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Still shot from the movie: Interstellar.

Interstellar

To save an ailing world a man (Matthew McConaughey) agrees to leave his family behind and make a risky interstellar journey. This film, directed by Christopher Nolan and written by his brother Jonathan Nolan, also stars Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain.

Overall Grade: B
Violence: B-
Sexual Content: A
Language: C-
Drugs/Alcohol: B
Release Date: 07 Nov 2014
Run Time: 169
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

According to this movie, Earth’s near future looks a lot like the Dirty Thirties. Dust storms ravage the planet leaving humans to protect themselves with goggles, masks and shuttered dwellings. Apparently the climate change and lack of resources are a result of too much past consumerism. Hoping to reverse the damage, schools now encourage students to pursue agriculture as a career to save the population from starvation. Yet crop failures continue to be an annual event.

However, there are still a few people who believe in investing in education and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is one of them. A former engineer and space pilot, forced into farming when his jobs became obsolete, he is trying to encourage his youngsters Tom and Murphy (Timothée Chalamet and Mackenzie Foy) to use their brains.

So when his daughter claims she has a “ghost” in her bedroom, Cooper suggests she use a scientific approach to understanding the anomalies she has observed. Amazingly, as he tries to assist her to decipher a code written in the dust, he uncovers one of the world’s last hiding places of higher learning.

Lead by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), this scientific community believes Earth’s future is bleak enough that they have sent manned probes through a recently discovered black hole to scout out possible new homes in far away galaxies. Now they are in the process of putting together a mission to follow up on the data that has been sent back. The arrival of Cooper is very fortuitous, as the crew (Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi) could really use an experienced pilot.

Understanding that humanity’s future is at stake, (but mostly out of concern for his own children), Cooper agrees to accompany the space explorers. First though, he promises ten-year-old Murphy that her father will come back. He also tries to explain to her the basics of Einstein’s theory of relativity/ space-time continuum, so she will understand that what may be years for him will likely be decades for her. (Viewers already know it will be a long time because the cast list includes the names of the actors who will play his kids as adults—Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain.)

And thus begins an interstellar journey of epic proportions. Paying close attention to technical details, consulting with an expert (theoretical physicist Kip Thorne) on the latest scientific theory, and borrowing a few things from past sci-fi’s (you’ll notice a definite homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity), the Nolan brothers (Christopher as producer/director/writer, and Jonathan assisting with the screenplay) have tried to craft the most accurate depiction possible of the final frontier. The results are visually spectacular.

I only wish the same could be said for the script. Sadly, it has a challenge with plot holes similar to the astronauts’ trouble with black holes. Speeding through the back-story makes it confusing. A lack of logical character motivation leaves twists unconvincing. And inconsistencies with technology are nonsensical. (For instance, how did the home base receive data from the pervious voyagers, when they are unable to receive any messages sent back from this crew?) Besides moments when the musical sound track overwhelms the dialogue, there is also a need to tie up each storyline so completely that the production sometimes gets tangled up in sentimentality.

All the same, anyone looking for an out-of-this-world experience will likely be dazzled enough not to be nitpicking over such moot points. The ride is certainly entertaining, with rollercoaster moments of adventure, peril and suspense. The bloodless violence, lack of sexual content and few profanities (although a sexual expletive is included) will likely make the movie suitable for teen viewing. The message that love may be one of the only things that can transcend space and time is rather nice, too. Just be warned: This is the sort of feel-good flight you will likely enjoy less the more you think about it.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence:
Characters are frequently in peril and some die. Earth's inhabitants are at risk of becoming extinct. Natural disasters (like dust storms) are depicted. Characters drive recklessly. A crop is purposely set on fire. Characters engage in a life and death brawl. Explosions are depicted.

Sexual Content:
Characters embrace and kiss. Biological samples of human fertilized eggs are discussed.

Language:
Mild profanities, moderate curses, scatological slang and terms of deity are infrequently used. A sexual expletive is half uttered once, and later completely heard.

Alcohol / Drug Use:
Characters drink beer on a couple of occasions. Alcohol is sipped during an office meeting.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Copper has a negative feeling about farming, and infers that it is inferior career to other professional designations. How do you feel about the role agriculture plays in our society? Are certain jobs really better, or are all of them necessary? Why might we place some occupations in a higher social class than others?

The purpose and even the validity of mans’ space exploration is challenged by various characters in this script. How do you feel about humans exploring that final frontier? Is it worth what it costs? What reasons do you feel would make it worth traveling there?

When Cooper first begins his quest, he and the other scientist believe “they” have chosen him to pilot the spacecraft. Who do you think that refers to? How does Coopers understanding of that title change as the story progresses? How do you feel about his conclusions?

Learn more about Lazarus, the man the scientists name their mission after.

Professor Brand quotes the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. Why do you think he shares this advice with the astronauts? How do you think you should face the possibility of death?

Video alternatives

Christopher Nolan past credits include Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises (that also stars Anne Hathaway) and Inception. Matthew McConaughey played another character curious about space exploration in Contact. And Jessica Chastain searches Earth for an evasive terrorist in Zero Dark Thirty.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Interstellar
Release Date: 31 March 2015
Interstellar releases to home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Package. (And for a limited time, the Blu-ray Combo Pack will also include an authentic, collectible Interstellar film cell from an original 70MM IMAX print of the film.) Special features include:
- The Science of Interstellar—Extended cut of the broadcast special.
- Plotting an Interstellar Journey—Discusses the film's origins, influences and narrative designs.
- Life on Cooper's Farm—Bringing Americana and the grounded nature of a farm to a sci-fi space movie.
- The Dust—Learn how cast and crew avoided sand blindness, and see how to create, and clean up after, a catastrophic dust storm.
- TARS and CASE—Designing and building these unique characters and how they were brought to life on set and in the film.
- Cosmic Sounds—The concepts, process, and recording of Hans Zimmer's unforgettable score.
- The Space Suits—A look at the design and build of the suits and helmets, and what it was like to wear them.
- The Endurance—Explore this massive set with a guided tour by production designer Nathan Crowley.
- Shooting in Iceland: Miller's Planet/Mann's Planet—Travel with the cast and crew to Iceland and see the challenges they faced in creating two vastly different worlds in one country.
- The Ranger and the Lander—A look at the other two spaceships in the film.
- Miniatures in Space—Marvel at the large-scale models used in the explosive docking sequence.
- The Simulation of Zero-G—Discover the various methods that the filmmakers used to create a zero gravity environment.
- Celestial Landmarks—Explore how the filmmakers used practical special effects informed by real scientific equations to give the illusion of real space travel for both the actors and the audience.
- Across All Dimensions and Time—A look at the concept and design of the Tesseract, which incorporated a practical set rather than a green screen.
- Final Thoughts—The cast and crew reflect back on their Interstellar experience.
- Theatrical Trailers

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About the Reviewer: Donna Gustafson

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