November 8, 2014

Drove to the mall to see Interstellar in IMAX, despite an increasing sense of certainty based on reports from professionals & amateurs alike that it was likely to be kind of a trainwreck.

It was. Unlike everyone else whose writing I’ve read so far, I feel no particular compunction to avoid spoilers, so down here at the end of this arrow, there will be some. You have been warned.
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Interstellar falls into that category of movies which look to investigate the meaning of life from within the scaffolding of science fiction (as opposed to more straightforward space opera, like Star Wars).

I’m more or less equally interested in both categories in my reading of sci-fi books, although I think I hold the philosophical ones to a higher standard, because bad philosophical sci-fi is really really bad.

And there have been plenty of great movies in this category, to be sure: 2001 (which is overrated, but that’s a conversation for another time), Blade Runner, the Alien series, the first Star Trek movie, plus more recent smaller entries such as Her, and Under The Skin.

But there have also been a decent number of wretched overambitious muddles, most recently Prometheus. And now Interstellar.

To catalog all of its offenses would take far more time and space than I’m probably interested in taking here. But some highlights:

  • Endless didactic exposition during the first earthbound hour – I felt like I was sitting through some kind of pro-science, pro-NASA propaganda flick whose authors thought they had cleverly disguised as a fiction film.
  • An obnoxious (and highly publicized) allegiance to pure science & the laws of physics right up to any of too many various points in the movie where they just threw it out entirely
  • such as the climactic moment when McConaughey plunges directly into a black hole, but instead of being crushed instantly, he instead finds himself inside of a tesseract composed of an infinite number of discrete views into his daughter’s bedroom, arranged along a timeline, such that he is able to communicate with her younger self by shoving books out of her bookcase in morse code sequences
  • this resulting in a fairly elemental time-travel paradox which the filmmakers don’t even bother to be embarrassed by.
  • Uncredited major Matt Damon role.
  • Matt Damon in a spacesuited fistfight with McConaughey on an ice planet that is nearly as stupid-looking as that dumb Spock fistfight in the last Star Trek movie.
  • Anne Hathaway giving an earnest speech in defense of love which we’re kinda-sorta supposed to scoff at but clearly also kinda-sorta supposed to wholeheartedly believe in, particularly when she’s kinda-sorta vindicated in the end.
  • Ex-military robots which are literally 6-foot-tall rectangles which have to do this sort of weird shuffle in order to move around, except for in emergencies when they turn into crazy spinning asterisks.
  • IMAX sequences which look like, well, the movies, intercut with non-IMAX sequences which are soft & smeary & look in places like Super16 blown up to 35.

Basically, it’s like a semi-incoherent mashup of 2001, Contact, and Gravity, and you’d be much better off renting those three movies & watching them. Or heck, watch Europa Report. It’s not a perfect movie, but it asks some interesting questions & it does so in about half the time & for 1/100th the budget.

It occurred to me in retrospect that I haven’t really thoroughly enjoyed a Christopher Nolan movie since Memento. He’s such a technician. I think about all these people trying to keep track of the layers in Inception, but I can’t remember anyone really giving a shit about the actual characters & their interactions. Likewise here; everyone is more or less alone in this movie, communicating via narrowband across great distances.

After the movie it took 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot of Southpoint. 

Had dinner at Metro 8, which actually produces quite a respectable steak, and treats its vegetable side dishes with respect as well. I’d be leery of its non-beef offerings, but it’s actually kind of a useful ace in the hole for a last-minute Saturday dinner out.

November 8, 2014

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