Interstellar ★★★

Both relieved and a little disappointed to discover that I wasn’t the only one to see more Shyamalan than Kubrick or Tarkovsky in this imperfect space odyssey. The clunky dialogue and thin characterizations, the undeniable formal pleasures, the secondhand Spielberg family dynamics, the gooey New Age spirituality—all feel like vintage M. Night. And the twisty climax is swing-away-Merrill ridiculous, overpowering any emotional truth with the sheer power of its absurdity.

I’m right down the middle on this one, to the extent that it’s a little hard for me to fathom how someone could completely love or hate it. Those calling the film a masterpiece seem to be willfully ignoring its most embarrassing moments/elements—the revelation, for example, that the U.S. educational system of this (not-so-distant?) future has been teaching kids that the moon landing was faked, or the scene of one astronaut explaining wormholes to another in simple Star Trek terms right before they pilot into a wormhole. At the same time, though, anyone who can sit stone-faced during that 23-years-of-messages scene is more of a robot than TARS. (A better movie would have shaved off the fat and circled everything around the relativity angle; what I wouldn’t give for an even-less-crowd-pleasing third act, one focused entirely on the reconciliation between two characters who are now the same age.)

Ultimately, I admire Interstellar more than I like it, which is about the same reaction I had to Inception. Both films are impressive for simply existing; those Batman movies wrote Nolan a blank check that he’s been cashing on big, flawed blockbuster passion projects. This one is almost perversely uncommercial in many respects, and I can’t help but be grateful for it on principle alone, even as I wish Nolan had put more of his efforts towards creating real characters. A gushy, ambitious near-misfire like this is worth a thousand proficient Planet Of The Apes movies.