‘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

This image provided by Higgins Design Studio shows an open Murphy bed. (Mentis Photography/Higgins Design Studio via AP)
Pandemic-era design solution from the past: the Murphy bed

The beds that emerge from a wall to instantly transform a living room into a bedroom date from more than a century ago.

R.J. Whitlow, co-owner of 5 Rights Brewery, has recently expanded to the neighboring shop, formerly Carr's Hardware. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
County craft breweries’ past lives: hardware store, jail

Most breweries in Snohomish County operate in spaces that formerly housed something far different — from boat builders to banks.

Red apples with leaves isolated over white background. Gala apple. Top view
Everything you never wanted to know about fruit tree pollination

If your trees are blooming and not setting fruit, the most likely culprit is poor pollination.

Cryptomeria japonica “Sekkan-sugi”
Great Plant Pick: Cryptomeria japonica “Sekkan-sugi”

If you love golden foliage, the golden Japanese cedar is for you. When planted against a dark green backdrop, it shines like a beacon.

Moving eyes add interest to an antique clock. This blinking-owl clock sold for $1,900 at a Morford's auction in 2021.
These antique clocks have shifty eyes that move with time

More modern moving-eye clocks include the Kit-Cat clock, a fixture in nurseries since 1932.

Heroes.jpg: Characters in the fantasy world in “She Kills Monsters” at Red Curtain Arts Center, running Jan. 28-Feb. 13, include (front row) Erin Smith as Lilith, Katelynn Carlson as Kaliope; (middle row) Marina Pierce as Tillius, Lucy Johnson as Agnes; (back row) Daniel Hanlon as Orcus.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Dungeons & Dragons collides with reality in “She Kills Monsters” at Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville.

Caption: Stay-at-home parents work up to 126 hours a week. Their labor is valuable even without a paycheck.
A mother’s time is not ‘free’ — and they put in 126-hour workweeks

If you were to pay a stay-at-home mom or dad for their time, it would cost nearly $200,000 a year.

Linda Miller Nicholson from Fall City, Washington, holds up rainbow pasta she just made in the commercial kitchen at her Fall City home, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.  The rainbow wall behind her is in her backyard. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle TImes/TNS)
This King County woman’s rainbow pasta signals her values

Linda Miller Nicholson sculpts colorful noodles that reflect her personality and pro-LGBTQ+ pride.

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Most Read