Imagine this: It’s the first weekend of November. Halloween is the faintest of memories, a fading remnant of a holiday fever dream conjured by the unwelcome sight of a dime-store jack-o’-lantern that was once brimming with treats, but which now mocks your gluttony with a crooked, toothy grimace and an empty head. The days grow shorter as the night creeps in ever longer, stealing the light hour by hour, minute by minute. You’re upset about the results of the midterm elections, either because your party’s defeat was too crushing, or your margin of victory was not quite as throat-stompingly historic as you might have preferred. Things are getting dark.
Seriously, you’ve checked nine times, and no matter how desperately you try to will it into existence, not even a single fun-size Bit-O-Honey has materialized inside that plastic pumpkin. All is lost, all is lost.
And so you seek distraction from reality. You hit up Fandango. What up, Fandangs? What’s new with you? What you got for me? From there, your options become clear. Something called Big Hero 6, which is some straight-up Disney nonsense about a precocious boy and his stunted Michelin Man familiar, and you do not have children. Or you do, but they are at least a contributing factor to your seasonal doldrums, and the absolute last thing on the life-avoidance agenda is the idea of carting those half-pint attention-vacuums over to the multiplex right now. Not this time — Daddy needs his “me” session or he’s going to spend all of Saturday sighing out the living room window toward the dead tree again. But there is another choice. The choice that beguiles you. The choice that does not involve a theater full of exhausting little miracles Dysoning down 20 bucks’ worth of popcorn.
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Finally, a movie for adults that doesn’t come with the paralyzing fear that your spouse is plotting your elaborate, and quite possibly well-deserved, demise.
But: Is this the correct choice for you in this moment of dire cinematic need? Let us help you make the best possible decision. A lot is riding on it. Perhaps too much.
Space! You like space, yes?
Everybody loves space. That doesn’t make you unique. There’s not a human being alive who can stare up into the night sky, blanketing himself in the never-ending obsidian quilt of shimmering moons and twinkling stars, and then say, “I prefer the mundane certainty of this decrepit, slowly dying prison planet to the infinite and unknowable wonder of what lies beyond what I can see with the naked eye.” It just doesn’t happen.
Christopher Nolan has figured this out. And this is Nolan’s genius, tapping into the universal for the subject matter of his films. Everybody sleeps, so: Inception. Everybody wants to be a deranged billionaire vigilante, so: Batman.1 Everybody’s a closet magic nerd, so: The Prestige.
How about a deranged amnesiac vigilante? Memento.
Everybody wants to go to outer space, so, now: Interstellar. Nolan couldn’t find more appealing common ground to tread if he suddenly discovered our shared passion for not waking up in the middle of the night and choking to death on our own swollen tongues as our nearby cats watch impassively.
Space is the best. Give us all the space movies, all the time.
SEE IT. Space! This is why THE MOVIES WERE INVENTED. Remember when that primitive rocket GOT SHOT RIGHT INTO THE MOON’S EYE? That was amazing!
What? No? No on space?
We offer our sincere regrets that one or both of your parents abandoned you for NASA. Don’t be too hard on them — they must have had very good reasons for this seeming betrayal.2 Be patient. Their motivations will one day become clear to you, and you’ll be angry at yourself for ever blaming space. It’s just an alluring void. Space can’t help that, every eon or so, some advanced civilization decides to beam coded messages through it and tempt some restless scientists to leave their families behind.
If you’re suspicious that this answer might foreshadow events in the movie, well, congratulations.
SKIP IT. We can only hope YOU AND YOUR THERAPIST figure out who so IRREVOCABLY DAMAGED your SENSE OF WONDER.
Are you desperate to enjoy a pure cinematic experience at the movies?
You can see Interstellar in 35mm or 70mm film, and also in Imax, if that kind of thing is important to you. If thinking about the looming death of physical film prints doesn’t fill you with an inconsolable and profound sadness, you also have all the usual digital-projection options available to the modern moviegoer.
You cannot see this movie in 3-D, because while Christopher Nolan realizes that completely eschewing digital is impossible, he still refuses to garbage up his vision with headache-inducing, frame-muddying bells and whistles.
SEE IT IN IMAX 70mm, what THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? Do you want MORE MOVIES you have to WATCH WITH PLASTIC GLASSES that probably HAVE EBOLA ON THEM? Treat yourself to this ONE LAST NICE THING.
Do you have an unlimited appetite for Matthew McConaughey?
Here is, as they say, the real talk: There’s been a lot of Matthew McConaughey recently. He’s been a near-constant presence in our lives since about 2012. An overwhelmingly positive one, we’ll go out on a sturdy limb to claim. Mud in Mud. Dallas in Magic Mike. Ron in Dallas Buyers Club. The moaning, movie-stealing chest-thumper in The Wolf of Wall Street. The guy with the shiny new Oscar at the Oscars. Rust Cohle in True Detective. “Cust Rohle” in I Feel Like Our Friendship Is Strong Enough Now That I Can Try to Sell You a Car, Amigo, Gotta Put Food on the Table, You Dig?
There’s a reason you might feel slightly queasy each time someone utters the word “McConaissance,” and it’s not because you’re allergic to overused portmanteaus. It’s because when you turn on your TV, there’s a coin flip’s chance you’re going to see McConaughey solemnly muttering ad copy to himself as he drives a Lincoln through your darkened living room. And now you’re going to make a special trip to the theater for him?
You don’t want to deal with these feelings, and yet you feel you’re being dishonest to yourself if you don’t admit they’re in there somewhere. Part of love is confronting inconvenient emotions like this in an attempt to understand and ultimately move past them. But you’ll get there. You’re confident you will. So is he. You’re both committed to the relationship long-term. He worked hard on this one; he wants you there with him as he boards that rocket ship to the next level of his career.
SEE IT. He totally GETS WHERE YOU’RE COMING FROM, and he’s GOING TO GIVE YOU SOME SPACE, just as soon as you buy this ticket. This is a CAPITAL-M MOVIE right here, no superheroes or nothing, don’t BAIL ON HIM NOW, BEAUTIFUL. You’re gonna GET THROUGH THIS and be STRONGER FOR IT.
How about Anne Hathaway?
This is the part where we ride for Anne Hathaway and the part where you probably begin to daydream about stabbing us in the throat. Go ahead, hover over the tiny X that closes this tab. Click the mouse. You don’t scare us.
Hathaway’s only crime has been caring too much. About how to maintain perfect pitch with most of her teeth yanked out in revolutionary France. About making sure we all knew how much the Oscar meant to her. About discovering which distant planet might best sustain human life as Earth rapidly approaches uninhabitability. What kind of monster refuses to appreciate that kind of dedication to her work? Look in the mirror. That kind of monster.
That being said. This is not the Anne Hathaway tour de force you’re hoping for. There will be no Academy Award nomination for this haircut and this spacesuit, not a year after Sandy Bullock got one for carrying the whole deal herself. Anne’s along for the ride, not steering the ship.
SKIP IT. You will have MANY MORE OPPORTUNITIES to become IRRATIONALLY ANGRY AT ANNE HATHAWAY because of YOUR OWN SHORTCOMINGS.
Do you love a loaded ensemble cast?
Oh, boy, here we go: McConaughey. Hathaway. Jessica Chastain. Casey Affleck. Matt “How Am I Fifth-Billed Right Now?” Damon. John Lithgow. Michael Caine. Ellen Burstyn. We could count up all the Oscars this group has won, but we’re not going to, because that would entail a lot of clicking back and forth between IMDb pages and a calculator app, and we are very busy people. Suffice it to say: That is a loaded ensemble cast. It would be borderline irresponsible to have any more star power in a single film. You’ve got to spread that shit out, so other movies don’t starve to death from a talent deficit.
SEE IT. Because we didn’t even MENTION WES BENTLEY yet. [Throws plastic bag into the air, films its majestically slow descent.] Or how about TOPHER! P! H! FUCKING! GRACE! [Pauses to watch entirety of In Good Company and fire Toph’s agents for bungling his career.] And don’t forget WILLLLLIAMMMM DEVAAAAANNNNNNEEEEE! [High-fives your dad, picks up the tab for lunch at the club.]
Are you firm in your belief that Casey Affleck is an egregiously underutilized treasure?
You may remember Casey Affleck as the star of Gone Baby Gone. Or the coward in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Or one of the perpetrators of Joaquin Phoenix’s ill-advised hoaxumentary, I’m Still Here, for which we have long forgiven all involved parties.
Casey Affleck, as we mentioned above, is in Interstellar. We had very high hopes for Casey Affleck in Interstellar.
Casey Affleck remains an egregiously underutilized treasure.
SKIP IT. Let’s get Casey Affleck some BIGGER PARTS TO PLAY. Do you realize his BROTHER IS BATMAN NOW? Casey Affleck SHOULD BE BATMAN. We don’t care how AWKWARD THAT MIGHT MAKE FAMILY DINNERS, where Ben is all, “I WAS REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO BEING BATMAN, DUDE” and places his FORK DOWN IN THAT DISAPPOINTED WAY HE HAS, and then Casey is like, “SORRY, BRO, I CAN’T HELP that they REALIZED I’D BE BETTER FOR THE PART after that set visit,” and then Jennifer Garner and Summer Phoenix EXCHANGE EYE-DAGGERS as Casey PASSES THE SALT, because WHY IS JEN ALWAYS UNDERSEASONING THE POT ROAST? Their fraught family dynamic is NOT OUR CONCERN.
Do you have a daughter?
If you’ve seen any of the advance interviews, you may have heard Nolan talk about how Interstellar is a movie with cool spaceships and wormholes and several prop blackboards’ worth of meticulously researched but still very suspect-seeming theoretical physics, but at its core, it’s really just an intimate story about fathers and daughters. And you may have said to yourself, “Well, sure, there’s probably some of that stuff in the movie, because even a giant space-blockbuster needs some kind of accessible four-quadrant emotional through-line to get made these days, even with a huge roster of bankable stars and an A-list director who’s made billions at the box office shepherding it.”
But believe us when we tell you: Nolan is not messing around about parenthood. He is as deeply committed to dramatizing the importance of the father/daughter relationship in Interstellar as he was to the Inception idea that your angry dead wife will stalk you four dream-levels deep the moment your eyelids start to flutter. It’s tremendously affecting at points, event filmmaking at the most essentially human scale possible.
And at other points: Hey, we get it, you love your kids, Capt. Astronaut. Even the son who couldn’t pass the engineer test and will spend the rest of his days tending crop fires and joylessly raking up scorched kernels of corn because somebody’s got to maintain the syrup fields.3 You would literally slingshot yourself across the universe to secure your family’s future, bend space-time itself for one more chance to see their faces. You could no more separate fathers and daughters from this narrative than extract a singularity from inside a black hole with a pair of giant salad tongs. This is why he made the movie. Listen to the man when he says he’s not just blowing an apocalyptic dust storm up your skirt.
The environment is ruined, but it seems that there is still plenty of soda to go around. Well played, Mr. Nolan.
SEE IT. Will you CRY? We can’t ANSWER THAT QUESTION. We have NO IDEA how you FEEL ABOUT YOUR KIDS. Maybe they AREN’T THAT GREAT and a TRIP TO SPACE to GET THE HELL AWAY from them SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD RIGHT ABOUT NOW.
Do you have a severe dust allergy?
There is a lot of dust in this movie. There are daylight-swallowing dust clouds rolling through the fields and dust eddies gently floating through sunbeams in the house. There is dust on the bookshelves, dust falling in interesting patterns on the floor, dust slowly choking out an entire planet. This movie might be the biggest moment dust has ever had.
You get the feeling Nolan’s the kind of guy who wanders the house in one white glove, trying to find spots the housekeeper may have missed with the Swiffer. The housekeeper’s pretty tired of that routine. She doesn’t need a haughty British guy waving a smudgy finger in her face all the time, she’s doing the best she can, one forgotten spot on the damn credenza’s not going to wipe out all the life on Earth.
SKIP IT. We are NOT BOARD-CERTIFIED ALLERGISTS, but we CANNOT GUARANTEE you will NOT DIE OF A PSYCHOSOMATIC SNEEZING FIT, especially IN IMAX. But if you go, WEAR A MASK. It can’t hurt.
Do you own at least one throw pillow that’s embroidered with a sentiment like “Love is the answer” or “All you need is L♥VE?”
Nolan’s speaking your language, baby. In fact, when you get home, you will probably find yourself tearing apart those throw pillows, convinced that the secrets of the universe are contained within them. Especially if you haven’t dusted in a while.
SEE IT. Think of LOVE as THE FORCE, but you can’t use it TO CHOKE DUDES OUT WITH YOUR MIND.
Robots! We forgot to ask you your opinion on robots. You want robots in your space movie, right?
We’ve got robots! Who’s going to do all the thankless diagnostic and computational work while our heroes are gallivanting around on the surface of breathtaking ice planets to determine their suitability for human life? Robots, that’s who. Funny-looking robots with programmable senses of humor. Think C-3PO trapped in the chassis of a giant Leatherman tool, and he’s kind of passive-aggressive about how silly he looks jackknifing around everywhere like a clumsy fool. The kids are gonna love the robot toys, especially when they realize they can get creative, move them over to the Smoldering Corn Fields Action Playset, and use them to smash up Casey Affleck’s truck.
SEE IT. If you DON’T LIKE WISEASS ROBOTS, you’re even more HOPELESS THAN THE ANTI-SPACE PEOPLE. Robots can teach you IMPORTANT LESSONS ABOUT YOUR OWN HUMANITY. Are you EVEN WORTH SAVING if you can’t enjoy a GOOD ROBOT IN SPACE? Probably not. Your father is NEVER COMING BACK from his MISSION TO THE INTERGALACTIC CIGARETTE STORE, because you are a BLACK HOLE FROM WHICH EVEN FUN CAN NOT ESCAPE. Enjoy DUSTY OBLIVION.