On Interstellar

As my mom would instruct me to say, I didn’t hate Interstellar, I just disliked it. The movie is like a nearly finished tapestry: it’s lovely to look at, but if you pull on any of the exposed threads, the whole thing will fall apart. That’s what happened to me once I left the theater. When I was inside, I was immersed in the imagery and style that I saw on screen, it’s one of the things Christopher Nolan is known for, but once I left and started thinking about it, the whole plot started to unravel in my mind.

In the movie, Matthew McConaughey has to save the Earth by randomly finding NASA, blasting off to outer space, going through a wormhole left there by “advanced beings” and finding a new home for humanity on a planet that is light years away. There’s also a subplot where his daughter, Murphy, tries to reconcile gravity with love and despises her dad for leaving her, while trying to save her brother’s family from black lung caused by the modern dustbowl. Yes, that’s what this movie is about, and watching it makes it seem even weirder.

Forgetting the plot for a moment, my first problem is that the movie is three hours long. Three hours. As a fan of Christopher Nolan, I was prepared for how long it was (all of his movies are over two hours, most over two and a half) but I wasn’t prepared for just how long it would feel. The movie felt like it took up my entire afternoon, and what’s worse is that I couldn’t really find a reason. The entire first hour is spent on Earth, when that should have been more like the first thirty minutes. One could argue that most ofthe  time is spent establishing the relationship between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his daughter (the start of the ‘love’ message), but I still say that a good director and writer should have been able to get that across in fifteen minutes flat.

The pacing also affects the plot, which suffers from predictability and bloat. One of the characters in the movie thinks they’re being visited by a ghost, and it takes a keen viewer about five seconds to discern who the ghost will be. The same goes for the ‘advanced beings’ NASA thinks opened the wormhole for them. These two ‘twists’ were so predictable that I was kind of sad it wouldn’t be anything cooler. There’s also a very obvious three act structure in this movie, as there are in most movies. But in this one, it felt like the middle act was inserted at the last minute, since it didn’t really affect the rest of the movie and just felt useless. A very notable actor makes an appearance for about fifteen minutes, love and discovery and space are discussed, then it’s over. The scene does serve one purpose, but it’s a purpose that could’ve just as easily been served by a stray meteor than an A-list actor.

Speaking of A-list actors, Topher Grace is not one of them. He just shows up halfway through the movie and I swear that every person in the audience broke out of their immersion for one moment just to wonder, “Is that Topher Grace? Is Topher Grace is in this movie?” Yes, yes he is, and he plays Murphy’s doctor/scientist love interest. It was such a bit part that any actor could have done it, but for some reason Nolan wanted Topher Grace. I can’t imagine why anyone would want Topher Grace in their movie after Spider-Man 3, but maybe that’s why I haven’t broken into the industry yet.

So I didn’t hate this movie, I just disliked it. But does that mean you shouldn’t see the movie? Absolutely not. If you have three hours to spare, I highly encourage you to see Interstellar because, even though I didn’t like it, I know many people who really did. And that’s what makes movies interesting: the conversations. Film is an art, especially in the hands of directors like Nolan, and art like this deserves to be seen and talked about. The movie is visually stunning, and the effects are immaculately detailed, so an IMAX theater is vital for a full experience. Go see the movie with your friends and see you loved it and who hated it. Talk about why. Was it the perfect length or three hours too long? Was the plot derivative or revolutionary? And most importantly, did you both dislike Topher Grace?