2001: A Space Odyssey is such an all-consuming work of cinema that so few films can actually stand on similar ground and not look minor. Interstellar acknowledges 2001: A Space Odyssey constantly and yet it is able to come out from underneath that film’s shadow and work well enough as a companion piece of sorts. Interstellar is the warmer and much messier cousin of 2001, but whereas 2001 likes to explore the idea of humanity from afar, Interstellar is a deep exploration of humanity. Interstellar is about humanity to its core as it showcases our strengths and weaknesses, and it is through this that Interstellar is able to fill a viewer with a sense of hope that so very few films can.
Interstellar takes place in a future where ecological events have left humanity on the brink. After former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey in a powerful performance) discovers a gravitational anomaly after his daughter (Mackenzie Foy) speaks of ghosts trying to communicate with her. The discovery leads Cooper on a mission to save humanity in the far reaches of space.
The film is directed by Christopher Nolan, and most of his filmography can be defined by the major theme at the center of the film. For Interstellar, that theme is love. If this film is to be believed (and for the most part it makes a very good case for itself), love is the thing that defines humanity and drives every single thing that humanity does. Every good and bad decision that the characters make in this film comes out of love resulting in a complex depiction of love even if some of the dialogue is clunky and cheesy. It’s also interesting how Nolan shows the faults within the concept of love as a human character “malfunctions” out of narcissism in an interesting and well-performed spin on the HAL 9000 character. The film’s portrayal of humanity and love is so complete that the schizophrenic nature of the plot also adds to the idea that even the scientists at the heart of the film can’t completely understand these concepts.
The one thing that really drives this theme of love home is the relationship between Cooper and his daughter. It’s the heart of the film, and it’s a strong heart thanks to the constantly changing dynamics of the relationship and the performances from McConaughey, Foy and Jessica Chastain. Unfortunately, I think Christopher Nolan goes a little too far to bring about a Hollywood ending for this relationship, and one that wasn’t even needed. Nolan already shows a way in which these two characters find a moment of catharsis (which it seems is something all of Nolan’s main characters strive for throughout his filmography) by the film’s final moments so the pile on that comes about is really unnecessary. It also doesn’t help that the film ends on a cliffhanger ending that has nothing to do with the main relationship and ultimately seems superfluous.
Interstellar crash lands in the homestretch but it does so many things right (from the amazing IMAX-enhanced visuals to the down-to-earth performances) that it’s hard not to like this film.