INTERSTELLAR

Interstellar

INTERSTELLAR  * 1/2

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley and Michael Caine. Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar takes place in the not too distant future, when climate change has left our planet unable to produce anything but corn. I assume this is a winking apology for these next three, very long hours.

Corny isn’t quite the word for this movie. Perhaps doofy is more appropriate. From moment to moment Interstellar makes no sense whatsoever, yet characters breathlessly talk themselves in circles trying to drag this massively budgeted science-fiction extravaganza back down to Earth at every opportunity. It’s all a bunch of garbled nonsense but they keep trying to mansplain it to you.

It’s also really, really long, and you’re held prey by a director hell-bent on turning poetry into prose.

Matthew McConaughey stars as “Coop,” basically playing Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff and doing a fine job of it. He’s a former pilot, single-dad, sick and tired of tending farms until he not-so accidentally one night stumbles upon NASA’s secret plan to save mankind.

Blah-blah-blah, something about wormholes and thus McConaughey has to leave his family and fly a rocket ship into the great wide open, looking for a sustainable planet outside of our galaxy — one we haven’t ruined yet.  Michael Caine reads a Dylan Thomas poem way more than once for dramatic effect, as our cast of crusty characters blasts off to the stars seeking another home for the human race.

Anne Hathaway appears as an allegedly brilliant scientist who is also a stupid girl trying to jeopardize the mission just because she misses her boyfriend. American Beauty’s plastic-bag weirdo Wes Bentley has for some reason been invited along as the disposable exposition machine. There’s also a black guy who isn’t allowed to talk back the way McConaughey’s robot sidekick (voiced by Bill Irwin) always does.

Interstellar plods. Like most Nolan movies it hints at interesting ideas without ever really following up on any of them. I enjoyed his first couple Batman pictures and The Prestige because Nolan was working with boldly drawn archetypes and proudly owned his intellectual chilliness. Interstellar tries to play on our emotions, and I don’t think this director has any.

It’s just a really weird film, the strangest and most misguided fake-Spielberg picture since Super 8. Interstellar gets the words right but not the music. Nolan has made a big to-do in the press lately of shooting on good old fashioned 35mm film and he proudly uses old-school miniature special effects, but I got just as bored with them as I do with every crummy digital 3-D extravaganza because I honestly didn’t care what was happening next.

The movie is so pedestrian it needs to invent a Bad Guy for McConaughey to fist-fight. As if trying to terraform a new home for the human race were not enough, we need a dumbass battle scene with a villain played by a Special Guest Star Oscar Winner whose sinister plan doesn’t even make any fucking sense. This is when Interstellar really starts circling the drain, and boy does it never recover.

Nolan tries his patented relentless cross-cutting to make the ending matter, and I have already called two people on the telephone tonight but neither of them could provide an answer — so if any of you can tell me what the fuck Casey Affleck and Topher Grace were doing in this movie and how their (not-quite) subplots had any bearing on the picture, I will be eternally grateful.

Matthew McConaughey is magnificent though, swaggering through the movie and making weirdly off-timed jokes as if he’s just walked into a bar. I cannot think of any other performer who is nearly this much fun to watch right now. There’s a Han Solo lightness he brings to the dreary proceedings that all these other actors miss while carrying on like it’s the end of the world. (Oh wait, it is?)

And while I’m sure I am probably the last person to come up with this joke — thanks to Einstein’s theory of relativity, they all get older while McConaughey stays the same age.

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