant-screens” visuals are often stunning, but as beautiful as they are, they tend to linger too long.  (After a while one gets the impression that someone decided that if that much money and effort went into designing the shots, then dammit they were going to be showcased for every last c-note’s worth.  I get that Nolan and company put in a lot of homage here, but maybe that wasn’t the best way to reference Krull, y’know?)

Sure, the scientific grounding is cool, but it also leads to That Awkward Moment when anyone bright enough to appreciate it must in turns feel the need to slap all of the scientists who clearly understand everything about relativity except the One Really Important Thing that is going to waste literally decades of not just their lives, but also the audience’s, because I’m pretty sure the relativity didn’t work in our favor at that point, either.

And please don’t get me started about Matt Damon’s character.  (It’s an internet meme now, so that’s hardly a spoiler.)

The more I think about the experience of watching Interstellar, the less I want to; it’s that frustrating.  I really wanted to love this movie, but in the end, I just can’t, and I very much doubt that I will ever have the desire to spend another relative eternity giving it a second chance with a repeat viewing.  Perhaps if Nolan and company had decided to take their script (which was itself heavily revamped from a concept originally being played with by Steven Spielberg) and turn it into a novel instead, it could have been riveting.  Sure, one then wouldn’t have gorgeous visuals of ice clouds or mountain sized ocean waves and the experience really would take a week to complete, but some stories just work better printed out than they do put to film.  I’m thoroughly convinced that Interstellar is one of them.

Bottom line, Interstellar takes an awesome concept and makes it boring, which is a shame, because the ideas are great and there is a lot of dynamite work on display here.  Unfortunately, it’s on display for far too long, and the movie’s pace is best measured in geologic time.  All things considered, I really can’t recommend Interstellar to anyone, even if it’s streaming for free.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2016


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