The Bock’s Office: ‘Interstellar’ a great space film undone by Hollywood black hole | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Interstellar’ a great space film undone by Hollywood black hole

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) says an emotional farewell to his daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy), in "Interstellar." The movie is about a former pilot brought back into service to fly a space mission and possibly save a dying Earth in the near future.

By now, announcing that you're boldly going where no man has gone before barely even warrants a shrug from movie audiences. That doesn't stop the maker of "Interstellar" from going a step beyond, even if he quickly takes two more steps backward.

In the near future, Earth is no longer the world it used to be. Technology is limited as the populace tries to preserve its limited resources, with vegetation dying more and more as the years pass.

It's not the life former engineer and reluctant farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) thought he would have for himself and his children (Timothée Chalamet, Mackenzie Foy), but he's learned to cope with his disappointments.

His dashed hopes of being an astronaut may have a chance of happening, though, when he learns NASA, thought to be shut down years ago, still is operational. And, as luck would have it, they are in need of a pilot for a mission that could save humanity.

A wormhole discovered within the galaxy has allowed scientists to scout out other planets that may be suitable for population.

More exploration is needed, and the journey may very well take an entire lifetime, leaving Cooper with the impossible choice of staying with his family in the dismal present or helping them have a brighter tomorrow.

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McConaughey continues his solid streak of work as a science-minded man destined to be among the stars who instead has been firmly on the ground, his expertise limited to repairing agricultural equipment in a depressing, dirty landscape that he loathes. Still, even when he's given the chance to get off the dying blue marble that's been his prison, there's still his kids to consider, Foy really pulling the heartstrings as his daughter, Murphy, who won't allow him to leave without a guilt trip.

Try carrying that with you as you travel to the other side of the universe.

Anne Hathaway also is in good form as fellow shuttle jockey Amelia Brand, who opts for the project with less hesitation and fewer attachments other than her professor father (Michael Caine), the mind behind the strategy for Earth's salvation, all put together without truly knowing the slightest thing about any of these other worlds, not even how far away they may be.

Well, you got any better ideas?

Finally, Jessica Chastain is as top-notch as usual as a grown Murphy, following in Cooper's footsteps by joining NASA's efforts to save the world, though not without feelings of abandonment by the only person who ever understood her.

The future here doesn't look that bleak unless you're bothered by endless dust storms and an educational system that scolds children who dare to dream and step outside the parameters of what's known as a "caretaker generation" for the planet. No wonder Cooper doesn't think twice about getting away from this.

The setup is so familiar, you can enter the theater 30 minutes late without missing anything important, as long as you catch the scenes immediately before blast-off, which is where things start to get interesting, and by the time our crew reaches this gateway to new possibilities, the propulsion really gets going, and not just because it looks like the opening of "Doctor Who."

Speaking purely from the technical side, Christopher Nolan's direction is superb, helped along by first-time contributor Hoyte van Hoytema's astonishing cinematography, looking every bit like a real probe into the furthest reaches of outer space. What's frustrating is that Nolan approaches this voyage so cautiously he gets in his own way of doing all he can to make it grand.

The concept of time is inescapable here, whether it's the curvature of space time that makes one hour on one of these new planets tantamount to nearly a decade on Earth — hooray for the convenience of general relativity to keep our lead actors young! — or the unforgiving nature of knowing you'll miss your kids' entire lives.

It's the latter where Nolan and brother Jonathan go astray in their script, straying from the brilliance of the portrayal of actual scientific principles for a daddy-daughter tale that any hack could have slapped together. Plus, for all the talk of the answers to our problems being "out there," everyone seems pretty rooted in the arrogance that humanity can solve everything.

As to the deus ex machina ending, it works, it makes sense and yet, it feels like the siblings wrote themselves into a corner to the point of singularity.

Critics will be debating over the magnitude of "Interstellar" for years to come, because while it shows the capability of being the greatest science fiction film ever made at times, the insistence of trying to make it too cuddly leaves it light-years away from being labeled as art.

A jarring, sometimes polarizing musical score by Hans Zimmer feels like a respectable filmmaker's choice, but a robot assistant whose humor function is always set at 100 percent?

That's got studio executive written all over it.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“Interstellar,” rated PG-13

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 169 minutes

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.