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Movie review: Interstellar

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816692/?ref_=hm_cht_t2

Talk about good timing. Yes, this film has been on the release schedule for a while. What look what else happens? About the same time the ESA's Rosetta spacecraft rendezvoused with a comet and launched it's Philae probe and LANDED on the comet. Also a counter-point to the destruction of Spaceship two and the death of one of it's pilots. Over-all though a very important reminder of the dangers of space travel, the challenges it poses in terms of technology and lives, and to be blunt the fact going into space is not for wimps.

One of the sad effects of the shuttle program was the fact traveling into space became almost mundane. Yeah, yeah, that space truck is going up again with a bunch of guys and stuff to do science. The years and years of launches, even with the intervening tragedies of Columbia and Challenger, caused the exploration of space to become just another thing on the news. Which is a shame. Exploration should never be mundane. There should always be a sense of wonder, awe, achievement, challenge, and at times also of heart-break and fear.

The hard lessons Chris Nolan meant to pass on to folks via his latest film 'Interstellar'. The joy and sorrow, the wonder and panic, all of it. Oh, and along the way to tell a pretty freaking awesome sci-fi story with incredible special effects that makes even Neil DeGrasse Tyson give a thumbs up. Folks, welcome to aboard the inter-galactic ride which is 'Interstellar'.
But first, spoiler-shields up!
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Ok, are we good to go? Sweeeeeeeeeeeet!

Nolan and his crew go where few dare in film; sci-fi stories that don't involve blowing crap up. Now don't get me wrong, it's FUN watching that stuff. However there's something to be said to emphasize the SCIENCE in sci-fi. In this case let's take a disaster film and raise it to global proportions. We're in the near future, REALLY near, and unfortunately we're in trouble. Down the road our farming techniques will finally piss-off nature enough that crops are dying in droves and the planet is turning into a dust-bowl.

Things are so bad that Cooper, a pilot and engineer, has become a farmer. It's so bad only certain students are allowed to become engineers because in the eyes of the planet we really need farmers.
So how do we dig ourselves out of this mess? Well, someone somewhere... or some-WHEN, is giving us a hand in the form of a worm-hole to a far away galaxy. Ok, far FAR away is actually more applicable. Prof. Brand, Cooper's teacher, and a group from what's left of NASA have come up with a plan. There appear to be a few viable planets Over There which were discovered by a group of brave, crazy, bit of both, scientists who took a one-way trip into the worm-hole to see what planets looked promising. Cooper is picked to be the hot-shot pilot for a team a scientists to go through the worm-hole and find humanities salvation.

Easy! Suuuuuuuuure it is. If you thought the first explorers on Earth had problems, you ain't seen nuthin'. Everything from the obvious things like problems with the ship to really exotic problems like time dilation threaten to wreck everything. Time runs out faster then you can imagine as the mission in space AND engineers and scientists on Earth try to save humanity.
Oh, and while the crap is hitting the fan Up There, things on Terra Firma are also kinda nutty as the plan to save humanity, and Cooper's family, are going hay-wire. Oh, and Cooper has kids and his daughter hates him for abandoning her.

Yeah, there's a LOT going on here. The beauty of the film hits you on so many levels. First, this is old-school sci-fi. No laser guns. No Xenomorphs. SCIENCE fiction, think ‘Robot and Frank’ and ‘Moon’. And it is sooooooooooo refreshing. Granted I like the robo-porn of ‘Transformers’ and the epic insanity of ‘Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’. However to have a story that feels grounded and real is a wonderful, welcome change of pace.

Next, it’s tempting to wonder ‘OK, if we got to the Moon what’s the big deal about getting to Mars?’ Folks, this is why exploration is NOT for tourists, it not for pussies. YOU WILL DIE, YOU WILL FACE HELL. Actually dying is the GOOD part. The worst part is you are stranded along for YEARS with no chance of rescue. ALONE. On a landscape that may try and kill you. With nothing but the same freaking paperback book to keep you company. Yeah, kinda sucks! So you have some MAJOR cajones if you do this. Or you got crazy… or both.

And for the MacGyver fans out there watching Cooper pull out every engineering and piloting miracle out of his hat is a joy to behold. Anyone who loved ‘Apollo 13’ will love this stuff.

The story also feels frighteningly relevant. The destruction to our environment. Poke around news sites and you'll hear horror-stories about how close we could be to have our crops obliterated the way they are in the film. And ask anyone who's been to Arizona about those dust-storms. Eeek! And unlike the film, we do NOT have any special plan to save ourselves... gulp.

But that isn't all. In the midst of so much techno-babble and feeling like you're getting a crash-course in astrophysics, there's a story about humanity. The story is a reminder of our place in the universe and our will, hell our NEED to strive further then the next hill, the next ocean, the next star. It's what we are, it's what we do. It's not just a source of hope and inspiration, it's what we are as a species. If all we did was sit on our ass and be content then we would have died peacefully from exposure after the first Ice Age. We didn't, and the film drives home that need of our species.

A hysterical surprise is TARS. TARS is the obligatory, multifunction robot in the film. He looks like a shiny version of The Monolith from '2001' but in reality he's a super-complex 'bot with incredible skills. I had visions of just a quiet ‘bot who just does stuff. Oh hell no! As warm and fuzzy as Baymax is in 'Big Hero 6', TARS is a cynical, snarky bastard but you get to love his frankness and sacrifice.

Oh, and be warned, there are twist and turns here. No, seriously. If you're a Nolan fan you're accustomed to his wackiness. 'Memento' is too obvious, even 'Inception' is way obvious. 'The Prestige' is the best example of Nolan's habit of throwing in a change-up when you least expect it. (Note to M. Night Himalayan, THIS is how you do The Twist.)

Perfect story? Ok, this is when the nit-picking comes in. Do we HAVE to have some dues-ex-machina come in to save us? Yeah, yeah, I used an Ivory Tower term for the little people who sent the wormhole. But again, this is nit-picking.
Oh, and the film is long. Not like 'The Avengers' where you go 'Holy crap that went by fast!' It's NOT like 'The Hobbit' where you're looking at your clock going 'Um... are we done yet?' No, it's like 'Lord of the Rings'. It's a fun story, lots of cool stuff to watch, but after a while... you... start... to get... a little restless. Oh, and be wary how big that beverage you got with your popcorn.

Visually… it’s getting boring seeing giant castles and epic battles on a plain. Or even giant robots and what not. Seen that, done that. Seeing a freaking WORMHOLE????? Or the edge of a black hole????????? HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!

The cast is exceptional. Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine are wonderful as the father-daughter team of Dr. Brand. I've heard some folks say they didn't like Matt Damon but I loved him as Dr. Mann. Is he quirky, wooden, and off? Sure, but considering what's he's gone through and OTHER things, it's quite understandable.

Bill Irwin is wonderful as the voice of TARS. Just a bit of snark... ok, a LOT of snark, a ton of sincerity, and an amazing amount of heart. And all done without a face to work with.

Matthew McConaughey is outstanding as Cooper. That easy smile and drawl becomes defiant as he sees the world crumble and he must decide if his family is going to be sacrificed for the world. And then watching him turn into freaking uber-pilot/MacGyver during the mission is a wonder to watch.

Last call? This is opening night, midnight showing stuff. This is a story of epic proportions. It's a tale of love, hope, nightmares, humanity, the works. It's told with the type of visual effects that leave you breathless, and done with a cast and crew that is loving the ride. It's a film that strives to be MORE then just a story with pretty eye candy... wow, kinda like humanity striving for more. Huh...

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