This is one of the highest rated films on IMDB. Despite that, for some it may be enough to know that when we came out of the cinema after watching Interstellar, Susan said: “That’s one of the worst films I have ever seen.”
If you are still reading, here are my thoughts. There may be some plot spoilers in what follows.
The earth is slowly dying, with a blight gradually destroying the planet’s crops. Farms are becoming dust bowls. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) becomes part of earth’s last hope: a mission to find a habitable planet to become the new home of humanity. But having left his family behind, Cooper’s promise to return may be one he cannot keep.
The film depends on a number of super science props. For example, there’s no earth like planet within reach of earth. But a wormhole appears – essentially a time and space bridge – that opens up the path to several possible destinations. As a viewer, you either go with the flow or start to lose interest.
At this point, both of us were still interested enough. However, the climax of the film depends on an even more fantastic super science plot device that broke our suspension of disbelief. It’s daft. It’s preposterous. It did not work for us.
So, for Susan, this killed the whole film. For me, it hung like a dark cloud over a summer picnic. For me, parts of the film were very good indeed. McConaughey’s performance is wholly credible and engrossing. If you take the science stuff out of the plot, there is an interesting story and also there are some challenging moral issues. The cinematography is often stunning. The special effects are seamless and look realistic.The sound track was very different and truly helped maintain the, er, atmosphere.
There are several standout scenes. For example, the encounter on the water planet is almost a self contained thriller episode. The death scene with the lead NASA scientist is short but sharp and effective. The (surprise) appearance of Matt Damon as Dr Mann and his interaction with the team are a welcome twist to the story. Incidentally, according to IMDB:
Actor Matt Damon was not included in the promotion for the film. His name was not mentioned and he did not attend any of the premieres. In fact, his role was kept secret until the release of the film.
There are several apparent plot holes. Some of these may have arisen because the science was not so readily understood or obvious. Some of these may have arisen because I wasn’t paying close attention – this may explain the repeated viewing some fans of the film have undertaken. Some are more material than others. The sheer number troubled me when I thought about them later. Maybe you are supposed to ignore them?
At least one plot hole – or challenge – is part and parcel of one central motif in the film: the library in the Cooper household, where Cooper’s daughter (Murph) sleeps. Strange things happen there, like books and stuff mysteriously falling unaided from the shelves. In the early part of the film, this is referred to as Murph’s ghost. The various happenings in the library return as part of the film’s key concluding events. Some of it is clever, but to my mind most of it suffers from the fact that the super science prop doesn’t work for me. I don’t know if this is because my brain is too small to understand it, or it’s not well explained, or something else. And plotwise, as mentioned, there are still some holes.
While I wasn’t left with such a negative view of the film as Susan, I certainly struggle to understand the ridiculously high rating it got. I could see the ambition and understand the buzz the film could generate. But it was not consistent enough. There were many great bits of the film, but the negative aspects make for too many peas under the mattress.
This is a big screen adventure. Parts of it will die on the small screen. Is it worth seeing? Yes. Overall, it’s a flawed film, but it is worthy of your time. Besides, maybe you will get more out of the fifth dimension than Susan or I did.
Footnote: I mentioned plot holes. IMDB has a terrific fan post which does a decent job of trying to answer ten of them. (There may be more!) The post doesn’t change my view of the film, but it did enhance my understanding of some aspects. Give it a read.