Interstellar **** (Out Of *****)

IMG_1191.JPG“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

As the lights went up and the credits rolled on Interstellar last night, I heard more than one person complain that they felt like it was a three hour science class. To that, my reply is “Good!” I’m so sick of science fiction movies that leave the science out of it. Yes, at times the characters talk about concepts and theories that I, and most people, won’t fully understand. But I’d rather have my mind racing trying to figure things out than watch another sci-fi flick where the same boring formula is very clear from the beginning. And with the long run time of Interstellar, boredom would’ve been brutal.

Christopher Nolan’s film takes place in a future where the food supply is running out. The blight has taken most of the crops, leaving only corn and dust. Matthew McConaughey plays a former pilot called “Coop,” forced in to the farming life after a crash. His children go to a school where they’ve “corrected” the science textbooks to say that the lunar landing was a hoax. With his wife passed, he raises the kids with their grandfather, played by John Lithgow.

A gravitational anomaly leads Coop and his daughter Murph to a set of coordinates where they find the new NASA, led by Professor Brandt (Michael Caine). Brandt has a theory to save the human race, asking Coop to lead a mission to another galaxy where there may be a planet that can sustain life. Joining him on the mission are a group of scientists determined to fulfill their mission. They have no idea how long they’ll be gone, and Coop has to leave his family behind, promising Murph that he’ll be back.

The drama of the first act of the movie isn’t great, but it sets up really good stuff for later on in the film. Once they get into space, Interstellar is a marvel to behold. The whole thing becomes a love letter to 2001: A Space Oddysey, and Nolan has clearly seen that film a million times. Flying through wormholes, exploring other planets, going into hyperspace-Interstellar’s got it all. Plus, the robots that assist the astronauts look like Kubrick’s mysterious monolith when they stand still.

I won’t reveal any of the major plot points beyond what I’ve said. Go in with as little information as you can and let the awe-inspiring visuals wash over your eyes. The movie isn’t going to win any acting awards, but each actor delivers what is expected of them. It was nice to see Wes Bentley in something good, and even Topher Grace pops up for a few scenes. The real stars are Nolan’s direction and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema.

If you enjoy hard science fiction that will challenge you to think, Interstellar is definitely a movie you’ll want to see. The IMAX experience was impressive, and they did a good job of masking the scenes that weren’t shot in the large format (only about an hour of the film is actually shot using the IMAX camera). This is one of the few movies this year that needs to be seen in a theater.

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