The morning I saw Interstellar was like any other. I peeled myself out of bed, threw up in the kitchen sink, tried and failed to eat some scrambled eggs and then shuffled out into the unforgiving daylight, vaguely regretting the bottles of wine consumed the previous evening.
As fragile as I was, I was tentatively looking forward to unburdening my brain with a silly, light-hearted movie. Interstellar in 70mm Imax format should do the trick.
As I sat down in the movie theatre and gazed up at the terrifyingly huge screen, that seemed to wrap around me, engulfing me, a man appeared and began to tell us all about health, safety and code of conduct. He asked us, the 9am audience, if we were looking forward to the film.
There was a faint murmur of affirmation.
“Oh dear” he said “shall we try that again? I said ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO INTERSTELLAR?”
Slightly louder mumbling.
“Suit yourself” and he went away.
Then the film happened. I had perhaps underestimated how big and how loud Interstellar at the IMAX was going to be. It wasn’t until well over half way through the film that I stopped melting and really started to appreciate just how beautiful and awe-inspiring it all was.
This is what the cinema is for. This is pure, unfiltered spectacle. In director Christopher Nolan’s capable, confident hands space is a kaleidoscope of lights, alien planets are mind-bending dreamscapes and wormholes are… Well, they’re pretty fucking weird.
The actual story is nothing fancy, it’s about love, it’s about family and it’s about humanity reaching for the stars, astronauts as pioneers, the usual stuff. It’s kind of endearing how naive and stupid some of these astronauts are, but it all makes sense in the context of the film, considering these characters come from a world where most people actually believe the moon landing was faked.
Interstellar’s story is considerably helped by a great cast. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley and Bill Irwin (as a sarcastic robot) make up the crew, while Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow and Casey Affleck stay on earth and predominantly just sit around, twiddling their thumbs. Also, it should be noted that Mackenzie Foy, who plays McConaughey’s daughter, is an awesome actor, whoever she is.
Each of these actors has the difficult task of turning they’re archetypal character into someone we care about, and they succeed, at least from my hungover and broken perspective.
It’s fair to say I was jerked about like a puppet on a string all the way through the film, when Christopher Nolan said jump I jumped, when he said stare in slack-jawed awe I stared in slack-jawed awe. There’s nothing disingenuous about any of this, you are supposed to be manipulated when you watch a film, that’s why you’re there. You want to have that emotional experience, otherwise what’s the point? All movies are lies, but it’s fun to believe them for a couple of hours- or in this case, roughly one hundred hours. It was a long film, luckily I was fairly dehydrated so nipping to the toilet wasn’t necessary (not that I would have been able to scoop myself out of my chair).
Dehydration was a particular problem. I was drained of what little water my body had left as I cried, pretty much solidly, throughout the film. I’m sure some folks will have a problem with how sentimental and silly Interstellar gets in places but fuck those people, if they want truth they can go and find a planet populated by truly objective beings, and good luck with that, I want a space opera, I want melodrama with my eye candy. This is a fantasy about how great humans are, after all. There are some jokes in there, most of them delivered in deadpan by a vaguely monolithic robot called TARS or by Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper, who often tries and fails to relieve tension with a pithy comment.So this is Nolan’s space odyssey and yes, according to him, space is a bit mushy, a bit syrupy, but it’s also big and beautiful and mercifully free of cosmic cubes and witty banter. There’s no horrible CGI (actually there’s a pleasing aversion to it), there are no cartoony robots hitting each other and ripping cities apart, no blatant misogyny, no fan service. God how I hate fan service. And Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t show up after the credits to tell you to watch the sequel.
This is a trip, into an alternate dimension where dreams are real. You’re not just gazing into the abyss, you’re thrown through it. The best you can do is cling desperately to your uncomfortable chair as you are hurled through the cosmos, your bones shaking with Hans Zimmer’s insane score. And then, quiet suddenly, silence. Wonderful, terrifying silence. And the infinite darkness. Like I said, this is confident filmmaking, this is epic spectacle, this is masterful manipulation, this is how you do a blockbuster.