Stephen David Miller

Startup cofounder, AI researcher, podcaster, person, etc.

Review: Interstellar

It’s easy to understand the Nolan-haters — the guy’s a walking contradiction. He’s positioned himself as an auteur who can make a film so clever “you probably won’t get it”, but his mainstream sensibilities suggest he’ll absolutely see that you do. He makes films which everyone says aren’t for everyone; crowdpleasers with the added satisfaction of feeling difficult. That’s an art in itself; Inception is that aesthetic taken to an extreme, and I loved it. But like a cocky Bill Hicks describing how he’s probably going to alienate his audience, there’s something frustrating about low-hanging fruit being presented as in-crowd genius. Even if it’s great, you kinda want to punch it in its smug, “meaningful” face.

As a former citizen of Planet Nolan, Interstellar is frustrating to review. Because I see the same forces at play as before, and I get why they should draw me in. There’s so much worth loving about this movie: the unbelievable ambition, the jaw-dropping artwork, the overwhelming score, that timeless quality of practical set pieces on genuine film. It should have been a classic Big Movie; if not challenging like 2001, at least memorable like Contact or Apollo 13 or Close Encounters. It should have been a powerful experience, and for many people I’m sure it will be. For me it was ruined by that smug, “meaningful” face.

Not only is the script offensively bad, it inexplicably puts its weaknesses on a pedestal. The science is par for the course (i.e. silly), but the movie is so devoted to bland overexposition it just begs you to take it seriously. Absolutely terrible dialogue is delivered with they’ll-be-quoting-this-forever grandeur, each lame aphorism treated like manna from Nolan Heaven. The human element is shallow and one-dimensional, yet the entire multi-dimensional sci-fi arc is dismantled to make a pithy statement about love. It’s OK to be corny, but this presents corn as the serious, mind-blowing point, sidestepping the only things that made it good.

I was seriously let down. But it’s a let-down worth experiencing for yourself (and hopefully disagreeing with.) If nothing else, at least you’ll finally understand the mechanics of McConaughey’s “my hero is me in the future” Oscar speech. Ain’t nothin’ but gravity, Murph.

Full (looong) review:

See my review on Letterboxd