Interstellar is far from stellar

Given that a good 85 per cent of the movie is filled with earnest conversations about gravity it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Interstellar struggles so much to get off the ground. Indeed Christopher Nolan’s latest is not the sleek chic starship that his legion of fanboys demanded but a clunky Sputnik-era booster straining under a massive payload of hubris.

More than anything else it’s a testament to the fact that Nolan may be the only Hollywood director of the moment who really can do whatever the hell he wants (he can thank the $2.5-billion worldwide gross for The Dark Knight trilogy). And what he wants most of all is to make his own 2001: A Space Odyssey i.e. a weighty philosophically minded and eminently Kubrickian science-fiction epic that envisions a whole new frontier for mankind while wowing the punters into awed submission.

As his pilot he’s chosen Matthew McConaughey who dials his brah setting down to medium to play Cooper a former engineer and pilot now toiling as a corn farmer on a future Earth whose inhabitants have been humbled by massive food shortages. Despite living in conditions meant to evoke the Dust Bowl era Cooper remains a big dreamer and he passes the flame onto his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). After Cooper discovers a secret NASA base run by his old physics professor Brand (Michael Caine) he’s asked to lead a mission to the stars alongside Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway). With the fate of humanity hanging in the balance Cooper travels through a mysterious wormhole near Saturn to search for the new world we all so desperately need. Meanwhile back on Earth an older Murph (now played by Jessica Chastain) mucks about with the theory of relativity as part of her own campaign against gravity.

It’s all sufficiently complicated and at one point Cooper resorts to a dry-erase board to explain matters to his crewmates which still doesn’t help very much. But the scientific bafflegab proves to be something of a smokescreen — what Nolan really wants to demonstrate is the transcendent power of love a theme the film hits with the same lack of subtlety as the frantic often pointless cross-cutting of its latter half and Hans Zimmer’s econo-sized score.

To be fair Nolan’s technical prowess is indisputable when it comes to Interstellar’s portrayal of the logistical challenges of near-future space travel. What’s more Nolan’s dedication to IMAX and preference for shooting on film over digital seems even more commendable when you get to see what’s inside a wormhole. But too much of the rest feels leaden and prosaic. Eager to equip his space venture with the same blend of icy intelligence and trippy wonder that marks 2001: A Space Odyssey and the underrated Kubrick/Spielberg mind-meld of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence Nolan burns up an awful lot of fuel to achieve a fraction of his desired velocity.

INTERSTELLAR directed by Christopher Nolan starring Matthew McConaughey Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain opens on Friday November 7.