Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
"That's a whole lotta movie," gasped my wife after her first viewing of Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar.'
It was my third time through, and I have to admit, she's spot on. 'Interstellar,' no matter if you love it, or hate it, is indeed a whole lotta movie. It's a continuously taut juggernaut of epic space action accompanied by Hans Zimmer's organ-infused score. There really isn't a moment within the movie that you could point to and say, "Well, that's dull." Some might take issue with the on-the-nose nature of the Nolan brothers' screenplay, but the movie never lacks excitement.
When I reviewed 'Interstellar' during its initial theatrical release I said, "While stupendously broad in scope and epic space adventure, Nolan's "Interstellar" is also frustratingly jam-packed with so much explanation that there's little left up to the imagination." After seeing it a third time I'm not so sure I feel that way anymore. Yes, it does have a tendency to over explain itself, but what stood out to me this time around was the intention of the script to throw out as many deep thoughts it possibly can within the first 40 minutes or so. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), seems transfixed on coining a new phrase the future of the human race will use for eternity. The platitudes begin to wear thin right when the movie gets exciting, so it's easy to forget about the labored insistence of the screenplay to throw down eternally true witticisms.
The not-so-distant future is dire. Our planet is dying. America is trapped in an increasingly dangerous futuristic Dust Bowl. A blight has taken our crops. One by one the world's major crop species are dying, leaving us hungry and relying on the last sustainable crop, corn. Though, it's just a matter of time before the world is out of food (though, curiously barley-based alcohol seems rather plentiful). What will we do then?
Cooper is a corn farmer, however, he was really born to pilot NASA rocket ships. Though when food became scarce, traveling the stars in space ships seemed like a gargantuan waste of money. His young daughter Murph (young Mackenzie Foy, older Jessica Chastain), is a stubborn, thoughtful daughter who will no doubt be the key to the story as it unfolds. The relationship between Murph and Cooper is certainly the crux of the movie. I hate to pull the "You have to be a parent card," but it's just so true here. Thinking of being separated from my son by millions of light years conjures up within me an eternal sort of dread. It's something I couldn't even fathom.
When Cooper learns that NASA has remained active, in secret, he's called upon by old friend Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to save humanity. No matter how much corn they try to grow, humankind will eventually succumb to the Earth's dusty future. Extinction of the human race is inevitable if they can't find a new place to live. A worm hole next to Saturn is discovered. Viable worlds lay in wait on the other side. Cooper, along with Brand's daughter (Anne Hathaway), and a small team set out to find out what's on the other side of the worm hole.
Nolan's visuals treat space as reverently and awe-inspiring as Terrance Malick's beautiful depictions of deep space during the 'Tree of Life.' There's a sequence where Cooper has to dock with a space station spinning out of control. It's executed flawlessly and is some of the most exciting action from last year. What's so great is that Nolan takes some pretty scientific elements, and creates circumstances which are thrilling and understandable even to the layperson. Not to mention that his action scenes are wonderfully framed and expertly constructed as to lead you through an experience rather than splattering you with chaos.
There are some weighty consequences too. When the crew of the Endurance visits a planet orbiting a black hole they're forced to think of time as a commodity since the Theory of Relativity states that time will slow down when one nears a black hole. It's an immensely difficult idea to get your head around, but the movie is full of those kinds of dilemmas.
The conclusions that are reached can appear hokey on the surface. There's an "I've seen this somewhere else," vibe near the end. But, with Nolan's keen directorial eye, focused on the wonder of practical special effects, and a dominating performance from McConaughey, 'Interstellar' overcomes most of its faults and satisfies in the end.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a three-disc set. It comes with two 50GB Blu-rays and a DVD. There is also an UltraViolet Digital Copy provided. A perk that comes along with this release is a collectible IMAX film cell which is included in a cardboard pouch inside the case. All the discs are packed in a standard keepcase and contained within a cardboard slipcover.
Digital filmmaking has become so commonplace that viewing Nolan's Interstellar, a movie filmed on traditional 35mm and IMAX film stock, feels like a strangely unique experience. The whole image has a throwback cinematic feel to it. It's crazy that we've gotten to the point where real film is the exception rather than the rule, but here we are. So, the image may be a tad softer than its digital counterparts, but it's no less beautiful. A healthy grain peppers the visuals with a strong filmic quality. Nolan's strict adherence to film stock lends his movies a visual aesthetic sorely missing in today's cinema.
As with past filmed-on-IMAX Nolan pictures, 'Interstellar' features alternating aspect ratios. The standard 2.39:1 is employed for dialogue-centric scenes, whereas the 1.78:1 ratio is doled out for all the exciting visual stuff. Aspect ratio changes can be jarring, but they aren't here. They flow quite well with the overall pacing of the story, so they're not overtly distracting.
Clarity is just wonderful. Facial details are dazzlingly clear even with the accompanying film grain. The deep space photography, like I mentioned earlier, is a wonder to behold. Especially with a projector. Just so brilliantly detailed and intricately created. One glaring oversight popped up between the 29:25 and 29:30 marks. In the top left corner of the shot you can see what appears to be a hair or some other obstruction that sits in the frame and moves along with the shot. It isn't overly noticeable, but now that I've called your attention to it, you'll no doubt notice it. It's small, and most likely an symptom of working with film stock (crap in the ap), but nonetheless, it seems like something that should've been taken care of during the transfer.
Black levels are as deep and inky as they can get. Contrast is near perfect. Colors are stupendously bold. Computer-generated effects are vibrant, but not overdone. Nolan uses them to add grandeur and immense scale, and it works. Besides the strange hiccup mentioned earlier, I didn't see anything else wrong with this presentation. Banding, aliasing, and all other maladies were non-existent. 'Inerstellar' on Blu-ray faithfully recreates the theater experience.
After 'Interstellar's initial release, much was made about the decision – which turned out to be a conscience one – to have Hans Zimmer's score at times drown out the movie's dialogue. Interviews with Nolan after the fact shed some light on the perceived bad sound design. Nolan assured audiences that the soundtrack – however loud and overbearing – was supposed to sound exactly like that. So, like it or not 'Interstellar's brash, often distracting organ-centered score mirrors the filmmaker's intent. It's important to keep that at the forefront of your mind during this review.
While I personally found the sheer loudness of Zimmer's score to be irritating in the theater, I found that my home viewing experience was much better. The scenes in question – like when the team ventures through the worm hole – are still really loud, but the dialogue is still intelligible. I actually quite liked the engulfing, entrancing quality of Zimmer's score this time around. I also immensely enjoyed the heaps of bass thundering forth from my sub. If you're a fan of low-end sonics, then this is surely the sound mix for you.
Yes, dialogue can be muffled at times, but it's by design. Surround effects are crisp and lively. Zimmer's score plays effectively throughout the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound field. While one might expect a heftier 7.1 mix here, honestly, you can't really tell the difference. It sounds phenomenal most of the time.
- The Science of 'Interstellar' (HD 50 min.) – McConaughey provides the narration as the film's more scientific elements are explained and dissected by scientist Kip Thorne.
- Inside 'Interstellar' (HD, 1 hr. 50 min.) – This behind-the-scenes documentary features 14 featurettes: "Plotting an 'Interstellar' Journey," "Life on Cooper's Farm," "The Dust," "Tars and Case," "The Cosmic Sounds of 'Interstellar,'" "The Space Suits," "The Endurance," "Shooting in Iceland: Miller's Planet/Mann's Planet," "The Ranger and the Lander," "Miniatures in Space," "The Simulation of Zero-G," "Celestial Landmarks," "Across All Dimensions and Time," "and "Final Thoughts." As you can tell from the titles they cover just about every interesting aspect of the film's production. Ones to really watch are "Tars and Case," which discusses the practical and digital effects that went into the movie's unique robots and "Miniatures in Space" which shows how some of the awesome deep space images were created and filmed.
- Trailers (HD, 9 min.) – Four theatrical trailers are included here.
I definitely respond to 'Interstellar's edge-of-your-seat-ness. It really grabs you. It's exciting and often breathtaking. The love-conquers-all moralizing is laid on quite thick, but I'm not sure I care that much. I tend to agree with my wife. It's a "whole lotta movie," and sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. With superb audio and video – not to mention some solid special features – 'Interstellar' is highly recommended.
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