In Space, No One Can Hear You Wonder When This Movie Will Be Over

by Categorized: Moon Pitchers, Uncategorized Date:

INTERSTELLARWhen you get near a black hole, time slows down. “Interstellar” gives you the chance to sample the truth of that statement on multiple levels.

Maybe I am not Christopher Nolan‘s target audience. I found “The Dark Knight Rises” oppressively grim and hopeless.

And I found “Interstellar” …pretty much the same. I’m assuming you know at least a little something about Nolan’s new $165-million haute mumblecore movie about space travel and relativity. Believe me, I don’t want to spoil any of it for you, because if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll really be looking for something to cling to and cherish, including the plot twist at the end.

Watching a movie made by talented people and disliking it is like being in a bad relationship. You keep wondering, “Is it you or is it me?” I say it’s them. I’m up for a brainy movie about general relativity, which turns 100 next year. I’m already thinking about doing a radio episode on it  in January. And I like art and culture that’s about ideas. If you told me there was a production of  Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” playing 20 miles away, and I would get in my car and go see it, even though I saw one three weeks ago. And “Arcadia” has tons of math!

You know what else “Arcadia” has? The greatest living writer of dialogue in the English language. In fact, the fix for a lot of pop culture is to have Stoppard rewrite it, which he has done quietly more than once. The dialogue in “Interstellar” is often quite leaden, especially when it veers away from science and toward emotion. Think about that. The scientific stuff crackles a little. The humanistic parts of the movie sink like a stone (in a place where there’s regular gravity …you have to say that with this film.)

Allow me to point to one especially pressing example. The emotional arc of the movie hinges on the notion that the protagonist (Coop, played by Matthew McConaughey) is wrongly perceived by his heartbroken daughter (Murph, played by Jessica Chastain) as having abandoned her for inadequate reasons. Setting aside the question how one family can contain two people with similarly abridged last names, consider what actually happens: The widowed Coop accepts a mission to save the human race, which is going to die out unless something is done. When Coop leaves on the mission, Murph is but a child, too young to be handed the knowledge that everybody, including her, is going to die an unpleasant, lingering death unless he, Coop, succeeds. At least, that’s what Coop thinks: that his daughter would rather believe that her only surviving parent ditched her to indulge his jones for exploration than know that the whole human race faces extinction. Well, maybe. But here’s the note that won’t play: Murph grows up and goes to work for the very scientist (Brand, played by Michael Caine) who persuaded her dad to fly through a wormhole. So now she is among the 25 or so humans uniquely positioned to know why her father left, what kind of risk he undertook and how noble and self-sacrificing his motives were.  And she’s still terminally pissed off. Later in the film, she imputes to him yet another imagined betrayal, which I suppose is Nolan’s way of doubling down on that first bad bet, but it’s too late for that.

The movie is also ramshackle affair that samples gracelessly from its predecessors, including but not limited to “2001,” “2010,” “Amageddon,” and “Tree of Life.” Phil Plait caught them ripping off “A Wrinkle in Time” and — right down to using McConaughey the same way twice — “Contact.” But the most hilarious and annoying revelation (for me) is the way Nolan is trying to get inside the pants of “Good Will Hunting.” “Interstellar” features Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. (Ben Affleck is the next Batman. I assume Minnie Driver sits by the phone every day.) But “Interstellar” essentially takes that blackboard full of some big-ass unworkable equation from its original Cambridge locale and moves it to an underground undisclosed location. And then it trades on that hoary cliche, spoken by someone holding a piece of chalk or a dry erase marker: “But what if N[1333x] is actually (3)H<66U{pi}?” That would change everything! We could get from the higher math blackboard stage to the manufacture stage in 6 weeks! We can have time travel machines in freakin’ Best Buy in time for holiday shopping!” Math is fascinating, but it doesn’t turn into applied engineering that fast.

I could ramble some more. The possibilities for hating on this movie are boundless. Like space.

The Courant is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on courant.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.