Interstellar review: Christopher Nolan's space oddity isn't out of this world
Like its setting, Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's overlong galactic epic lacks any real atmosphere, says Andrew Johnston.
Space epic Interstellar is the sad spectacle of a once interesting filmmaker finally disappearing into a creative black hole. Christopher Nolan's Memento and Insomnia were solid works - ambitious, original, but grounded enough to know a movie should be entertaining as well as full of big words. Interstellar is the cinematic equivalent of spending nearly three hours listening to a physics nerd read his thesis.
It's all Batman's fault. Nolan's unfathomably successful Dark Knight trilogy has given him the clout to make the films he wants, the way he wants, and the results have been disappointing.
The Prestige and Inception, while hugely popular, were nowhere near as clever as they thought they were. Interstellar suffers from the same problem.
Penned as usual by Nolan with his brother Jonathan, it's a future-set tale in which mankind has finally reaped what he has sowed, and now faces extinction within a generation. NASA scientists are holed away, working on a solution, which involves crossing through a newly-discovered wormhole to explore other potentially habitable planets. Enter Matthew McConaughey's Cooper, a renegade former rocket pilot-turned-crop farmer, who signs up to take on the mission in order to save the human race and create a future for his kids, Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and Murph (Mackenzie Foy).
It's a nice idea, but if it weren't for McConaughey, Interstellar would be an even longer haul than the one the astronauts face. The Texan - whose Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club has rehabilitated him as a serious actor - gives the film a human touch, and goes some way towards compensating for the lack of narrative propulsion.
Meanwhile, Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck are perfunctory as Cooper's grown-up children (Interstellar spans several decades), and Michael Caine and Ellen Burstyn add some old-school heft in supporting roles.
Sadly, female lead Anne Hathaway lets the side down by playing her character - NASA prodigy Amelia Brand - as a spoilt, sarcastic bitch, which, one imagines, are the inverse credentials you'd need to be sent on a long-term space mission.
Visually, Nolan's movie is certainly audacious. Many viewers will revel in the grand-scale vistas, though it's not until the two-hour mark that anything approaching exciting happens.
And the space scenes, though well executed in themselves, just don't seem as impressive, post-Gravity.
Dialogue-wise, the cast are hamstrung by a script that is 95% exposition, and 5% the Nolans' trademark feeble attempts at humour, while the admittedly interesting story concept is undermined by an arrogant, almost condescending tone. The brothers appear to be daring the audience not to be in awe of their intellect. But movies should be fodder for the heart as much as for the head.
Interstellar's dearth of emotion is epitomised by Hans Zimmer's score, which is over-loud and increasingly desperate in its attempts to stimulate viewer response in a film that is as cold as outer space itself.
Interstellar is also agonisingly long. No film needs to be more than two hours; Interstellar is just shy of three. They should've called it Interminable.