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Interstellar (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Running Time 173 minutes.

OK for children.

Some directors suffer from the delusion that audiences just canít get enough of their marvelous talent. Christopher Nolan, who wrote (with his brother, Jonathan) and directed this thing, has never made any effort to bring films in at a reasonable running time. The Dark Knight (2008) ran for 152 minutes. His next, Inception (2010) went on for 148 minutes. Then followed The Dark Knight Rises (2012) at 165 minutes. In 10 years he hasnít directed a movie that came in anywhere close to under 2 hours. This one takes the cake at 173 minutes. It is simply unsustainable.

Itís a marvel of pop theoretical physics, witness the presence of Kip Thorne, a former Cal Tech theoretical physicist, as an executive producer. Because the world is going to hell in a handbasket some scientists led by Michael Caine have devised a plan to send spaceships through a wormhole into another galaxy to find worlds receptive to human life. A wormhole (also known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge) is a hypothetical topological feature of spacetime that would fundamentally be a "shortcut," much like a tunnel with two ends, one here and one maybe millions of light years away.

Caine gets Matthew McConaughey to pilot the latest ship. Naturally they have to have a gorgeous woman who looks like a movie star along for the ride, so Anne Hathaway, Caineís daughter, is one of three others who join Matthew for the trip.

Matthew has some family problems with his children because he has to leave them in the lurch, gallivanting off in outer space. But, hey, he promises his daughter (a delightful Mackenzie Foy as a youngster who morphs into Jessica Chastain during Matthewís absence) heíll come back. Since sheís not stupid, she doesnít believe him and Matthew worries about that, even though heís, as I said, millions of light-years away.

Things arenít easy out there in outer space and they run into some problems, not the least of which is getting back to earth. This is where Einstein and Thorne once again come into play because, as we all know now, time is relative. So while all the poor clods trapped back on earth are aging, Matthew and Anne arenít because the faster you go the slower you age and all that.

In one segment of the movie, Anne and Matthew go out to explore a planet. Theyíre gone a little longer than anticipated, maybe a couple of days. But when they return to the mothership the astronaut waiting for them, Romilly (David Gyasi), has waited for, get this, 26 years! Talk about remarkable patience. Being considerate people, they apologize for taking so much time. Itís possible that I got the 26 years wrong, since a movie this long with so much scientific mumbo-jumbo does things to your mind, and in 173 minutes you might mis-hear something, but I donít think so (he was a young man when they left the ship and he had some grey hair when they returned). Queries to the PR firm handling the film went unanswered. Regardless, the point was that, since time is relative, Matthew and Anne thought they were gone for a few days, but to Romilly it was shockingly longer.

The first couple of hours are pretty good. The story is interesting and the special effects are terrific (no green screen!). But the last 45 minutes is annoyingly inscrutable. Where Nolan tries to get a satisfying Hollywood ending, it just completely falls apart. It goes on and on and on and, even though itís based on speculative science fiction which is, by definition, hard to believe, the resolution is beyond anything credible and, for me, completely ruined what came before. Maybe this is the influence of Thorne, who has devoted a large part of his career to time travel, influenced by his friend, Stephen Hawking. Maybe Hawking and Thorne understand the final 45 minutes, but I donít think any normal audience will. I thought it was ridiculous, and I like time warp movies. But movies like1980ís Somewhere in Time and The Final Countdown, two of the best, had plausible bases for the time travel. This one requires an advanced degree in theoretical physics to comprehend, and even then I would think it would be ludicrous.

November 4, 2014