‘Interstellar’ has a keen sense of the colossal

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 7:50pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Everybody in “Interstellar” keeps talking about Gargantua, a massive black hole that must be delicately negotiated during space travel. Christopher Nolan’s movie is similarly scaled: This 168-minute epic contains vast sights and wild images, and exerts a heavy gravitational pull.

At its center are some basic, reliable sci-fi ideas. They’re just intriguing enough to justify the film’s poky sequences, but in Nolan’s universe this one falls shy of the ingenious spectacle of “The Dark Knight” and “Inception.”

The very slow opening reels introduce us to Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former astronaut now involved in Earth’s last-ditch effort to grow crops. The future is starving to death, but Coop has a shot at saving the day when he’s called back into astro-service for a do-or-die mission.

NASA honcho Professor Brand (Michael Caine) sends Coop toward a wormhole, the better to galaxy-leap and find the remnants of previous explorers who searched for a new home for humanity. The crew includes Brand’s daughter (Anne Hathaway), two specialists (Wes Bentley, David Gyasi), and a cool mobile computer (nicely voiced by Bill Irwin).

Once in space, the mission offers good science fiction stuff. The most tantalizing idea is how space travel alters the way time passes — so the longer the astronauts linger near Gargantua, the more McConaughey’s kids back home will surpass their father in age. Relativity can be harsh.

Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck play the grown-up Cooper children. Except for McConaughey’s straight-up emotionalism, none of the characters is especially vivid. Nolan seems bored by many of the Earth scenes, as though he can’t wait to expose the quantum physics that lurks in the walls of an ordinary farmhouse. (Late in the movie, he will.)

I enjoyed the science talk, and the worlds we visit are cool — there’s a watery planet with mountain-sized waves, and a frozen planet where the travelers meet a very relieved survivor of a previous mission (this is one of the movie’s best sustained episodes). Nolan aims big with these things, and there are some bulls’-eyes.

I saw the film at an IMAX preview, which is a sensory-overload experience. Some of those big-format visions are impressive, although the non-IMAX scenes (shot on film, not digital) look drab by comparison.

People are already comparing “Interstellar” to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” because both films tackle large ideas in space. This does “Interstellar” no favors. “2001” makes us ponder the nature of existence by declining to explain its enigma; “Interstellar” explains like nobody’s business, and settles on answers — intergalactic love vibes, for instance — that Kubrick would have blanched at.

Nothing is left unstated in this journey, which may be why the movie doesn’t have that glorious sense of mystery that great sci-fi films leave behind. Still, its reach for the stars is often exciting, and as utter spectacle it delivers a rare sense of the colossal.

“Interstellar” (3 stars)

Matthew McConaughey journeys into space to save the human race, a trip full of director Christopher Nolan’s big-scale visions. The movie’s got its poky sequences and a tendency to explain away its mysteries, but whenever it’s in flight it conjures up a real sense of the colossal. With Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain.

Rating: PG-13, for language, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Thornton Place Stadium 14 + Imax, Varsity, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza.

Talk to us

More in Life

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

An easy one-mile loop near the visitor center at Seaquest State Park explores the edge of Silver Lake.
(Scott Hewitt/The Columbian)
Discover seven hidden gems not far from the super slab

Weekend trips: Next time you’re making the I-5 slog toward Oregon, check out some of these parks and preserves just off the freeway corridor.

Caption: Now’s a great time to stock up on free Covid tests available to Washington State residents at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org.
COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

The blended-families challenge requires patience, maturity

Don’t expect miracles — it can be rough going for some time. Get professional help if you need it.

Her Turo rental was repossessed with valuable items inside

When Michelle Marshall’s Turo rental gets repossessed, the car-sharing company offers her a partial refund. But what about her son’s expensive epilepsy medication? Is Turo responsible for that?

Lee Oskar and his dog Tex inside his art studio in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Harmonica whiz Lee Oskar is also a pro with a paintbrush

Oskar’s music and art studios are in his Everett home. The former member of the 1970s band War is now 74, and still rocks “Low Rider.”

The 2022 WM Recycle Corps interns are part of WM’s recycling education and outreach team.
WM Recycle Corps interns return after two-year COVID slowdown

The collegiate interns are back in the community to help improve recycling habits and reduce waste.

Caption: At Flight Room in Lynnwood, aerial fitness poses like “vampire” use every muscle in your body.
Fitness takes flight at new aerial studio in Lynnwood

Jennifer Bardsley finds benefits and “silk kisses” from doing aerial yoga at Lynnwood studio.

Photo Caption: This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.
Odd Fellows iconography adds to this carved shelf’s value

Fun fact: The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with “odd fellow” meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living.

The Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea. (Proven Winners)
3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.