Review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar – Great Visuals, High Ambition, Weak Story (SPOILER KLAXON)

THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT ! THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT! THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT! THIS IS A SPOILER aLERT!

In keeping with my self-appointed quest to populate this blog with the latest and choicest cinematic morsels I bring you a review of Christopher Nolan’s  sci-fi blockbuster “Interstellar”.

IMBD Synopsis

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Review

Like practically anyone who has seen one of his movies I am a Christopher Nolan fan. Out of all the directors working in film today Nolan is the only director who is consistently making the sort of smart, challenging blockbusters with clever plots that I want to see.

It is fair to say then I was looking forward to see Nolan’s latest offering ‘Interstellar’. I deliberately avoided information, reviews and spoilers. I went into the cinema ‘cold’ and I’m glad I did so because, if ever there was a film whose enjoyment cannot survive spoilers it is ‘Interstellar’.

In writing this review though I am unsure of my feelings. Previous Nolan films like the Dark Knight and Inception left me leaving the cinema with my mind blown.

This emphatically did not happen with Interstellar. Throughout the film’s three hour run time I was intrigued but I wasn’t captivated or gripped. Whilst I saw the Dark Knight in cinema twice and have watched it and Inception many many times on DVD I don’t feel the same way about Interstellar. In fact after seeing it once I have absolutely no desire to see it again but I am glad that I saw it on the big screen.

What worked

So what did I like about Interstellar? It is brilliantly shot. The space visuals were fantastic. I really got a sense of the isolation and scale of space. Furthermore, Nolan doesn’t use CGI too much and therefore when he does use CGI it works. Compared to “Gravity”, which I didn’t see on big screen, I thought the space stuff in Interstellar was far superior.

On top of the visuals there is also the soundtrack which is fantastic and really adds to the film. The scene where Cooper docks with the space station that is wildly spinning is tense and gripping and, frankly, awesome. At least 50% of this awesomeness is due to the score. This bit of the film also has the best bit of dialogue from the film “That’s impossible. No it’s necessary”.

What didn’t work

Unfortunately, there is plenty of stuff that didn’t work. Much of the strength of Nolan films has been the excellent plots that kept you guessing. The plot for this one couldn’t keep a clever 10 year old guessing.

Right from the off it was obvious that the answer to the film going to be the ‘ghost’ in Murphy’s room. This Checkov moment could be forgiven however if it wasn’t for the blatant and explicit use of Dues Ex Machina. Or to be accurate Future Humans Ex Blackholina.

This brings us to the second problem with the plot it is both needless contrived and too simple. There’s a plan A and a plan B and the possibility that plan A is a scam and then there is the ongoing crucial research on gravity and Coopers desire to go home to his children and Brand’s desire to go to her lovers planet.

There is all this going on and yet at the same time the like the ‘ghost’ the characters explicitly say love is the answer just follow your heart. Nolan is a god enough director that this didn’t produce waves of nausea from me but I;m not going to pretend that this hokeyness is good writing.

In short the plot of the film was just poor.

Conclusion

Nolan aims for deep space in Interstellar but doesn’t make it out beyond the moon. Interstellar is deeply flawed and isn’t a classic. Its ambition is so vast though that you’ve got to kind of like it. Plus these are the kind of films that we want to see made. So go out to the cinema and give Interstellar a watch.

Review of The Night Eternal : Part 3 of The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (SPOILER KLAXON)

Plot Synopsis

“It’s been two years since the vampiric virus was unleashed in The Strain and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation. There has been a mass extermination of humans orchestrated by the Master—an ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled powers. The future of humankind lies in the hands of a ragtag band of freedom fighters—Dr. Eph Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, Vasiliy Fet, and Mr. Quinlan, the half-breed offspring of the Master who is bent on revenge.”

Review

I don’t say this lightly. I can’t remember the last time I finished a series and regretted reading it but that is how I feel about ‘The Night Eternal’. After a strong first book and a so-so second book the Strain series concludes with The Night Eternal and it’s a complete stinker.

Books, films, poems, games, stories of any type really make implicit promises to the audience that things are going to unfold in certain ways. The story sets up questions that are going to be answered or at least expectations of the type of questions asked and/or the way that are being answered.

If you start off playing Mario you expect to fight Bowser and rescue Princess Peach. If the story starts with a quest to a far off mountain to destroy a magical ring the story better be about getting to the mountain and destroying said ring. If the story starts with John McCain taking his shoes off in a skyscraper then that skyscraper better be taken over by German terrorists and the fact he is shoeless needs to figure in also. You get the point.

The Night Eternal doesn’t understand this. ‘The Strain’ (Book One) set the scene about the type of story that is being told. The book starts off by putting a ‘scientific’ spin on Vampires. Rather than being mythical creatures the main character is the chief scientist for the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

When he starts investigating the outbreak he is looks at the situation in a rational, clinical way. He is doing autopsies of the infected bodies and we the audience get to see how the virus is completely taking over the host and rewriting its physiology at the most fundamental level.

This is an interesting and fresh take of the vampire myth. Given the popularity of Twilight and other vampire books that are essentially about teenage girls being able to bang impossibly hunky looking guys it is particularly refreshing. These vampires are EVIL, they want to destroy humanity and they have a plan to do it.

Now it is important to be realistic with vampire stories. We are dealing with well worn tropes here. So I’m not expecting things to completely different and I wouldn’t want them to be.

These vampires cannot cross flowing water unaided and they are hurt by silver. I’m fine with this and the vulnerability to silver is nicely explained by the Silver’s well known anti-bacterial properties. The story is fitting the tropes of vampires into the idea of vampirism as a virus that exists in the modern world. This is story that I’m expecting to be told.

In ‘The Night Eternal’ this ‘scientific’ story was completely jettisoned in what is a complete mess of a book. The book decides to give us the origins of ‘The Master’ by making the story about religion. In brief ‘The Master’ is one part of an Angel that came down to Earth when God was dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah. Stuff happens it turns evil.

Then to compound matters the climax of the story is straight up Deus Ex Machina in which it turns out that Eph is a prophet. He gets a vision from God and is miraculously given the answer. It’s really unsatisfying.

Furthermore, the series has set up a whole series of character arcs that it never takes the time to develop and then gets bored of and drops halfway through.

Annoyingly/pointlessly they decided to keep Nora’s Alzheimer suffering mother around only to have her killed off screen. Even worse they set up the relationship triangle with the Master, Eph and his son Zach only to leave it to late to do anything about the issue.

Then as a final kicker the entire story has a huge plot hole. The characters spend much of the book trying to acquire a detonator for a nuclear bomb as a nuke detonated at the right place can destroy ‘The Master’. This is fine but in passing they also decide to say that the UK has survived the vampire apocalypse in tact by flooding the channel tunnel.

It’s nice that they have saved my homeland but they didn’t think this through. The UK is a nuclear power. Its weapons are based on nuclear powered Trident submarines. Wikipedia tells me the UK has around 225 Nukes. I’m not going to go into all the permutations but one way or the other the UK is going to take care of this Vampire apocalypse/ be really really helpful. This avenue is completely ignored though and it is symptomatic of how lazy this book is.

In conclusion, this is one of the most disappointing conclusions to trilogy I’ve read. Given that the authors are really good storytellers on other projects. The Night Eternal’s laziness is inexcusable.