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‘Interstellar’ Reviews: Stunning, Sentimental, ‘Agonizingly Close’ to a Masterpiece

'Interstellar' Reviews: Stunning, Sentimental, 'Agonizingly Close' to a Masterpiece

Let’s dispense with the pleasantries, shall we? After screening to select “influencers” who, as they were carefully selected to, unleashed a freshet of glowing social-media praise, the first real reviews of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” dropped this morning, and the verdict is mixed one. At this point, the Second Coming would fall a trifle short of the prerelease build-up for Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated movie, which stars Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut attempting to find a new home for the human race, but it’s not just failing to live up to the hype. Nearly every review is stunned by the movie’s visuals, which use largely practical effects, shot on film, to create elaborate simulations of space flight: If you can see the movie in IMAX, it’s safe to say, you should. But they’re also let down by what’s described as the movie’s ungainly structure and a third-act twist that, while no one reveals it, has left more than a few critics scratching their heads. Many reviews warn that the movie is best experienced without knowing much in advance, so spoiler warnings, as always, apply — but critics are well aware that their reviews are coming out more than a week before “Interstellar’s” first ticketed screenings, so while they divulge some plot, much of it remains cloaked. As with “Gone Girl,” “Interstellar” will be a movie we have to revisit once it’s been out at least a few days, so we can talk about the ending in public.

Reviews of “Interstellar”

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

Biting off far more than it can chew, this space-travelling sci-fi extravaganza works best in its sweeping brio, in its willingness (and ability) to pay homage to the jaw-dropping awe of the genre’s grandest entry, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But the film’s majesty is mitigated somewhat by a story that doesn’t seem nearly as visionary. This is a film that takes genuine risks, sometimes succumbs to its own self-indulgence – it’s perilously close to three hours long – but strives unceasingly to put on one hell of a show.

Scott Foundas, Variety

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.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

The past 12 months have seen the release of not only “Gravity” but also the hard science travelogue “The Europa Report” (which in retrospect plays like “Interstellar”-lite) as well as the multidimensional dinner party comedy “Coherence,” which also uses real physics in the service of outrageous entertainment. “Interstellar” consolidates the appeal of all these movies into a singularly engaging package. It’s a movie designed to advertise its genre’s innate appeal.

Dave Calhoun, Time Out

Where “Gravity” was brief, contained and left the further bounds of the universe to our imagination, “Interstellar” is long, grand, strange and demanding – not least because it allows time to slip away from under our feet while running brain-aching ideas before our eyes. It’s a bold, beautiful cosmic adventure story with a touch of the surreal and the dreamlike, and yet it always feels grounded in its own deadly serious reality.

Tim Robey, Telegraph

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 agonizingly close, to forging his masterpiece.

Henry Barnes, Guardian

It’s a glorious spectacle, but a slight drama, with few characters and too-rare flashes of humour. It wants to awe us into submission, to concede our insignificance in the face of such grand-scale art. It achieves that with ease. Yet on his way to making an epic, Nolan forgot to let us have fun.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

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, and sometimes more than that.

David Ehrlich, Little White Lies

The films of Christopher Nolan generate emotion in much the same way that a supercollider generates particles, accelerating until they achieve a velocity that allows the abstract concept at their core to be seen and confirmed. Nolan may not be looking for the Higgs boson, but he uses a similar approach to distill and demystify the subatomic elements of narrative fiction. His films feverishly cross-cut between parallel planes of action until the tension generated between the temporal gamesmanship of their structure and the emotional stress of their characters synthesises into a quicksilver snapshot of a single idea — memory (“Memento”), sacrifice (“The Prestige”), justice (the Batman films), and dreams (“Inception”). His films don’t begin with a character, they begin with a word.

Jordan Hoffman, Popular Mechanics

This is all a remarkable set-up for what is an undeniably exciting movie. I can’t lie and call it perfect, however. Some sections drag, and perhaps unavoidably, since “Interstellar’s” length is key to its essence. We are talking about a film that draws some of its strongest emotions out of time dilation and relativity — through one-way communications, our heroes watch the loved ones left behind age in what, to the space travelers, feels like a blink. These scenes are touching, but the movie has a rambling quality that is hard to shake.

Emma Dibdin, Digital Spy

Interstellar is a spine-tingling blend of brains and heart, a high concept sci-fi opera that’s as unafraid of cerebral ideas as it is of heart-on-sleeve emotion, even if its ambitious reach occasionally exceeds its narrative grasp. It’s the first film of Nolan’s that could justifiably be called sentimental, but it earns every moment of unrestrained emotion with another of quiet fortitude.

James Rocchi, 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.  

Mike Ryan, Screencrush

“Interstellar” is a good movie that so desperately wants to be important. That sentence is going to read as churlish, but I do admire “Interstellar” for at least attempting to be something that’s not dumb. There are already too many dumb things we are subjected to on a daily basis. And ‘Interstellar’ is ambitious, even though there are a lot of head-scratching scenes. Yet, there we still are, spinning out of control with the reality that Nolan has created – and it’s only when we stop spinning, when we look at it from afar, that we kind of realize how absurd it all was … even though it leaves us craving a little more.

Scott Mendelson, Forbes

There are a few dazzling images and at least one solid action sequence late in the game, and it is always fun to see the real-world implications of somewhat abstract scientific theory. Yet the film feels less like a grand original work than it does a buttoned-down and overly “realistic” variation on “go into space to save the world” pictures such as (among others) “The Core,” “Sunshine,” and even yes “Lost in Space” (the 1998 movie, although I’m sure the original television show applies as well). 

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

There are several sequences here where they attempt to show us what it might look like to do something that no one has ever done, like move through a wormhole or pass the horizon of a black hole, and we’re a long way from the hippy-dippy light show of “2001.” That’s not the kind of filmmaking you should expect from “Interstellar.” This doesn’t break down into visual poetry that invites interpretation, nor is it meant to. This film is meant to be read very literally.

Alonso Duralde, the Wrap

“Interstellar” may represent an apotheosis of sorts, as it illustrates the very best and the very worst of Nolan as a writer-director. 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 (no year is mentioned, and we’re left to glean together important bits of information that zip by in conversation) 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.

Matt Patches, Vanity Fair

There are times when “Interstellar” is too caught up in its own highfalutin sci-talk. A stickler for details, Nolan becomes obsessive with unraveling all the knots in its string theories, the film’s bloated conclusion requiring 8 PhDs to understand. Interstellar never indulges in eight-minute-long, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”-like spaceship moneyshots, but it does find all the right angles to explain how the technology works, how a ship would dock into this rotating machine and blast off towards the system’s outer rim. A scene where the crew enters the wormhole looks unlike anything committed to screen because it’s hard science realized by computer graphics for the first time.

Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

If good intentions were enough to make a movie a masterpiece, “Interstellar” would be the greatest work of Nolan’s career. That said, even with its many flaws, Interstellar is an often gorgeous, expertly put-together movie that demands to be seen on the biggest possible screen. And while many parts of “Interstellar” don’t work, the whole hangs together enough to be a movie that impresses with hard sci-fi nerdiness. If only that were enough to make it the great film we hoped for.

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