Double feature: ‘Interstellar’ & ‘Big Hero 6’

BY BOB GARVER

This past weekend brought not one, but two new films that made more than $50 million in their debut.

Their numbers were pretty close, so I’ve decided to review them both (starting with “Interstellar”).

“Interstellar” is three hours long, and you feel every minute of it. It’s an epic about the race against time to save humanity from a dying Earth. We go from sickly cornfields to scraped-together spaceships in the outer reaches of space to uninhabitable planets to a virtual hall of mirrors that violates the laws of physics.

Matthew McConaughey stars as a promising engineer turned corn farmer who is the closest thing the Earth has to a competent astronaut after famine made pretty much everybody have to focus on corn farming. Humanity’s only hope is to relocate everyone to a new planet on the other end of a wormhole.

McConaughey and a small crew are sent on a mission to check out the three most promising candidates. The mission will take decades and he has to leave his family behind. And then it turns out that his family
may have been the key to saving humanity all along.

The movie on Earth is pretty bland, though Mc- Conaughey proves that his Oscar last year was no fluke. But of course it’s in space when things get really intense. The characters find themselves in one situation after another where you can swear they’ll never make it out, and yet there is that sliver of hope thanks to McConaughey’s absolutely believable resilience and intelligence.

Speaking of intelligence, in a way that’s the movie’s biggest problem. I couldn’t keep up with all the science talk, especially when it came to time manipulation. Like the species, I was lost and needed McConaughey’s relatability to rescue me. But even then, it was clear that “Interstellar” was doing everything it could to accomplish something important and amazing. I give it two-and-a-half stars out of five.

(“Interstellar” is rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language. Its running time is 169 minutes.)

As for “Big Hero 6,” this is Disney’s only major animated offering this year, the first fruit of its highly publicized partnership with Marvel Comics. It’s an agreeable movie with some cute gags and clever details, but I don’t see it becoming as iconic as some of Disney’s other output.

The story follows a boy with the unsubtle name of Hiro (Ryan Potter) as he tries to revolutionize the world of robotics at the age of 13. He suffers the loss of his even-smarter older brother (it wouldn’t be a Disney movie without a child suffering a loss), who leaves behind a prototype of a medical robot called Baymax (Scott Adsit).

Baymax is eager to help, but he’s clumsy. His body is inflatable and puffy, so as to be appealing to children. He’s not built to travel long distances and subject himself to harmful elements. But Hiro is impressed by the technology behind Baymax, so he makes a few upgrades and turns him into a (very compassionate) fighting robot. Hiro enlists four of his brother’s awkward lab friends to hero-fy themselves as well and together they set out to discover what happened to the brother.

Baymax is a loveable, memorable character, but the rest of the team seems to have been created by marketing people trying to sell action figures. The same can be said of the film’s plot and action scenes. Disney has gone down the superhero route before with “The Incredibles” and I never could never shake the feeling that this film is not as heartfelt as its predecessor. It’s clear that the more creative Disney people were allowed to have at least some influence on “Big Hero 6,” but the finished product is a disappointing superhero movie with a few outstanding elements. I give it two stars out of five.

(“Big Hero 6” is rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor and thematic elements. Its running time is 104 minutes. Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.)