For many Christopher Nolan fans (or, as they prefer, “Nolanites”), the man can do no wrong. After all, Nolan is an oddity in contemporary Hollywood; he eschews using any forms of social media, insists on keeping all of his projects as secret as possible in an age filled with spoilers, and actually attempts to be original in his filmmaking. His filmography ranges from low budget indie thrillers (Memento and Following) to more expensive Hollywood blockbusters (Insomnia, The Prestige and Inception) and superhero epics (The Dark Knight Trilogy).
When Nolan’s latest project was announced, expectations were sky high. All that was known about Interstellar was that physicist Kip Thorne consulted on the production, there was a fantastic ensemble cast, and the plot had something to do with wormholes. As per usual, Nolan played his cards close to the chest throughout the film’s advertising, hinting only briefly at Interstellar’s climactic last hour. The result was a film that received wildly mixed reviews, with Nolanites insisting that it was a work of genius and detractors arguing that the film was a poorly written mess. Critics were just as conflicted; and Interstellar currently sits at a just-above-average 72% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Many fans hoped that Interstellar would be Nolan’s first shot at a Best Picture nomination, but the film was snubbed. It was criticized for being too exposition-heavy and overlong, with inconsistently written characters and an ending that completely disregards the scientific accuracy that marked the previous two hours. However, the visual effects were nominated, Hans Zimmer’s score was recognized, and the sound mixing and editing also have a chance at winning.
Interstellar is far from perfect, and many of its critiques are justified. The dialogue is clunky (the “It’s impossible. No, it’s necessary” line still makes no sense), and some of the characters are very poorly fleshed out (when did Casey Affleck’s Tom become a psychopath?). With all this being said, the film still deserved a nomination. The Academy has never been kind to science fiction movies, despite the fact that the genre has produced some of cinema’s best achievements (2001, Blade Runner, Star Wars, to name a few). It’s time for that to change, and Interstellar would have been the best place to start.
(Disclaimer: Spoilers from here on out. If you haven’t seen the movie, shame on you.)
The brilliance of the film lies in the fact that Nolan elevates the genre to new heights. Gone are the tired clichés, such as tropes like the “evil robot” or the “huge corporation with an evil ulterior motive.” Humanity’s technological advancements, represented by the robots TARS and CASE, play an integral role in helping the heroes succeed. TARS may even be the best character in the film, and lacks the evil machinations expected of a character so reminiscent of 2001’s HAL 9000. Instead of including a twist in which NASA sends the expedition for some nefarious underlying purpose, Nolan reveals that Michael Caine’s character lied in an attempt to save the human race–a difficult decision made by a conflicted character. The ensemble lacks a ridiculous human villain–only Matt Damon’s Doctor Mann, who understandably goes insane after years of isolation and attempts to save humanity by betraying the protagonists. Damon’s appearance in the film has drawn accusations of stunt casting, but the entire set-piece involving his character serves as a stark reminder that we are watching fallible human beings doing what they believe is best for each other. Even the ending subverts Hollywood cliché by choosing to focus on an emotional bond rather than an explosion-filled finale.
Few other directors could anchor such an ambitious story about the future of humanity with a simple tale of the bond between a father and his daughter. Nolan does so brilliantly, and fully addresses anyone who criticizes his work as being cold and unfeeling. The beauty of science fiction is that it has the potential to represent everything that humanity can achieve; unfortunately, too many films prefer to reflect a hopeless outlook on humanity’s future. Nolan dares to assert that our best days lie ahead of us, and that we have the ability to achieve greatness. The final twist that the mysterious “they” who placed the wormhole by Saturn in the movie are actually humans from the future reinforces this theme: Humanity has the ability to transcend its current conflicts and work towards the salvation of the race.
Few movies are as optimistic as Interstellar is. There’s plenty in the movie to like, from lengthy explanations of the film’s science to gripping set pieces (that docking sequence will never get old) and Hans Zimmer’s incredibly epic score. The film’s pacing flaws, minor plot holes and inconsistent characters are all swept away by its daring to dream of a brighter future. The Academy should have recognized that although the film may not check all the boxes required of Best Picture nominees, it still merits recognition as an unconventional blockbuster that has connected with audiences across the world. Nolan is part of a dying breed of director that value creativity and authentic filmmaking over digital effects and an endless stream of prequels, sequels, remakes and reboots. If Nolan’s genius is not worthy of film’s most prestigious award, then I don’t know what is.
Photos: Metro.co.uk, ksl.com, huffingtonpost.com, io9.com, moviecricket.com
This is the best SF film I’ve seen and I’ve seen most of the good ones. Let’s band together and see if we can get Nolan to acquire the rights to Jodorowski’s DUNE and put it on the screen – that’s his Oscar right there!
Sci-fi is not one of my favorite genres, yet Nolan succeeded in winning me over with his complex characters and optimistic vision of the future. It’s unusual these days to see a father-daughter love story–how refreshing!
Science fiction/fantasy epics will never get the respect they deserve. Annie Hall beat Star Wars in 1977. Oliver beat 2001. Chicago beat The Two Towers. Chicago? OLIVER? Seriously? Jeezuzaitchkeerist!
Box office success means that science fiction/fantasy films will never get the respect they deserve from Oscar. Look at the Best Picture wins and ask yourself which ones have survived the test of time. Annie Hall (70s schlock) or Star Wars? Oliver (god awful musical) or 2001? Chicago (god awful miscast musical) or The Two Towers? Gandhi or ET? Gandhi even won for Best Costume. Best Costume? He was wearing a bed sheet!!!
Reading this reminded me of why I love this movie so much despite its flaws. It should have been nominated, but I don’t think it would have won. This was a really great year for cinema, and Interstellar undeniably deserves to be remembered as one of the greats of 2014.
Good article! Its not surprising to me that this work of absolute genius wasnt nominated. Remember the years past….Citizen Cane ( Considered the best US film ever) none…The truth is that people who who have brains, Will remember this film years from now! The acadamy picked “shakespere in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”! Their OUT OF TOUCH! This movie blew my mind in so many ways, that my son and I couldnt speak for almost an hour after seeing it! Rarely do movies have that kind of power. It isnt surprising, however, how a bunch of pretentious, self aware, a-holes who’ve never had to sacrifice ANYTHING in their lives, would overlook this film, and KUDOS to Nolan and crew to construct a film passed off as sifi, when I see it as the best explanation of the 4th and 5th dimension, Ive ever seen! As an artist myself, I couldnt think of a bigger challenge, and what a tremendous success to the worlds BEST filmaker. hands down! At least in this Americans mind! keep them coming sir! I
2023 and still think interstellar deserved more, truly a masterpiece