Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn and Timothee Chalamet
Director: Christopher Nolan
Scriptwriters: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Cinematographer: Hoyte van Hoyterna
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Rating: PG 13 for themed material
Running Length: 160 minutes
For almost three hours, you can catch snippets of your favorite science fiction radio/TV shows combined into a story about a young girl who won't let go of her father. A world is slowly dying and Dad, who has a bright, nosey daughter, puts up with her, to the neglect of his older son. The mother is deceased. Love isn't exactly the word for this, it is more like obsession, which could have been the title of this film.
Thus, we have Christopher Nolan’s story of  “Interstellar” where the only place to go is up…as in, to the stars to find homes for Earth’s bulging population because of rapidly decreasing resources. Special effects are sometimes real and not backdrops. Hans Zimmer’s music (shattering at times) features a pipe organ for dramatic effect (it works.) Stars have cameo roles in strategic places and their appearances blend into the story. But, there is just too much material presented to pack into your brain the first time around. “Interstellar” would have made a good mini-series or TV series. Who knows, it might happen. I saw the film in IMAX and for the visuals, that’s the way to go.
Per the storyline: Earth is slowly dying from ecological disasters resulting in massive dust storms. Lung disease is prevalent. Narration about this is from Ken Burns TV series on the Dust Bowl. NASA is no more as in why spend the money we need it on Earth. So, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey in a knock-out role) a former astronaut, is farming instead and what does he grow? Corn. It is the only crop to withstand dust. His children are Tom (Timothee Chalamet and then Casey Affleck) and Murphy (Mackenzie Foy and then Jessica Chastain), and they live on Grandpa’s farm (John Lithgow.) Murphy is a clinging annoyance, who thinks there is a poltergeist in her bedroom, but smart enough to become a scientist. To change the past and eliminate NASA, her school books now say that the flights to the moon were fake. Her brother, Tom, is steadfast in farming. Accidentally, Cooper and Murphy find a hidden NASA complex with a rocket designed to go through a new wormhole near Saturn. The director is Professor Brand (Michael Caine). Is Cooper ready to go? Are you kidding? Why waste time, director Nolan has him driving his pick-up down the road and then he is on the flight to Saturn along with Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi.) Oh, yes, and there are box-type robots with them called CASE and TARS. Shades of “Lost in Space,“ you may want one of them for the holidays.
There is the wormhole, now past the wormhole and what planets to choose to visit in a new galaxy? It seems as though ships had gone ahead of them and  beacons are still blinking. Adventures include an ice planet (right out of “Star Wars”) and an ocean planet where time is extended. The last third of the film picks up from being inside their ship to exploration, decision-making and always with the thought of going “home,” especially when delayed messages from home come their way. There is the feel of “Gravity” here and you almost think you can see Sandra Bullock somewhere. The true touch of an experienced pilot’s hands and his instincts are well shown by Cooper and even though there are robots there, humans are needed. If you can wrap your mind around time being constant or not constant---round, spiral, elliptical, square---weaving, twirling or just plain there, that is the rest of the film. Amen. Needless to say, a certain astronaut’s name is apt.
Some of the visuals are wonderful, especially, off to the side of the screen---the ship---as compared to a planet. Like seeing Christopher Columbus on the Santa Maria heading across the Atlantic to who knows where. Literally, a speck in God’s hand. In order to survive, man has to think through a situation, sometimes slowly, and sometimes mili-second by mili-second. These explorers are people who have Death riding in the cockpit, watching him toss the dice while you steer the ship. Fear is not an option.
Matthew McConaughey’s role is just right for him and his facial expressions are well-wrought. I was pleasantly surprised at Anne Hathaway, who did many of her own stunts (wonderful on the water planet) and takes the role of the lone female on the ship, in stride. She is all business. Jessica Chastain as the adult Murphy, picks up the neediness of the child, and when she can get past that, is all business on Earth to prove that there is an answer somewhere. “Interstellar” is a solid “B” science fiction movie that asks questions, as in the original  "2001: Space Odyssey."  Who-what-when-where-why and then go for broke.
Will Earth ever get to this situation? If it happens, clone Matthew McConaughey so he can pilot a ship somewhere, because something will be out there. When push comes to shove, man is an adventurer, always has been, always will be.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
For more science fiction film reviews see the following: