“Preoccupied with nothing less than the notion that humankind will one day need to migrate from Earth to some other planet we can call home, Interstellar so bulges with ideas, ambitions, theories, melodrama, technical wizardry, wondrous imagery and core emotions that it was almost inevitable that some of it would stick while other stuff would fall to the floor,” writes the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy. “Feeling very much like Christopher Nolan’s personal response to his favorite film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, this grandly conceived and executed epic tries to give equal weight to intimate human emotions and speculation about the cosmos, with mixed results, but is never less than engrossing.”
Variety‘s Scott Foundas: “As visually and conceptually audacious as anything Nolan has yet done, the director’s ninth feature also proves more emotionally accessible than his coolly cerebral thrillers and Batman movies, touching on such eternal themes as the sacrifices parents make for their children (and vice versa) and the world we will leave for the next generation to inherit. An enormous undertaking that, like all the director’s best work, manages to feel handcrafted and intensely personal, Interstellar reaffirms Nolan as the premier big-canvas storyteller of his generation, more than earning its place alongside The Wizard of Oz, 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Gravity in the canon of Hollywood’s visionary sci-fi head trips.”
The Guardian‘s Henry Barnes sets it up for us: “Earth’s food is running out. The wheat is blighted, the okra’s out. Every able body is needed to help grow corn. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an engineering whiz and former flying ace, tends his farm amid worsening dust storms with the help of son, Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Tom is happily grounded, but Murph’s like her dad: she sees patterns in chaos, knows there’s something out there that can save humanity. She’s convinced a ghost is leaving her messages pointing to new a truth all of them need to realize. Her hunch leads them to Lazarus, a covert operation run by what remains of Nasa, where chief scientist Professor Brand (Michael Caine) proposes sending a team, including his own daughter (Anne Hathaway) and Cooper on humanity’s last space flight—a journey through a wormhole to scope out a distant star system for new planets to call home.”
“Interstellar may represent an apotheosis of sorts, as it illustrates the very best and the very worst of Nolan as a writer-director,” suggests Alonso Duralde at TheWrap. “On the plus side, there’s a stunning portrayal of how far-reaching space travel might work, a glimpse at an apocalyptic near-future that’s both brilliantly written… and designed (the clothes, the cars, and the tech are almost entirely late-20th century), and a vision of robots like nothing I’ve ever seen in a movie. Weighing against that, without getting into spoilers, is a third act of staggering wrongheadedness, along with female characters whose intellect takes a back seat to their exploding emotionalism and rage.”
“As one might expect, Interstellar’s effects work is simply sensational, not just in outer space but on the planets Cooper and his crew explore,” writes Tim Grierson for Screen. “What the team uncovers shall not be revealed here, but suffice it to say that the filmmakers have crafted several excellent suspense sequences that are both visually resplendent and achingly tense. Working with long-time editor Lee Smith and composer Hans Zimmer, Nolan wrings every last moment of disquiet from these set pieces, which are technical wonders that deliver an emotional wallop as well. Unfortunately, it also must be said that the Nolans’ script stumbles when concentrating on the plot segues that link the bravura sequences.”
“Nolan’s science fiction odyssey applies the same degree of intellect to its borderline corny plot as it does to the physics-heavy backdrop,” writes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “The result is a two-pronged blockbuster comprised of smarts and sentimentalism like nothing else out there—not perfect, but expertly crafted and wholly satisfying unlike so many movies made a similar scale today.”
This is “a movie filled with so much scientific jargon that it does a pretty good job hiding how absurd some of the movie can be,” finds Mike Ryan at Screen Crush.
Scott Mendelson for Forbes: “If Inception works as a parable for the film-making process itself and The Dark Knight Rises operates as a metaphor for Chris Nolan wanting to break free of the comic book superhero genre, then one could easily read Interstellar as a rallying cry for Hollywood to, to quote Nolan’s last original creation, ‘dream a little bigger.'”
Updates: From the Telegraph‘s Tim Robey: “The scientific basis of the movie, by a whisker Nolan’s longest ever and certainly his most all-embracing, is challengingly dense, intricately explained, and remarkably codswallop-free. But what pulls you in is its hugely confident architecture as a piece of storytelling—its brave fictitiousness. Nolan comes very close here, one might almost say agonisingly close, to forging his masterpiece.”
“If Interstellar is Nolan’s most ambitious film, it’s not because of its cost or its intergalactic sweep, but rather because ‘love’ is the most speculative and unscientific force that he’s ever tried to prove,” writes David Ehrlich at Little White Lies. “When Nolan was recently quoted as saying that his new opus is about ‘What happens when scientists bump up against these things that defy easy characterization and analysis—things like love,’ his comment engendered skepticism from people who haven’t become fetishistically submissive to their enthusiasm for upcoming event films. And while Interstellar throws itself on the sword of sentimentality almost every time it’s on the precipice of arriving at a moment of cinematic wonder, Nolan’s approach to love is ultimately as blunt and practical as we should expect from the man who reduced the human subconscious into a rigid ladder of colour-coded game worlds. Interstellar doesn’t just contend that love is real, the film argues that it’s downright Darwinian.”
James Rocchi at the Playlist: “While the great complaint about Nolan is that he’s too cold, too clinical, too unemotional, he’s over-corrected here to such a degree than instead of drifting a little from one side to the next, he plows, swiftly, and disastrously, into a ditch of his own making—or, rather, of his and co-writer Jonathan Nolan’s making. A film where any character says ‘maybe love… transcends time and space…’ is not exactly an exciting prospect for a moviegoer interested in characters, ideas, and plot more than, or even as much, as they are in IMAX-sized visual wonder and all of the feels.”
Drew McWeeney at HitFix: “Do not take it as a backhanded compliment or a dismissal of any kind, then, when I say that in the end, Nolan’s Interstellar is far more 2010 than it is 2001. If you’re also a fan of Robert Zemeckis’s Contact or the Carl Sagan book that film was based on, you’ll find a lot to like here as well.”
For Time Out‘s Dave Calhoun, “Interstellar is, in large part, a spectacle. But it also asks you to think hard, look hard and urges you to return for more. Why only ask for the stars when you can have moons, distant planets, extra dimensions, lectures on psychics and a sobering shot of terror? Interstellar has it all.”
“The film is its own astrophysical anomaly,” writes Tom Shone for Intelligent Life. “There have to be 99m alternative universes in which Interstellar is a bad movie and another couple of hundred in which it is a terrible one. And yet, Nolan has finagled his way to the single universe in which it is a good, and maybe even great one.”
Updates, 10/28: For the Independent‘s Geoffrey Macnab, “this is a true epic—one whose thrilling ambition is only partially undermined by its sudden final reel nose dive into bathos and absurdity.”
“A bold triumph for the heart, mind and eyes, Interstellar is one for the ages,” declares Pierce Conran at Twitch.
Warning that there’ll be a few minor spoilers, David Ehrlich considers eight films that influenced Interstellar at the Playlist.
Let’s play “Christopher Nolan Comments Section Bingo”! Designed by John Lichman.
Update, 10/29: Nolan is “the rare filmmaker with the ambition to make great statements on a grand scale, and the vision and guts to realize them,” argues Time‘s Richard Corliss. “Double-domed and defiantly serious, Interstellar is a must-take ride with a few narrative bumps.”
Updates, 10/30: For Slate‘s Dana Stevens, “for better or worse, Interstellar stubbornly remains its own whacked-out, inimitable self: a century-spanning family soap opera that’s simultaneously a cowboy space opera. Oh, and a serious philosophical treatise on both human mortality and the concept of time. And possibly, if unsatisfyingly, also a dystopian environmental parable of some kind or other? There might be a few more genres that would comfortably fit into the roomy 169-minute running time of Interstellar, a movie I snickered at more than once but never stopped staring at in wonder.”
“It’s a sometimes poignant, but more often pandering, ode to American exceptionalism, and also trusting in great men to save us, provided they’re the right great men,” writes Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed. “The film directly links the survival of mankind to the restless frontier spirit, of which Cooper is the ultimate embodiment. He’s the man meant to enable us to finally build a big ol’ baseball diamond in the sky.”
Updates, 11/2: From the Voice‘s Stephanie Zacharek: “Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ is quoted at least three times, in case we don’t grasp its significance the first two. At one point, three crew members leave the mothership to explore a possibly life-sustaining planet. The catch, poignant in its implications, is that seven Earth years will pass for each hour they spend on this threateningly foreign soil. [David] Gyasi’s character—he’s the token black guy, but at least the movie has one—stays behind, and when McConaughey and company return, not only is he visibly aged, but he’s wearing a plaid Redd Foxx bathrobe.”
“I find much black humor in the fact that this über-pedestrian visual stylist is currently our greatest advocate for shooting on celluloid,” writes Keith Uhlich at To Be (Cont’d). “I don’t mean to suggest that his images lack for superficial size and scope. A large portion of this subpar space odyssey… was filmed on IMAX cameras that fill the floor-to-ceiling frame with vistas earthly and celestial. Yet nearly every composition lacks that certain something (let’s call it ‘magic,’ since Nolan has spent his entire career breaking down anything mysterious into easily digestible component parts) that makes you feel as if you’re in the hands of a true visionary.”
David Liu gathered five of his previous entries on Nolan under one URL.
Update, 11/3: At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz suggests that “for all its high-tech glitz, Interstellar has a defiantly old-movie feeling. It’s not afraid to switch, even lurch, between modes. At times, the movie’s one-stop-shopping storytelling evokes the tough-tender spirit of a John Ford picture, or a Steven Spielberg film made in the spirit of a Ford picture: a movie that would rather try to be eight or nine things than just one.”
Updates, 11/4: McConaughey’s Cooper is “the best at everything, which makes for a wholly uninteresting protagonist, the perfect man roaming around the vast, stylized domains that Nolan, working with DP Hoyte Van Hoytema, has given great visual life to. But even as we pass beyond Saturn and enter into a new galaxy, where mile-high waves and frozen clouds plague various planets, Interstellar remains largely focused on what one chiseled, prodigious father does to save his prophetically brilliant little girl.” Two out of four stars from Chris Cabin at Slant.
Tom Shone‘s written up a big profile of Nolan for the Guardian and, in a post at his own site, “The Director’s Cut,” he’s added comments from Michael Mann, Anne Hathaway, Zack Snyder, Nicolas Roeg and Matthew McConaughey.
“Like the great space epics of the past, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar distills terrestrial anxieties and aspirations into a potent pop parable, a mirror of the mood down here on Earth,” writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey blended the technological awe of the Apollo era with the trippy hopes and terrors of the Age of Aquarius. George Lucas’s first Star Wars trilogy, set not in the speculative future but in the imaginary past, answered the malaise of the ’70s with swashbuckling nostalgia. Interstellar, full of visual dazzle, thematic ambition, geek bait and corn (including the literal kind), is a sweeping, futuristic adventure driven by grief, dread and regret.”
The Dissolve‘s Keith Phipps suggests that “James Cameron’s 1989 film The Abyss seems just as likely a model. Like that movie, Interstellar attempts to balance hard science and a soft heart. And, also as with The Abyss, the balance often eludes it.”
Nolan “has been continually lambasted for the tawdry dialogue delivered via his characters,” notes Peter Labuza at the Dissolve. “But his characters are in situations that require it, whether we’re talking about the rule-bound dreamscape of Inception or amnesiac Leonard’s retelling of his condition in Memento. In his latest opus, the existential science fiction epic Interstellar, a NASA crew needs to relay a lot about quantum physics, black holes, and the relationship between gravity and time. So why do more ‘heady’ themes, like family, survival, and love, have to be discussed like a teenager reading an anatomy textbook?”
Writing for Film International, Daniel Lindvall notes that, as in Roland Emmerich’s 2012 (2009), “saving ‘humanity’ means investing all available resources in a secret elite project, while most of the earth’s people are starving to death…. Will Coop be able to save ‘humanity’—basically reduced to his own family—or will he have to accept that his children are doomed to die, while the new planet is populated by the yet unborn? I will leave this question unanswered for those who think it sounds exciting. Personally I couldn’t care much less for what happens, since the overwhelming majority of humanity is supposedly already dead, or swept aside by the film.”
“Interstellar, from the very first trailer, seemed so rooted in the homespun imagery of the American heartlands, I half-expected Matthew McConaughey to enter the wormhole in a rocket-boosted combine harvester,” writes the Guardian‘s Phil Hoad. “But it’s only the latest in a recent group of films to cloak sci-fi futures in classic Americana.”
At the Playlist, James Rocchi introduces his interview with Jonathan Nolan: “Credited as a writer on five of his brother Christopher Nolan’s nine feature-length films (Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and now Interstellar), Nolan’s been busy recently with his own large-scale directing project, a remake of the ’70s robots-on-a-rampage thriller Westworld for HBO.”
Update, 11/5: “Nolan is a dork aesthete par excellence,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club. “Self-serious, literalist, fussy with intercutting, fixated on exposition, his movies snake around protracted reveals and delayed twists.” As for Interstellar:
In more ways than one, this is Nolan’s Solaris. Both movies open with a long stretch set around a country house on Earth, where the protagonist, a widower, must consider a mission to space from which he won’t return for years, possibly decades. In both cases, he’s leaving behind a young girl and an older man—his niece and father in Solaris, his daughter and father-in-law in Interstellar. Both films shift the action into space abruptly, are set partly to organ music (Bach in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and one of Hans Zimmer’s better scores in Interstellar), feature extended sequences of the protagonists watching and reacting to video recordings, and are about the emotions of people faced with the unknown. And, when it all comes down to it, both films are about how their respective writer-directors feel about the notion of the unknowable and humanity’s relationship to something larger than itself.
Updates, 11/7: “Interstellar is primarily a movie of ideas, and it’s bracing to see Nolan channel so much Hollywood money in such a heady, convoluted, cerebral direction, even if that means having McConaughey drawl a whole bunch of scientific jargon,” writes Mike D’Angelo for the Nashville Scene.
For Nick Pinkerton, writing for Sight & Sound, “it is without great relish that I must report that Interstellar, like Inception before it, is a movie that feels like being tangled up in a pile of infinitely-unfolding some-assembly-required instructions in the watching, full of dialogue that’s like the recital of a How To manual.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw: “The appearance of Interstellar is a moment to reflect that Kubrickian sci-fi, like Loachian social-realism of the same 60s period, was once rooted in the real world: social-realist films could change the law, and sci-fi reflected and even inspired a world in which the moon really was about to be conquered, and everyone assumed that manned space exploration would continue onwards at the same rate. Today, this is a lost futurism.”
For Jonathan Romney, writing for Film Comment, “it’s once our explorers pass into another galaxy that things take on a new dimension of banality and the film, however magnificently conceived in visual terms, becomes just another space adventure.”
“It is not just that Interstellar is as incoherent and pretentious as a film can be at close to three hours and $160 million,” grumbles David Thomson in the New Republic. “It also sullies our last hallowed legend, the end of the world…. Don’t we know we deserve an end to it all when Interstellar can pass itself off as an entertainment, instead of an ordeal?”
At Newcity Film, Brian Hieggelke argues that “there’s one immutable principle [Nolan] could not bend in the end: that any film costing more than a hundred-million dollars must have a Hollywood ending. The result is a profoundly disappointing third act, artistically, that sees Nolan striving for Kubrickian heights but settling for Spielbergian tropes…. Not that a tidy resolution is inherently wrong; it’s just wrong here.”
“Oddly, Interstellar rarely feels suspenseful,” suggests Ben Sachs in the Chicago Reader. “After the first hour, with its poignant depiction of humanity’s decline, Interstellar always seems to be rebuilding its momentum, offering plenty to think about but little to hold on to.”
More from Nicholas Barber (BBC), Nicholas Bell (Ioncinema, 3.5/5), Shaun Brady (Philadelphia City Paper), Sean Burns, Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 5/5), Phil Concannon (L), Paul Constant (Stranger), Glenn Heath Jr. (San Diego CityBeat), Robert Horton (Herald), Chris Klimek (NPR), Christopher Orr (Atlantic) and Kelly Vance (East Bay Express).
At the AV Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes a spoilerific post-viewing-type piece. Phil Plait looks into the science of it all at Slate. Time Out‘s Dave Calhoun talks with Christopher Nolan and Movies.com‘s Erik Davis interviews Jonathan Nolan. And Vulture presents an infographic-heavy guide to “Christopher Nolan’s Universe.”
Updates, 11/9: Adam Nayman for Reverse Shot: “A film of wide-open spaces and lofty ambition—and fields of corn literally as high as an elephant’s eye if you’re watching it in IMAX—Interstellar is Nolan’s most enjoyable film since 2006’s The Prestige and in many ways his least enervating movie ever, drained as it is of the acidic pessimism that infected so many of its predecessors.”
For the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody, this is “a remarkably personal film. Where lesser directo