There are just certain movies that must be experienced in the theater in order to truly experience them. While film is always intended to be seen on the big screen, for the most part a movie will translate to a television or a computer monitor. Sometimes, though, a certain something is lost in the translation, something that can’t quite be described or quantified, only felt in the gut from where those hard-wired feelings of pleasure, pain, and the degrees in between arise.

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Audiences today are spoiled and jaded when it comes to visual effects. We’ve seen everything Hollywood can throw at us; there’s no limit to what computers can do, so what’s there to be surprised by? Well, seeing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar in the theater today must be akin to what it was like to see 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968. There’s nothing else quite like what this film has on display: fantastical images of black holes, distant planets, contorting space-time (mostly all based on real theoretical, umm, fact)… It’s the stuff of youthful imaginings and a welcome break from the explosions and gore and alien invasions we’re used to special effects producing.



Interstellar does something very special: it taps into the nostalgic wanderlust of childhood back when everything seemed possible, and our horizons were boundless. Who didn’t look up to the stars and dream of worlds beyond our own? Who didn’t want to visit other planets and other universes, just like in the stories? Okay. Maybe I’m getting a little too soapy here. Or maybe it’s just my weakness for quantum mechanics. My point is that Interstellar is a good movie with some of the most incredible imagery I’ve seen in a while.


For all its technical artistry, though, the plot is fairly standard stuff, boiling down to a “man saves world” structure.


The film opens in the future. The world is dying; many crops can’t grow, food and water are scarce, and giant dust storms are a regular occurrence. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an engineer/astronaut-turned-farmer (because the world doesn’t need engineers anymore, it needs food!) is taking care of his two children, Tom and Murph, with a little help from his father-in-law (Cooper’s wife died some time ago). They’re living as peacefully as they can, dealing with the day-to-day of life as they know it. However, something strange has been happening in young Murph’s room: she claims there’s a ghost knocking books off her shelf. The gaps in the books even seem to be spelling something out in Morse code.


During one of the frequent dust storms, Murph realizes she’s left the window to her bedroom open. She and Cooper rush to shut it, only to discover that some of the dust seems to be falling in a particular pattern. It’s saying something, this time in binary: coordinates. So what else do they do but go where the otherworldly beings tell them they should (there’s obviously no horror films in the future). This leads them to what’s left of NASA, where Cooper’s old friend, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) recruits him on a mission to find a habitable planet where the human race can settle, as Earth isn’t going to cut it much longer. Cue some speedy exposition, emotional tension between Murph and Cooper, and then he’s off with a small crew of scientists (plus a couple of robots), which includes Brand’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and… a couple of other characters that aren’t wholly developed.


From here, the movie really kicks off. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my reservations about this first fifth (it’s a long movie). It falls into the Exposition Trap, where a movie has a lot to explain, so it explains it all very quickly and inelegantly. For the most part, the plot is fine. It’s nothing extraordinary, although there are moments of real and honest human emotion, thanks largely to some stellar acting (and the Exposition Trap actually paying off). What really makes Interstellar tick are how individual plot beats play out. They’re exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking even, and a lot of the fun comes from seeing what happens next, from either a human perspective or a mind-bending science perspective. Not to mention describing them would remove the thrill of the unknown.


Unfortunately, the plot sometimes loses itself. It’s a film about connection, but sometimes the plot points don’t always add up in a cohesive way. It just gets a little too twisty towards the end, and some fairly important details aren’t wholly explained as well as they should be. Additionally, there’s a few egregious Eye Roll Moments scattered throughout the film (the discussion about the guiding power of Love springs to mind) that really suck the enthusiasm right out of watching a spaceship go through a worm hole. But Interstellar isn’t a film that should be watched for its plot or dialogue (although, again, its mostly all right). Its storytelling is good, but it takes a backseat to the spectacle. And man oh man, what a spectacle. Whatever its faults, the sheer fun of viewing the film in a theater more than makes up for the shortcomings.


Interstellar is a very good film. It’s so good and such a joy to experience that the close to three-hour runtime isn’t felt. If anything, I was left disappointed that it ended so soon. That being said, it’s certainly not perfect, and there are some contrivances in the plot that left me scratching my head once all was said and done. But, in the end, they don’t really matter. The weaknesses aren’t what I’m going to remember when I think back on the film five years from now; I’m going to be reminded about the importance of the movie theater, the unique magic that can’t be captured anywhere else. So if there’s one movie to see theatrically this year, it’s Interstellar. And, if you can, spring for the IMAX (the 70mm print if it’s playing near you; otherwise digital will do just fine). Trust me — it’s worth it.

Interstellar is now playing.