Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

Christopher Nolan’s space-exploration epic has transcended being merely a film and has become a kind of international event. With its sprawling starscapes, well-thought-out science, huge cast and mind-blowing visuals, this was always bound to get people talking. It’s a shame that I didn’t enjoy it very much at all.

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Before I start, I should say that I watched it an IMAX cinema. I’ve heard stories about different experiences depending on which cinema you’ve seen it at, but mine certainly wasn’t a pleasurable one. The film starts with a blasting soundtrack, so ear-piercing it makes the viewer feel uncomfortable. The discomfort never truly goes away throughout the film, but it is most pronounced in these scenes, and sort of lulls back and forth in the background for the rest of the film, making the spoken words more or less audible depending on how Zimmer and Nolan wanted to play it. To add to this, I had the joy of watching it in a busy screening so I was also fighting against the 100s of people who were eating rustly popcorn, chocolates and sweets, slurping drinks as big as their heads, or tucking into crunchy, pungent and hideously over-priced nachos [1].

As a visual experience, the film has many merits and if there is one area it should sweep up come awards season, it should be on the special effects. The distant planets are fully realised, tangible places and when we step off into a vast rocky, icy plane we feel completely like we on a place not of this planet but totally real. That probably benefited from being seen at an IMAX, and I was doubly pleased that it didn’t have to tart itself up with 3D visuals that weren’t required.

I didn’t think any of the lead actors were at the top of their game. Following last year’s Oscar winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club and a memorable appearance in The Wolf of Wall Street, Matthew McGonaughey was obviously on a high going into this. Bar a highly emotional scene where he starts to receive video messages from his eldest child (played, eventually, by Casey Affleck), the rest of his performance was merely adequate. Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine both did a great job playing the same role they usually play in Christopher Nolan films. It’s just a shame none of these performances blew me away.

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As the film has many opportunities to have the plot ruined by people, mostly people said to me “It’s good, but the last 40 minutes were completely pointless.” That annoyed me because I was expecting a slump at this point. As much as I resisted, they were wholly right. Up to this point we had a solid, thoughtful action film and in the last chapter it just descended into madness, tripping itself or the audience (or both) up with complicated 5D gravitational bleeding theory and scientific speculation. At one point I actually laughed out loud. I’m convinced the most cinema goers would have been completely lost by the end of the film. Maybe that was the idea. Following Nolan’s previous films, where we were challenged and surprised by the twists at the end (The Prestige is still one of my favourite films of all time, precisely because it has a great twist or three at the end), it was disappointing that the big reveal was so well thought out but yet so poorly communicated. Perhaps they needed to have a 30 minute lecture before the film introducing us all to the work of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Maybe an idea for the Blu-Ray release [2].

I’m not going to sit here and recommend you don’t see this film. It’s just an opinion, and seemingly one that goes completely against the grain of everyone I’ve spoken to. I just didn’t think it was as good as the hype, nor as good as Nolan’s previous efforts. All-in-all, a bit of a let down.

Interstellar is out now at cinemas worldwide.

[1] = Why-oh-why would you choose to do spend so much on food at a cinema. A cinema of all places? It’s so expensive and you annoy everyone else at the same time. Have we, as a nation, become so obese that we can’t make it through a three hours screening without doubling our calorie intake for the day? I think it’s a serious issue and indicative of where society has taken itself that we must consume unhealthy food every couple of hours. No wonder there’s an obesity problem. It reminds me of the guy in China who buys every single ticket to a screening at his local cinema for once a week, which is increasingly seeming like a good idea (though I don’t think I could justify the £2k spend each time to be honest).

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[2] There’s a great explanation of the science behind the film over at Screen Rant. It’s full of spoilers but if you’ve already seen the film and want a bit of a nudge on what was happening, that’s a great place to start.

Films I’m Excited About – Autumn/Winter 2014

There are quite a few films in dying to see at the moment. Here are a handful of them: Big Hero 6, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, Interstellar, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Enemies and Shoah.

Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014)
Release date: 7th November 2014
This came out in Japan earlier this week. It’s an interesting prospect. Disney have capitalised on their purchase of Marvel Studios and raided their vaults for untapped stories and potential franchises. The first one, Big Hero 6, concerns a child genius Hiro, his self-designed personal robot Baymax, their team of crime fighters and a sinister plot they fight to get to the bottom of. So not really classic Disney. This will enter as 54th on the list of Walt Disney Animated Classics, and I suppose Disney are hoping it will do well both at the cinema and in merchandising. For me, I’m really excited about it. I am, however, cautious. There is a huge risk that it pitches itself right in the middle of everyone who could like it, alienating all of them in the progress. It certainly won’t be as successful as Tangled or Frozen, and films traditionally aimed at boys (gender stereotyping alert but you know what I mean) tend to be less successful – even excellent films like Meet The Robinsons often get overlooked and then forgotten. However, with solid reviews and a hilarious trailer it could hit the ground running next month.

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Bayonetta: Bloody Fate / ベヨネッタ ブラッディフェイト (Fuminori Kizaki, 2013)
Release date: 24th November 2014
Okay so it has been out for over a year in the Asian markets, but Bloody Fate will finally see an English-language release next month courtesy of Funimation. It has received mixed reviews so far, but the trailer shows off just how over the top it is and it promises to be of a similar tone to the games. Unfortunately we’ll have to settle for a Blu-ray release as I don’t know any cinemas that will show it.

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Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)
Release date: 7th November 2014
Because… Have you seen the trailer?! Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest filmmakers of out generation and keeps turning out films in new genres that challenge and excite audiences the world over. Having been linked for a long time with the upcoming Star Wars trilogy, it’s almost intentional that he has made a film set in outer space, like he’s pointing out the downside of getting involved with an already established franchise whilst making a mind-blowing one-off that is sure to be a huge success. This is one that has to be seen at an IMAX, apparently. To be fair, I wholeheartedly believe this is the case with Gravity, so I can fully see why people are saying the same about this one.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Enemies
Release date: 12th December 2014
I think by now we’re all in agreement that this trilogy should have been a maximum of two films. There has been a thorough exploration of everything in the book, but perhaps this came at the expense of a faster pace and a set of films that grips viewers from start to finish. That said, they have been a visual spectacle and I’ve enjoyed seeing a great collection of fine British actors uniting on the big screen to tell such a fantastical story. I’ll be there on opening weekend making sure I don’t miss out on the fun.

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Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
Release date: January 2015
Released in the middle of the 1980s and clocking at a huge nine hours and twenty-three minutes long, Shoah is not a documentary to be entered into lightly. It has a controversial reputation but on a critical level the film has always been highly rated. Now seeing an HD release courtesy of the Masters of Cinema, now is your chance to see this masterpiece in the comfort of your own home – crucially with ultimate control over when you take a break from the action.

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