WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Casualties of Ambition

By on November 18, 2014
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Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey on the set of Interstellar. MELINDA SUE GORDON

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – When a director releases an impressive, culture-stirring film, he or she will forever be measured by it. All future films will be criticized as “not being as good” or “just as good, if not better than (blank).” Hopefully by now you have made it out to the theater to see Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, a three-hour opus involving black holes, alien planets and your everyday discussions on relativity and quantum physics. Fun!

Nolan’s films are hard to compare against one another, as he is constantly outdoing himself in terms of scope and technology. I have to admit that I was not the biggest fan of Interstellar, nor was I as enamored with Nolan’s Batman trilogy as most folks were. But what boggles my mind is that, as uneven of a film as Interstellar is, people are faulting Nolan for being “too ambitious.”

I would like to point out that Dumb and Dumber To is now showing, and we have the following films to look forward to in 2015: The Fantastic Four, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Terminator: Genisys, Kung Fu Panda 3, Furious 7, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. 

While some sequels can be worthy additions to a film series, can we all collectively agree that no one was asking for a seventh chapter to The Fast and the Furious?

Directors like Christopher Nolan, James Cameron (Avatar), and Darren Aronofsky (Noah) have all been said to have produced films that are too ambitious, meaning the sheer budget required to fund their massive vision has gone to waste on film that doesn’t meet expectations. Despite its technological advances and impressive effects, people still crap on Avatar for being a shameless rip off of several films, primarily Dances with Wolves. And now we have Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 on the horizon. Seriously.

Are there any other art forms that allow us to criticize an artist as being too ambitious once a final product is produced? George R. R. Martin initially planned his Game of Thrones series to only span three books, but readers are waiting for volumes six and seven. Because we don’t know the quality of the upcoming books, it’s hard to say it’s not worth the wait (the long, long wait … Come on, George). Did anyone looking at one of Diego Rivera’s massive murals ever say his art was worthless because his ideas were too vast?

It’s strange for me to think that Interstellar, with its complex questions about life and death and the future of the human race, was somehow less of a movie because it was complicated. Without spoiling anything, my issues with the film were about pacing, its attempts at conjuring audience sympathy, and the groan-worthy final 20 minutes. Overall, I don’t think the film suffered from too many ideas (Nolan’s incredible Inception was arguably more complicated). I think it’s fantastic that we have directors who are constantly producing original films that force you to think even after the credits have rolled. I had a very intense conversation with my friends after Interstellar that nearly had us at each other’s throats (I made the mistake of musing that Gravity was better).

These are the films we need! Without even seeing the trailer of Furious 7, I already know what to expect, and I guarantee I won’t be leaving the theater with a new perspective on life, love or that moment of my existence. I think it’s an insult to say that anyone anxious to tell a story is too ambitious. Hollywood is clogged with sequels and reboots – ambition is refreshing. Even if Interstellar went way over my head, I still respect it and totally understand why some people loved it.

It’s important to support creativity, even artists with a nine-figure budget, and I encourage you to seek out films that aren’t “based on the bestselling novel by (blank).” We live in a town with only six screens, and theater owners can’t always take risks on phenomenal indie films when the general public is more willing to shell out cash for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part One. That being said, go see Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman as soon as possible. It’s so ambitious that it succeeds in being the most original film I’ve seen all year.


About Andrew Munz

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