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Sunday, October 25, 2015


There were two cinematic nuclear endgames in 1964: Stanley Kubrick’s uproarious & devastating DR. STRANGELOVE or: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, for hep cats & hipsters; and just a few months later, Sidney Lumet’s earnest FAIL SAFE for the squares, a sort of STRANGELOVE FOR DUMMIES. Now, 46 years after Kubrick’s revelatory/irritating/unanswerable 2001/’68 we finally get that film's Squaresville mate in Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, with abstract ideas turned concrete and even positing a moral: Love Makes the World Go ‘Round. No joke, Love Makes the World Go ‘Round, that’s the moral. (Perhaps Nolan missed the note of irony when ‘We’ll Meet Again’ gets sung at the end of STRANGELOVE.) It’s not that INTERSTELLAR takes on 2001 in the straight manner of such laughable fare as 2010/’84 or CONTACT’97; Nolan’s too clever & modest (in a megalomaniacal way) for that. No, this story follows an Earth choking to death on its own dust (the okra crop has just failed!). But someone’s sending cryptogramic messages to Matthew McConaughey’s daughter, messages that lead this space-jockey-turned-farmer (!?) to a secret NASA mission that’s trying to find a replacement planet for the human race . . . on the other side of a Black Hole. Nolan, McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck’s beard and many others use up a lot of good will reserved from better recent projects on this one. (Though not perhaps Jessica Chastain who hasn’t stopped fiddling with her flyaway hair in about three years.) The first two acts are not without interest, and hold a certain restrained dignity in their dogged literalness. But the ginned up dramatics of the third show the makers with a lack of belief in their own material. When a disposable character notes that ‘this data makes no sense,’ you can only nod in agreement, and wait for the next structural trick. (Shh, the film’s HAL 9000 isn't the villain.) Or fend off the giggles when someone in dire straits says ‘It’s not possible!’ And our hero replies, ‘No, it’s necessary!’ Hey, Nolan, you’re trying for 2001, not STAR WARS, right?

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