The experience matters. Perhaps it has a lot to do with living in the bubble that is the Austin movie scene – where we’ve got “no talking” policies and an assortment of opportunities to Quote and Sing-along with movies on a weekly basis. Perhaps I’m just a purist. Either way, I believe that there are some movies, good and bad, that provide a unique and unmissable experience in a theater. There are some movies that just aren’t the same in your living room. Last year, Alfonso Cuaron gave us such a movie in Gravity, an exceptionally crafted roller coaster ride that was best seen on the biggest format with the loudest speakers.
This year, Christopher Nolan follows with a similarly themed, yet remarkably different ride in Interstellar. In an attempt to be both thoughtful and thrilling, Nolan has created something divisive. It’s ambitious and spectacular, emotionally moving and schmaltzy. The TL;DR version: it’s awe inspiring, but it’s also a mess. Yet while its complexity and ambition will drive the conversations we’ll have after seeing Interstellar, there’s no avoiding the fact that in the moment, in a quiet theater with a giant screen, it’s one hell of an experience.
At its surprisingly swift 169 minute runtime, Interstellar isn’t just one thing. We all want to be able to easily and often hyperbolically place it somewhere along the spectrum of movies. Is it good? Is it bad? Fresh or rotten? Is it the greatest movie of our generation or has Christopher Nolan created an expensive, over-wrought turd?
Here’s what it isn’t:
- The kind of movie that can be easily classified as one extreme or the other.
- It’s also not entirely scientifically accurate. If that’s something that bothers you to the extent that you can’t enjoy the fiction part of ‘science fiction,’ you’re going to have some problems. Then again, you’ve already got plenty of problems at that point.
If we’re going to really give it a fair shake, we also have to look at what it is:
- Absolutely visually stunning. There’s little debate to be had here. Especially when viewed on a large format (70mm, IMAX), Interstellar is nothing if not impressive. Nolan’s commitment to shooting on film and shooting with IMAX cameras gives the CGI-heavy piece a sense of realism and luster, even when we know that what we’re looking at was created with digital artistry.
- It’s a film that has something to say. You may connect with the emotional core of its story (that revolves around a man caught between saving the whole of humanity and ever seeing his family again, all while being Matthew McConaughey). But there’s a chance you may not connect with it. As it goes with most movies trying to deliver an emotional punch, that connection is important. Interstellar goes to great lengths to make this connection with its audience so if it doesn’t work for you, it wasn’t meant to be.
I found myself connected with its characters, bought into its story and at times, I was moved when the film wanted to move me. Matthew McConaughey is wonderfully emotive, keeping the core of the movie grounded while even the most fantastical things are happening around him. Anne Hathaway is equally as strong.
An easy argument would be to say that Interstellar trades ambitious spectacle for smart storytelling. That’s true in many ways. But it’s impossible to overlook how good this movie feels in the moment. It’s easy to get wrapped up in it, swept away by it and propelled into worlds unknown. Then somewhere well across the two hour mark, it takes a sharp dive into a wormhole and becomes a spiritual brethren of 2001: A Space Odyssey. For better or worse, Nolan never eschews the abstractness of space and time. Some of this weirdness might feel trite, but it does fit with the movie’s narrative. There is a cohesive, accessible story here that might not be overwhelmingly original, but it doesn’t get in the way of the experience being entertaining.
When we go to the movies, what do we really want? Escapism? Escapism is defined as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.” Interstellar is escapism in its purist form. Plenty of movies in this era are made to be entertaining, but few are made to deliver this kind of experience. There’s value to that kind of experience. We want to be wowed. Like Cuaron last year, Nolan hasn’t just made a movie, he’s created an ambitious ride. It’s a ride worth taking and one we’ll be talking about well after its over.
Before deciding whether or not to see Interstellar, ask yourself this: “when is the last time I was really blown away by a theatrical experience?”
Wouldn’t you like to have the opportunity to make that happen today?
Thanks to Christopher Nolan and all his ambition, you do.
Related Topics: Christopher Nolan