This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
If you're one of the three people in the universe that hasn't seen this film, there'll be spoilers here
The Nolan Brothers are poor writers, something they prove once again with a high concept, beautifully shot but shoddily written script that overreaches its grasp at just about every turn. Christopher Nolan is a far better director than he is a writer, he really should direct something once that wasn't written by him or his brother.
Interstellar is not a bad film. It's one third fantastic, one third serviceable and one third obnoxiously annoying. I'll start with the good bits.
Nolan's aesthetic throughout the film is spot on. He creates a low-tech future that feels palpable and real. I loved the look of all the spacecraft and the fact that everything had a gritty and slap dash feel to it. No frills, no bling bling, it looked the way it should look. The bots took some getting used to, but in the end I liked their design quite a bit. But what is perhaps most impressive in Interstellar is its world creation and the way it paints the universe. There are some breathtaking shots in this film and the poetic license Nolan takes with how certain things could or should look works tremendously. It is safe to say that this is Nolan's best looking film to date. It also feels well researched and that is something I respect. The look of the black hole, some of the tech, it never feels as if Nolan rushed through this when conceiving his film. There are also a couple of action sequences, not usually his strongest point, that are tense and exciting. They are far and few between though, which is actually a refreshing thing to find in a film of this scope. Most of what I describe above is abundantly present in the strongest, middle segment of the film. It's in the bookends and the central thread where my problems lie.
The cast is ok. They make the most of the hollow dialogue they are given and McConaughey and Hathaway try their hardest to find the necessary emotional resonance. Unfortunately they rarely succeed, but more on that later. Even though it was filled with a lot of static, I felt the establishing opening act was fine. There are a couple of odd moments (what was up with that drone?), but it mostly sets the scene pretty well. It is when the gears start to churn into motion and the real plot starts kicking in where looming melodrama rears its ugly head. We are given a character in brush strokes with his stereotypical family and we're asked to invest in them without hesitation from the get go. It just didn't work for me, resulting in me watching what should be a pivotal and emotional scene (Dad leaving) and seeing something that should pack a punch but just doesn't. It's all superficial veneer that smothers any potentially real drama in either too loud music or Michael Caine citing poetry. The idea of an emotion is not enough, you have to do more to get something real.
And that's where we get to the central problem of the film. Now, I can nitpick this film apart completely which is a pointless exercise for any film, but whenever science fiction films jump into the ocean of paradoxes my feathers get ruffled. Why mess with time? It is the weakest solution possible in a film with as grand a scale as Interstellar. There are so many why questions while analyzing this film, so many things left unexplained. It is the same thing they did in Inception, leaving out the blanks for the audience to fill in but not giving enough to do so adequately. Why does Cooper tell himself to stay? Why doesn't he just tell himself where to go? Why doesn't NASA just go to Cooper and ask him to fly for them? Why does Cooper feel it is necessary to fall into the black hole? In the Tesseract, why is he in a hurry? Why? Why? Why? Lots of questions with one simple answer. Because the plot needs it and there are apparently no other ways to tie up everything neatly. Still, I'm not going to fall over that. Looper was riddled with paradoxes but still an enjoyable film. And, like I wrote earlier, once they get into space it is a very good film. But then Anne Hathaway gives a speech. About love. And that's when a lot of alarm bells started ringing in my head.
Interstellar's central thesis is the most arrogant imaginable. Love, a human emotion, solves everything. There was a moment, after the reveal that Caine revealed his deception and Damon's character ruined everything because of his ego that I though this would head in the direction that the arrogance of mankind will eventually be its downfall. Or that the central question about Plan B would be dealt with more in depth. Do you save your species when you repopulate using embryos? Alas. It relishes in that arrogance. It starts by trying to portray us as a species of explorers, never commenting on the fact that we're probably the ones that messed up the planet to begin with, sketchily touching upon the fact that the food scarcity must have led to some grim times, only to end up saying we are survivors. There is a plethora of potential here to explore, but the Nolans skip over it to get to what they really want to say. Humans are defined by the connection to their families and the love they share. A sentiment, mind you, I agree with wholeheartedly.
I just find it astonishingly ironic that a film that purports such a lofty emotional message is so hollow in the emotions it tries to evoke. It has a lot to do with the obsessive show and tell nature of the Nolans' writing. Practically every line is expository. With all the tech stuff I didn't mind that much, even though it was a bit too much at points, but when dealing with emotions, showing should be enough. Constantly rubbing our faces in it with melodrama and stunted dialogue doesn't work. 'Love and gravity are the only forces that travel through time'. I'm sorry, but that is just a bridge too far and using it as a plot device to save the day in this setting just feels preposterous to me. And and unbelievably arrogant.
The Nolans' talent for creating ideas does not seem to match their talent for fleshing them out. In search for a human connection they find so important in their film they stepped over the connection to their audiences (or, you know, just me). This film tries far too hard to be profound where it should just have focused on being very good. Ambition is commendable, knowing your limits is essential.