A funny thing happened to me while at the movies these past few days, but first a prologue.
This year, like any other, had films I was really looking forward to seeing, and even some that will come out next year due to Australian release differences. But most of them are small films that may or may not come to my town. There weren't much big films I had high hopes for, but the ones I were looking forward to I was certain I would love. GONE GIRL was one and that knocked right out of the park. I'm still grateful I never finished reading the book before it got to THAT scene. If you know what I'm talking about, cool.
The 2nd big film I anticipated was INTERSTELLAR, the new joint by Christopher Nolan who, in my eyes, has never made a bad film. I cannot tell you what his best film is because quite frankly, I have no idea. What I can tell you is that his worst or should I say weakest film is INSOMNIA.
It's not a bad film by any means. It's got a great mood and Robin Williams (R.I.P.) gives one of his best performances as the cunning Walter Finch. But when you compare it to Nolan's other flicks, especially coming off the cusp of MEMENTO, it falls rather short.
Just above INSOMNIA is BATMAN BEGINS. Again, not a bad film but when I first saw it in the theatre back in 2005 I can recall that it seemed too fast paced. It never gave me a chance to catch my breath what with so much story in it. Nowadays I watch it with more enthusiasm now that I've gotten more used to it.
But anyway, INTERSTELLAR was on near the top of my 'Must-fucking-watch' list, below INHERENT VICE and BIRDMAN, and I had plans to see it in the Gold Room of my local theatre. It's a special screening room that has comfier armchairs that recline and you get blankets to snuggle up with and you get served hot food and alcohol if you so desired. I had a Gold Room pass that I received for Christmas in 2013 and I had not used it until INTERSTELLAR (I originally had plans to use it for GONE GIRL but there was a fundraiser going on at the time).
I went Friday morning to schedule a booking for 8.00 pm for me and my mother, who also wanted to see it. When that was done the man serving me said that it was another great film from Nolan. I smiled, trying to hide some reservations I had.
For you see, before the movie came out, the reviews started pouring in slowly. To say that reviews were mixed would be pretty accurate. For every Richard Roeper who gave INTERSTELLAR an A+, about 5 other movie sites gave it a C or a D. BadAss Digest weren't helping much either, and MovieBob said that it was the worst of the Nolan oeuvre.
But still I tried to remain undeterred, which wasn't easy. Come Friday night at 8.00 we went in, sat in our seats, waited for the ads and trailers to finish and the movie started.
When the movie ended I knew something was wrong. I'm the kind of guy who likes everything. Well, almost everything. I'm a sucker for schmaltzy scenes that make me cry buckets and/or give me goosebumps with an ultimate feeling of awe. But very little, like a handful, of scenes made me feel that way, if at all. Much like one of the planets the characters go to, the movie felt cold, barren, devoid of life.
I came back home, disappointed. Could this be it? Has Christopher Nolan made a film weaker than INSOMNIA? I certainly thought so. While I didn't say so in my original review, my general feelings toward INTERSTELLAR was INTER-MEH-LAR. Snarky, sure, but accurate.
I said this to my friends and they felt disappointed that I, the guy who loved INCEPTION (which isn't so much highly regarded by them. You know who you are) was not at all moved or got much enjoy out of this. I was in the realm of people who in a shared mindset that a film everyone had high hopes for did not turn out to be the masterpiece they were expecting. And it wasn't fun.
Then some of my friends went and saw the movie, one of them I believe saw it IMAX (lucky bastard) and started raving about it. It was one of the best things they ever saw, going so far as to compare to the likes of MAGNOLIA, which is generally the best film ever made in our circle. I couldn't believe it at first. But I accepted it pretty quickly. I joined in the conversation about INTERSTELLAR and what happened in it, especially the final act. But I couldn't get into the pure gushing enthusiasm over it. It made me sad. I wanted to love the movie, but I couldn't. It seemed stale despite all the effort that was thrown into making it. So I made myself a promise: I will see the movie again.
You know what they say about first impression? When you first try something it may not agree with you, but as time goes on it becomes better and you can't get enough of it?
I bought a standard screening on a Tuesday night. I will forever remember that day. There were a good amount of people going to see INTERSTELLAR, one person had a shirt with the Kojima Productions logo on it. We sat down at 6.00 pm and the movie eventually started.
And then I felt it. All the emotions, all the goosebumps, all the tears that were absent from the first screening came roaring through. When Cooper leaves his daughter, travelling through the wormhole, the docking sequence and that final act, woah daddy. This was it. This was what I was expecting. An emotional rollercoaster that's full of ideas and charges right at you. INTERSTELLAR sprang from being the weakest Nolan film to one of the best films of 2014.
I came out of the theatre slightly drained emotionally. Not just from the movie, but by the cathartic relief that the first time was some strange fluke. Why didn't I see it before? What could have happened that made me at first disappointed but now enraptured by this gem of a sci-fi flick?
If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that I was expecting something I didn't get the first time around. I made the mistake of judging a movie I wanted instead of the movie I received.
When we see trailers we think we have a common consensus of what we will be getting from a movie. I felt I was going to be getting a great film, which I did eventually, but I wanted it to be great on my own terms. That's a trap I think many people fall into. We think we know what we want and when stories go against the grain of what and where we expect a movie to go, we tend to revolt. At least when it doesn't agree with us in the first place.
Upon first seeing INTERSTELLAR, I thought I knew where it would go but then it didn't. Usually that would be a good thing but it wasn't in this case. On 2nd viewing, now that I know where it would go and what it was trying to say, I could embrace it.
I kept thinking how much better this movie could be if it was made by Steven Spielberg like it was originally made for. I wasn't judging it on its terms but, like I said, my own. And that was unfair. This is a film that challenges us on where we are in the universe, what we're capable of us and that mysterious force that unites us as puny human beings: Love.
Sure some people would scoff at that last idea. I can understand, it almost didn't work on me originally. But I ask, no I implore you. If you had reservations about INTERSTELLAR or some other ambitious film because it didn't work for you, try seeing it again. You never know what you missed the first time.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have this crow I must eat.