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When Michael Caine stands before you in an apocalyptic science fiction film and says “There’s a plan A and a plan B,” you may want to opt for Plan X: the departure door. This man’s humanity-saving dossier includes The Swarm and Jaws IV, films so bad they became canonic. Interstellar comes from that dealer in forensic fantasy-worlds Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception), a Brit for whom Caine, his ex-Batman butler, is evidently talismanic and whose other stars, here including Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, merely join the commissary queue behind Sir Michael.
Interstellar is terrible, wonderful, sensational, thrilling, imbecilic. In any order you want. We start by admiring its ambition. Ex-test pilot McConaughey is told to leave his dustbowl farm on crumbling Earth to join Professor Caine’s boffin daughter Hathaway on a new-world mission to far galaxies. They’ll pass Mars, take the first wormhole after Saturn, keep on towards the Big Bang and pick up strays on the way. These include a Famous Hollywood Star now so pudgy he looks as if Mars has been handing out candy bars for hypersleepers.
Years are tossed around as gleefully as space and speed, amid special effects often stupendous in surround-sound and Imax. Matt and Anne go for a short reccy on Planet Somewhere and return to find their stay-behind co-astronaut 23 years older. That’s relativity for you. Down on Earth, McConaughey’s daughter, hating daddy for desertion, grows up to become Jessica Chastain. Will they be reunited before their bio-clocks cross?
Time is decreasingly kind to the 168-minute movie itself. The science-babble grows more convoluted – for the ending you need a baccalaureate in black hole theory – as the intervening script stays in the kindergarten. Hathaway’s Dr Brand to McConaughey’s Cooper: “This world was never enough for you, was it, Coop?” Nope, as Coop himself (Gary) might say. Man’s gotta do. Hollywood’s gotta be. And every warp in the cosmos must lead back, finally, to the woof of welcome from happy, tail-wagging genre populism. Tears of triteness; family reintegration; and don’t think for a nano-moment that the storytelling bone thrown to us in Interstellar, however spectacular, is any relation to the bone Kubrick threw – truly outdistancing cinematic gravity – in 2001.