'Interstellar' Review: Christopher Nolan's Latest Might Be Too Ambitious

There's no denying the visceral power and prowess of Christopher Nolan's Intersellar. The ninth film from the popular director is his most ambitious, and it looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The sets, miniatures, and images of space travel and planets all combine to make a film the scope of which rivals any other space movie.

Emotionally, the film comes close to achieving a similarly momentous effect. Interstellar follows Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a father forced to leave his family in a possibly mad attempt to preserve the future of humanity by finding another habitable planet. The tale is filled with drama, humor, intense action and surprising plot twists. There's rarely a dull moment in the movie because the story is so compelling and poignant.

But maybe it's all a bit too much. The script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, packs ideas and theories in every single scene. Concepts about love, survival, physics, and time burst from the film more prominently than the emotion and visuals. Even with a nearly three-hour runtime, so many ideas are presented that the film rarely has time to focus on one over another. The result is a technical marvel with a powerful narrative that ends up feeling a tad empty because we aren't sure exactly which point it's trying to make.

One of the best things about Interstellar is the manner in which it distinguishes itself from every other space movie. There's no big training sequence, the shuttle take off sequence is truncated, we don't get to space for 40 minutes of screen time. Right off the bat Nolan tells us we're going to see something different. Then once in space (which is where the majority of the movie takes place), everything gets bigger. He's not interested in our solar system. Nolan is interested in something far beyond it.

In the same way Intersellar attempts to stand out as a sci-fi film, it works to distinguish itself from a dramatic angle. On its own the story is direct, with good dramatic tension. Clear goals are presented, then attempted, and then either met or failed leading into the next scene. Anything you may think doesn't match up or feels superfluous eventually pays off in a pretty solid way. Sure there's a misstep here or there, but at its core, Interstellar is always interesting.

One of the biggest complaints in Nolan's earlier films is they rarely include rich female characters. This film has two of them, Coop's colleague Brand, played by Anne Hathaway, and the grown up version of his daughter Murph, played by Jessica Chastain. Each represents a step forward for Nolan as they're well-written and strong characters. Unfortunately, the relationships they develop are much weaker. The relationship between father and daughter Coop and Murph is a strained and incomplete one, but that's demanded by the narrative. Coop and Brand also have a bit of a budding connection which becomes increasingly important as the film goes along. However, it feels like an afterthought as it's casually dropped in with a few short lines of dialogue and then hardly developed.

Then, just when you start to scratch your head about Interstellar, it sucks you back in with its intense action scenes. They're few and far between but when they happen, you'll be glued to your seat. By taking his time to flesh out the story, Nolan earns lots of good will and you never quote know what's going to happen. There are at least two big turns later in the movie that really keep you on your toes and divert from some other issues.

Issues such as the fact he's provided so many different narrative strings and questions, he's forced into some convenient narrative choices near the conclusion. These pay off emotionally but when everything else in the film has been pushing toward unpredictability and originality, they're a little disappointing, albeit understandable.

McConaughey has a lot of heavy lifting to do in Interstellar and he does it well. Obviously he's dynamic, charming and confident, but the real surprise is how he hits all the big dramatic peaks and valleys. Hathaway is steadfast with her limited role and Chastain, in an even more limited role, makes Murph the real star of the movie. She's a force to be reckoned with, infusing multiple layers into the few scenes she has.

As Interstellar ends, there's no doubt you've been on a ride. A thoroughly enjoyable and memorable cinematic experience that's well-made and acted. On those notes, Nolan totally succeeds. Afterwards though, you'll be more inclined to talk about the actions scenes and narrative twists rather than the multitude of themes he's placed throughout the film. That's because it's just too much to talk about. What does love mean? How do we handle time? What does it mean to survive? Is it okay to offer hope when there is none? The film's questions are endless and overwhelming.

Which leads to one last question, do we care? That's a something you'll have to decide. Interstellar is a good film with big flaws that may or may not matter because everything around them is done so well.

/Film rating: 7.5 out 10