Interstellar humanizes the space epic

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      Starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. Rated PG.

      True to fashion, when Christopher Nolan decides to make a movie about love and family, he couches it in the most epic space opera you’ve ever seen. Parenthood this isn’t. Sadly, neither is it 2001: A Space Odyssey or the original Solaris, if we’re stacking this almost three-hour inferno of pummelling effects work and Hollywood star power against cinema’s reigning colossi of cosmic inquiry into what it is to be human.

      Indeed, by the time Interstellar thunders its way to what could have been a properly psychedelic last act, Nolan and his coscripter brother, Jonathan Nolan—with the much-touted help of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne—have gotten so bogged down in trying to explain the science of everything that your mind wants to shrink from all the detail. That’s when composer Hans Zimmer starts beating you over the head with his enormous organ, and we’re meant to see Interstellar as the simple story of a man who misses his kids.

      Well, no sale on that, I’m afraid. But it’s still pretty great fun if you’re stoked to see Saturn’s rings, black holes, alien worlds, and a truly wonderful computer/droid that goes by the name of TARS (voiced by the great Bill Irwin). Like much of Interstellar, or Nolan’s filmography in general, TARS is a genuine masterpiece of design. So are both Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey, here playing two of the four astronauts sent by the remains of NASA—driven underground as the world succumbs to extinction-event famine—to investigate habitable planets in distant solar systems. She’s there because her dad happens to be both the project’s lead scientist and Michael Caine. He’s there because… well, it’s complicated, not to mention mind-bogglingly convenient that his farm is apparently only a stone’s throw from NASA’s secret new base. Plus, he happens to be a former astronaut. In other words: don’t think too hard, lest Nolan’s tricked-out plot collapses faster than an overburdened ecosystem.

      Do go for the spectacle, however, especially if you can catch Interstellar in 70mm. And hats off to McConaughey, who, as a man who puts all of humankind before fatherhood, delivers one extraordinary scene that almost saves everything. Of course, at this point in his career, McConaughey could twirl his wang at the camera and we’d still call it genius, as he more or less did in Magic Mike.