Interstellar is proving to be quite divisive, with early audiences either adoring Christopher Nolan’s opus for all its ambitions, or rejecting it flat out. How can we tell? Well, in the poll we posted at the bottom of our Spoiler Heavy discussion, 27% of those who voted gave it a perfect Five Stars, while 34% gave it Zero. Pretty much everything in between those extremes rated a single digit, percentage-wise.
I fall into the "Hated It" camp. But it goes beyond that. I think Christopher Nolan’s film fails at most of its stated objectives. The movie lost me early (for a few very specific reasons), and it never recovered – committing what I believe are a few crucial sins that betray its intention. It’s one thing to be bad. It’s another to be so deeply flawed that you contradict the reasons given for your film’s existence.
Needless to say, there are going to be a TON of spoilers for Interstellar in this conversation, so stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen the film, or if you want to preserve the mysteries waiting in Nolan’s movie. As for the rest of you, I know that as soon as I exited Interstellar, I wanted to read as much analysis as possible into the film. Here are the reasons why I think the film is a disaster.
Cooper’s relationship with his kids is an emotional flatline.And that's a death blow. A kill shot. For Interstellar to work the way Christopher Nolan really wants it to work, the audience has to want to see Matthew McConaughey’s astronaut, Cooper, overcome galactic obstacles and reunite with his kids – specifically, his daughter Murph, who he "abandoned" decades earlier in order to embark on this space mission. Only, Nolan isn’t an emotional director. He’s a technical director. And he doesn’t capture enough (any?) sentimental chemistry between father and daughter in the time they have together on screen. So their desire to reunite is stated over and over... but it's never felt.
Cooper’s a distant dad, with his head in the stars. He has to be chided into attending a parent-teacher conference by Murph’s doting grandfather (John Lithgow). Though the pair semi-bond over a pilotless drone – and the existence of a "ghost" in Murph’s bedroom – Cooper and Murph are hastily split once the former rushes off on a space expedition he learned about days before the launch. McConaughey tries to connect with young Mackenzie Foy, but the actress is asked to play one angry, resentful note over and over, extinguishing any bond that could carry the second and third acts of the film.
You ultimately can tell Nolan’s heart isn’t even into this father-daughter relationship as the film’s final minutes slog by – when the characters finally do reunite during an uncomfortably awkward futuristic setting. After five minutes of clunky dialogue (during which McConaughey fails to establish any rapport with Ellen Burstyn), Murph sends her estranged father away so she can be with her children and he can "rescue" Anne Hathaway’s stranded astronaut. Because they are in love? I have no clue, and neither does Nolan, because the film abruptly ends with no further resolution. Still, as a dad, I’m pre-programmed to dial directly into the emotional bond between Cooper and Murph (his son, Tom, sadly is a nonfactor in the story). But the relationship between the separated characters is so nonexistent in this film, it’s hard to believe that the reunion of these estranged family members is supposed to be the driving motivation of Interstellar.