One thing you can say about Christopher Nolan, he doesn’t do anything small. His newest film, after leaving the lucrative Dark Knight franchise, is this very, very long character study of a man, his family, and saving planet Earth. Any resemblance to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is purely intentional.
Matthew McConaughey plays Joe Cooper. He’s a widowed former astronaut living on a bleak Kansas corn farm because the world is in dire straits. NASA has been disbanded as well as all Armed Forces; food is now the world’s #1 priority (we aren’t told why, what happened, or even what year it is). Cooper ekes out a life with his two kids, 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and 15-year-old son, Tom (Timothée Chalamet). His father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow), who also lives there, tells Cooper that Murph is hearing ghosts in her room, but an investigation shows a bizarre gravitational anomaly that, when figured out, points to a map location.
Cooper and Murph drive to a mysterious location that turns out to be an abandoned NORAD facility, but it’s anything but abandoned! It’s teeming with scientists and workers building a massive second Earth inside the ground. Why? They plan on moving all the peep’s on Earth to some new planets they found just past Saturn, thanks to a newly discovered worm hole. Previous missions there have yielded only a smattering of promising information. Problem is, they need an ace pilot (hint, hint) to fly there and make sure one of those planets is inhabitable. . . but it’ll take decades to achieve!
Cooper, ever the loving family man, reluctantly agrees and joins scientist Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), daughter of project leader, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and others on the perilous trip, despite young Murph’s tearful objections. She says that the ‘ghost’ told her that he should stay.
Then there’s the mission: flying there through the worm hole, a whole lotta techno space-speak on time relevancy vs the planet’s gravitational pull when they get there, which planet should they visit first, and how much time to spend there. Out of the three, one planet is all water and the other frozen one has whacked-out scientist Dr. Mann (Matt Damon) still living on it, but he’s not much help.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, decades roll on by and Tom (Casey Affleck) now runs the farm with his lung-diseased wife and son. Murph (Jessica Chastain), however, is working at NORAD with Dr. Brand on the Earth 2 project and discovers a horrible secret: Dr. Brand lied. He knew that the project was never going to work without a critical key factor: an unknown black hole mathematical equation. Uh-oh!
Cooper and Amelia find out about the lie, but screw it, they’re gonna enter that black hole and get that equation, thanks to TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) their shape-shifting, on-board robot. They jettison themselves from the main space station in separate ships, but Cooper goes for the black hole, sending Amelia away to safely on the third planet.
Will Amelia find safety? Will Cooper find the equation, and if he does, how will he send it back to Earth? Will Murph learn the truth of that “ghost” in her room back home? And what’s with all those Dylan Thomas poetry readings? Seriously, do we really need to hear them ALL the time?
This is one loooooooooong movie, clocking in at just about three hours. Written by director Christopher and his brother, Jonathan, this beautifully photographed, magnificent grand opus is at times thought-provoking in it’s Eco-disaster message, but gets tedious and sometimes just plain boring in it’s ho-hum dialogue, meticulous in methodology, and long drawn-out scenes that go nowhere. Yes, there are some action sequences, but clearly not enough to sustain the lengthy running time. At the sold-out screening I attended, no one applauded at the end. Not a good sign.
I did like all the homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey and the exquisite cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema. What I missed was the lack of humor (although there was some) and the sense of wonder and awe. Everything was so matter-of-fact, there was no “wow” factor. Honestly, I think Chris should stick to superhero movies.
When Worlds Collide (1951)
Almost like replaying 1998’s Deep Impact’s opening, the beginning is much the same: a set of top-secret photographs are taken by an astronomer and whisked away to the United Nations to confirm some tragic news. A rogue star named Bellus is on a collision course with Earth! Oh no! Only instead of sending a space shuttle with Robert Duvall aboard to go and blow the sucker up, they decide to just build a ginormous space ship and leave Earth for good.
But where are they gonna go? It seems that there’s a planet called Zyra orbiting Bellus that might sustain human life once they get there. Might sustain life? The U.N. scoffs at Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating) and his daughter, Joyce (Barbara Rush) who present their hypothesis. They think they’re nuts.
However, other distinguished scientists believe Hendron and he receives help from friends to build an ark spaceship. To finance the construction, Hendron is forced to accept money from acerbic, wheelchair-bound magnate >Sidney Stanton (John Hoyt) as long as he gets a seat on the ship. Sounds okay as long as the ship’s construction is underway with precious little time (eight months and counting) to go.
Meanwhile, the people working on the ship figure they’ll get a chance to go and there’s even a romance that blossoms between two workers that doesn’t go unnoticed by Joyce. Trouble arises as cataclysmic earthquakes and floods devastate the planet as Bellus gets closer and closer. Fear grips the campsite as hoards of people, desperate to get on board the ark ship, are willing to do anything to get a seat. Worse yet, the ship can only hold a select few!
In the end, the ship blasts off just in the nick of time and against all odds, leaving behind a blown-up Earth. They land safely on Zyra and find it has breathable air, but what lies ahead, well… that’s another story for another day.
Directed by Rudolph Mate and based on the 1933 novel, this is a real treat for sci-fi fans for its amazing Technicolor looks. That, plus Mate’s wonderful direction and the impressive cinematography of W. Howard Greene and John F. Seitz and, of course, it’s a George Pal produced movie, which means it’s got his “look” stamped all over it. Pal’s Academy Award winning animation and direction is iconic and you can see many of his touches in this film.