Interstellar – it’s difficult to know where to begin with this film, especially since I saw it at a 10.15am screening and, on re-entering reality, my brain was left totally nuked for the day. It didn’t help that, when I came out of the cinema, it was to a grim-looking, rain-soaked Manchester, itself looking like a typical movie dystopian nightmare. Anyhoo, let’s start with the basics.
As Michael Caine, as Professor Brand, says in the trailer, when asked by Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) what’s the plan to save Earth, “We’re not meant to save Earth… We’re meant to leave it”, and thanks to the efforts of past missions in the last decade, and the data they’ve sent back, they have an idea of where is the best place to colonise in outer space. This, of course, begs the question – if you go out into the great unknown via wormholes to get you from one galaxy to another, what chance is there of returning? And is there much point when time travels at different speeds out there – for example, with one hour on one planet equalling seven years on Earth, and since Earth is expected to be uninhabitable by the end of Cooper’s childrens’ generation, you may as well wait until they come out to you, since they’ll be rapidly catching up with your age.
Then again, even if everyone could leave Earth and go and live on another planet, how would the governments of the world afford to re-house them all when they can’t afford normal life on this planet? But anyway…
Cooper and Caine’s daughter Brand (Anne Hathaway), are the two astronauts chosen to lead the mission, along with others who are basic tertiary characters and a robot. Yes, every movie space mission has to have a robot, even when they’re not the most dexterous in the world… sorry, universe, because they don’t have opposable thumbs. However, Interstellar has the weirdest robot in cinema. TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) looks nothing like a conventional robot, or even a humanoid. In fact, it looks like a walking 4-finger Kitkat! (below)
Interstellar is the first new film from Christopher Nolan following the completion of his Dark Knight Trilogy, and, like his second and third Batman films, it also contains a great deal of footage shot in the full IMAX ratio of 1.44:1, which is such a rarity these days because you have to shoot on film (which, reportedly, Warner Bros bought all of it up), and such stocks of film are depleting, meaning that this is most likely to be the LAST EVER FILM which features IMAX footage in 1.44:1. Lots of films contain IMAX footage shot digitally, but that ratio only opens up to a maximum of around 1.90:1, a recent example being Guardians of the Galaxy.
Judging by the Batman films, the IMAX scenes from this film will be shown opened up to a maximum of 16:9 on Blu-ray, which will be okay for a lot of them, but there are some which can ONLY be seen in 1.44:1 for the full effect. And it’s unlikely you’ll ever see it that way again… unless you take another look at it before The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies takes over the IMAX screen from December 12th.
It’s difficult to go into much detail about Interstellar without giving spoilers, so I’ll have to just not go into much detail. The fact is that this film is one hell of a mindfuck.
Films which sprang to mind while watching it include 2001, where you get some deathly silent moments, during which if anyone happens to talk them they must die. In fact, a law’s just been passed to make that legal. Thankfully, I didn’t need to exercise this during the screening as no-one said a word. These silent pieces are brief but breathtaking, and I was wondering during one of them if I heard the sound of the projector whirring away, as it was shot on film, but I didn’t hear it later, so maybe it was a slight moment of ambient noise… not that there’s any of that in space.
Also, there’s 1997’s Contact, which also brought us messages from outer space, wormholes and Matthew McConaughey, and now Nolan has put them on an IMAX screen in 70mm.
Beforehand, I was wondering, would Nolan dare to give us little green men on a far off planet? I won’t answer that, but I will say that Interstellar is an assault on the senses. Yes, it overplays on the emotion but not in a schmaltzy way that makes you think “Oh, pur-lease!” – at least not to this viewer. I got completely sucked in by it.
While it felt a little slow to get going at first, I think the second time I see this, things will hang together a bit more, so I think 9/10 covers the film fairly. There were elements that did annoy me, such as when, for example, a conversation is being had between the astronauts about gravity and quantum mechanics and so on, I wanted to be able to follow it. Given how meticulous Christopher Nolan is, I doubt he would be slapdash in the writing so I figure there is logic in what is said, but that’s something I’ll only be able to fully grasp when the Blu-ray is released and I can pause it to take in the dialogue fully.
Then again, if they had stopped everything to throw in a 15-minute “Science 101” class for the audience, a lot of people would’ve dropped off into a coma.
The other thing is that dialogue is sometimes drowned out by the Hans Zimmer‘s score. I know they’re trying to build tension, but please don’t sacrifice dialogue for that.
Of the cast onscreen, another downside is that there aren’t too many people pushing the boat out. Matthew McConaughey has a screen presence and is very watchable, but every time he just trots out his Southern drawl and lets that do the acting for him. Anne Hathaway is all too frequently like the sarcastic sidekick, while other spaceship crew members Wes Bentley (as Doyle) and David Gyasi (as Romilly) are there to make up the numbers but that’s about it.
Murph is the name of Cooper’s daughter, but she’s played by more than one actress depending on where we are in the timeline, the most current one being Jessica Chastain, but she’s sleepwalking through her role as well. There’s more effort put in by Mackenzie Foy as the 10-year-old Murph who doesn’t want him to go away. Meanwhile, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo and Matt Damon all do their usual. Perhaps it’s that the Nolan brothers don’t put much effort into characterisation? Then again, the best actor on display is the special effects and if they don’t win an Oscar or three next year, then there is no justice. That said, there is some decent dialogue at times with a couple of well-placed one-liners.
Interstellar is an unsurpassable cinematic experience – definitely a spectacle for the ages, which just can’t be compared with way of watching it other than the full 1.44:1 IMAX presentation, which is on display in that format for a large proportion of the film, and this format is only showing in four cinemas around the country: the Odeon Manchester Printworks, the National Media Museum in Bradford, the BFI IMAX and the Science Museum, both in London. I saw it in Manchester, with the second largest screen in Europe (second only to the aforementioned BFI) and it was only when someone was walking past the bottom of the screen, presumably having gone to the loo, that you were reminded what a HUGE screen it is.
(And this link on IMAX’s website shows that there’s even some 70mm IMAX-capable cinemas around the world which just aren’t getting this print, sadly)
The rest of that time it’s a combination of 2.35:1 and 2.20:1. Don’t blink for any one of the 169 minutes and take it all in – it’s an incredible road movie, or more of a space-road movie. And, for the curious, it takes approximately 40 minutes before they’re heading off into space, so it has a good two hours to play with for their adventure.
Oh, and the end credits last a surprisingly short 5 mins as the cast and crew were displayed as static captions and almost as quick as a US sitcom so I had to check IMDB later.
A point about something that annoyed me re: collecting tickets in the Odeon. While I had pre-ordered my Interstellar tickets, I also did the same, just a few days ago, with tickets for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, as they went on sale at the weekend. I’d always intended to do that and made sure I got my favourite back row seat – J21 – even though J20, which I had this time, is effectively just as good as the centre of the screen divides them. Now, when you pre-order, soon after you’ll receive an email which confirms all the details including a reference number which it says you’ll need in addition to the payment card. However, as with the last time I pre-ordered a ticket, all that’s required it simply to put the card in the machine and it’ll print out your tickets.
Unfortunately, I wish it had given me the option of whether to print The Hobbit ticket right now, as I’d have preferred to have waited until nearer the time, if not the day itself. After all, what if I lose it between now and then? Well, before I knew it, it first spat out The Hobbit, making me wonder where my Interstellar ticket was, and then produced that one as well. I didn’t ask the staff if there was any way to shove it back in because, as we all know, when “computer says no”, there is no human being on Earth which is capable of overriding it. If there’s an Interstellar 2, maybe Matthew McConaughey can go on a search for the answer to that question…
Running time: 169 minutes
Released: November 7th 2014
Format: 2.35:1/1.90:1/1.44:1 (70mm IMAX)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst and Emma Thomas
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cooper: Matthew McConaughey
Brand: Anne Hathaway
Murph: Jessica Chastain
Murph (10 Yrs.): Mackenzie Foy
Doyle: Wes Bentley
Romilly: David Gyasi
Professor Brand: Michael Caine
Donald: John Lithgow
Tom (15 Yrs.): Timothée Chalamet
School Principal: David Oyelowo
Ms. Hanley: Collette Wolfe
Dr. Mann: Matt Damon
Murph (older): Ellen Burstyn
TARS (voice): Bill Irwin
Smith: Andrew Borba
Williams: William Devane
CASE (voice): Josh Stewart
Tom: Casey Affleck
Lois: Leah Cairns
Coop: Liam Dickinson
Getty: Topher Grace
Boots: Francis Xavier McCarthy
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.