Interstellar is a film for people that hate thinking too hard

I finally caught up with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar last night and I’m still working out if I should find where Nolan lives and slap some sense into him or not. For something billed as a genuine bit of intelligent science fiction it’s no smarter than some of the better episodes of the current version of Doctor Who or an average episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It’s not that it’s a badly made film; it’s not, but the entire script seems to have be rewritten by people wanting to make a bland film that says nothing or really, Christopher Nolan really does think trite platitudes about love that you wouldn’t even slap on a Valentine’s Day card is some sort of massive intellectual bit of honesty. The problem is that after a promising start the film loses it’s bottle in one key scene where Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper, is at a PTA meeting with his daughter’s teachers. In this meeting we get to know a bit more about the world the story is taking place in as Cooper is told there’s no need for engineers anymore (even though we seen that there’s still combine harvesters and other mechanical things needing to be repaired, so yes, there’s a big fucking need for engineers) but that his daughter should stop bringing textbooks in that say the Moon landings aren’t hoaxed and that now the official US government textbooks say they were a hoax.

At this point I thought this could be a serious film, but no, the ideas and implications of this are dropped for some drivel about love, and endlessly overlong scenes of people speaking really bad dialogue at each other.

We’re not told about this future world apart from hints. Yes it’s dusty as it’s hinted some sort of environmental disaster has taken over the planet (well, the US as the rest of the world isn’t really mentioned apart from a passing mention of India) and it’s probably not global warming because the filmmakers don’t want to piss off mouthbreathers that think man-made climate change isn’t real, so they play round the edges just as they do in the PTA scene that could have made a political point about this new world, yet we find out the US government is still funding NASA only ten minutes or so later, so it all doesn’t add up. Now I’m not talking about making what is essentially a SF adventure film a serious political bit of hard SF (though that would be glorious) but something a bit deeper than this superficiality that Nolan installs in this, and indeed, a lot of his films. He give the impression it’s deep and intellectual but often he avoids the hard questions in order to provide set pieces (and there are some stunning set -pieces in Interstellar)  but the entire premise of the film is built upon creating a world where humanity is on it’s last legs, looking inwards, and thanks to a collapsing ecosystem they’re starving, yet nobody looks even remotely starving. Just dusty and moody.

I tried to like Interstellar. I tried to like it. Really, I did but I though it was pompous dumbed down science fiction for people that don’t like SF that makes them think, hence the whole ’emotional’ story arc that hides the fact that Nolan chickened out from making a harder bit of SF than he did. In fact there’s a bit around 20 minutes from the end that had me in tears of laughter because it was just so badly realised not to mention needlessly hilarious.

I do have to admire the idea that Nolan is trying to inspire people that space exploration is a worthy cause at a time when so many want it to stop and for the human race to become inward looking and insular. It’s just that a bad script can’t be hidden behind great special effects and the odd decent performance.

As a footnote, a much better use of some of the same themes can be found in the Warren Ellis book Orbiter.

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It too tells the story of an  America that’s given up on spaceflight and is struggling with an environmental disaster, but it’s executed more honestly and better than Interstellar.

My top 20 Comic Book films-14-The Dark Knight trilogy

I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!

Previously, in this list at #20, X Men19The Crow18Heavy Metal, 17, Spider Man ,16The Avengers and 15, Danger: Diabolik

At number 14 it’s a trilogy, which is cheating a tad, but bollocks. It’s my list so it’s Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, with Batman Begins up first.

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When Batman Begins came out in 2005 the best most people hoped for was a half decent Batman film, which is pretty much what Batman Begins is as it rips up everything that Batman had been cinematically beforehand and starts again, which was the best idea after the mess of Batman and Robin.

It takes a more ‘realistic’ approach to Batman which in itself is daft as treating superheroes as ‘realistic’ means taking them far too seriously. You need an element of camp, or at least, some self awareness that it’s a film taken from a comic which thankfully, Batman Begins has as it resets the cinematic Batman to something close to the 1970’s depiction of Batman by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.

Batman Begins should be a better film than it is, which isn’t to say it’s a bad film but there’s an awful lot being crammed in which means like a lot of superhero film origin stories the last act ends up being a mess and this is the case here as Batman has to defeat a countdown set by the baddie or Gotham will be destroyed!!!

It does however establish Batman as a strong cinematic presence again, not to mention the promise of something bigger for the inevitable sequel.

And the sequel hit, and showed just how to do the brooding superhero right. OK, it is about 15 minutes too long and at times is far too pompous for it’s own good, but a remarkable performances by Heath Ledger as The Joker and some splendid direction by Christopher Nolan sets this film apart from the mass of chaff that the superhero film has become.

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Had I done all three films separately The Dark Knight is well and truly in my top ten.  It’s almost perfect until of course the last reel where Batman has to defeat a countdown of Gotham is destroyed!!

Even that though makes sense in this case as it’s a moral point that’s being made that works within the context of the film rather than to artificially create a Big Climax at the end of the film because the script needs it and the producer has ten million bucks spare.

So The Dark Knight is the closest we’ve come to a ‘realistic’ comic book film. It sets up a final film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy perfectly and there’s simply no way that the same people who did this film could balls up a final film could they?

The answer we go to the question was ‘actually, yes they could’.

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The Dark Knight Rises isn’t a bad film. There’s parts which are excellent and Christian Bale shines along with a perfectly cast Ann Hathaway as Catwoman, but it’s ultimately a big mess of undercooked bollocks with plot holes the size of Jupiter in it. It’s also got some of the most embarrassing attempts at shoehorning modern politics into it, with Bane’s group (a honestly wasted opportunity of a villain)  being a crude metaphor for the Occupy movement and Bruce Wayne being a crude metaphor for the 99%.

In fact all the political statements are the equivalent of drawing a cock on a picture of  Maggie Thatcher’s head and turning round looking at the mirror smugly as if you’d done something that’s going to bring the system down from the comfort of your sofa!

The sixth form politics annoy, as does the pointless build of Bane as this amazing supervillian only for him to be dismissed in a way that makes much of what happened pointless. Then there’s the massive stretch of imagination that it takes to believe a broken back can be fixed in a few weeks, not to mention that when Bane is in control of Gotham and has it sealed it, not only can Bruce Wayne come and go and he pleases (after he’s recovered from his broken back) but the streets are clean, so Bane must still be paying the binmen to do their job.

And of course the end is Batman has to defeat a countdown set by the baddie or Gotham will be destroyed!!!

It’s a poor ending to something that promised so much after The Dark Knight, but sadly failed to deliver. As a trilogy it yet again shows film has a problem with a satisfying closing film, but there’s so much in these three films to enjoy, especially in the middle film. After this, Nolan was involved in the craptastic Man of Steel, so I hope that he finds form again soon because he really is a quality filmmaker.

Next time, join me for a history lesson…