Christopher Nolan does it again with his least original production yet, a would-be heady epic that’s neither heady nor epic enough. At least it does have a discernible story, with a beginning, middle and end, which is more than I can say for The Dark Knight or Inception or the like. But beyond the pseudo-profound bluster, Interstellar is fairly hackneyed stuff, an ‘anyone can be president’-style fable of a crack pilot turned humble farmer (Matthew McConaughey at his most folksy) who leaves a dying Earth headed for a wormhole that links to a distant star system, and a potential new home for humanity.
Nothing wrong with that in an of itself, but Nolan burdens that flimsy treatment with his regular players (of course Michael Caine is in it, ditto Anne Hathaway) and pilfers from so many obvious reference points in his lazy filmic shorthand: just from the top of my head, Carl Sagan’s Contact (which also starred McConaughey), Duncan Jones’ Moon, and most of all Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, of which this film clearly wants to be the modern-day equivalent.
Fat chance of that happening, especially when Nolan’s pasted together a universe almost entirely derived from others’ trademark work, including his own (the visual and conceptual parallels to Inception especially betray a filmmaker far too enamoured with himself) and no substantive depth of vision to pull it all together. Hans Zimmer, too, phones it in with his usual score, only this time LOUDER, in case you don’t get how EMOTIONAL it is (while simultaneously drowning out the dialogue in key scenes).
Does Interstellar have its moments? Certainly: some of the outer-space scenes, set to the eerie silence of the vacuum, are undeniably powerful. But those are few and far between in a film that’s certainly long enough to be an epic, but is fatally underwhelming in the looks department. The manipulative sentimentality that ramps up in its closing moments, worthy of Spielberg’s sop-fest adaption of AI, are merely its death rattle.