Interstellar has arrived on Blu-ray and DVD this week, and the first question you’ll ask is – does it work on the smaller screen? Pretty much, is the short answer, but I’ll go into more detail later.
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, Amelia 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, examples from last year including Guardians of the Galaxy and Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Judging by the Batman films, I figured the IMAX scenes from this film would be presented opened up to a maximum of 16:9 on Blu-ray (and I was right), 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. However, we won’t see it that way again… until if and when we get a theatrical re-release with the additional 12 minutes which was shown earlier this year in the US as a one-off. Well, you just know it’ll happen before long. Perhaps on its one-year anniversary?
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 – as well as 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 was right in my assumption that everything would hang together a bit more second time round, and 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 figured there is logic in what is said. On rewatching the film, you do get chance to get into that aspect more. As for how accurate it is, I’m not sure, but one of those on board the project was Kip Thorne, an internationally famed physicist who works in the fields of theoretical physics, gravitational physics, and astrophysics.
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.
In the cinema, I was also annoyed 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. When quizzed about this, Nolan said it was intentional! I don’t buy that, but at least in the home you can watch it with subtitles on. Then again, at one point the subtitles say: ‘Woman: Oh wow’
Erm… there’s only one woman on board, and surely the subtitlers should be more observant??!
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 they rightly won that award in both the BAFTAs and the Oscars. That said, there is some decent dialogue at times with a couple of well-placed one-liners.
Interstellar was 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 that format was only shown 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 were even some 70mm IMAX-capable cinemas around the world which just didn’t get this print, sadly)
The rest of that time, in the cinema it was a combination of 2.35:1 and 2.20:1, while this Blu-ray is either 2.35:1 or 16:9 (for the IMAX scenes). 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 at the time. 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 then, 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 the two dates? 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…
One of the hardest scenes to watch is one you could expect, but which I’ll have to put behind a spoiler block and should only be seen if you haven’t watched it.
Quick gear change. So, how does Interstellar come across on the smaller screen? With a flawless print in 1080p high definition, better than I expected. As with Nolan’s other part-IMAX works, it’s not possible to have the screen opened up to 1.44:1, so 16:9 is the compromise. You could, in theory, have a print which changes between 2.35:1 and 1.44:1 – in the same way that The Grand Budapest Hotel changes beween 2.35:1 and 1.37:1, but for Interstellar, you would lose the width-filling impact that those scenes bring. I would still be curious to see such a version made available, though.
One of my favourite effects comes late into the film when… (spoiler mode activated again)
Mark Kermode also recently posted a video online, as part of his Kermode Uncut series, asking for views on watching Interstellar in the home compared to the cinema, and you can see it below.
Sonically, the film is an aural treat. Your entire room will shake when they take off into space, there will be a silence like no other as they pass through space, there will be your subwoofer giving its all as they come across complications in space, and when a particular big bang happens (no, not the one that started our universe) then you may jump out of your seat when the time comes, as I did in the cinema.
Kermode Uncut: Interstellar In Your Living Room
The extras are as follows and they’re all in HD:
- The Science of Interstellar (50:20): Narrated by Matthew McConnaughey, This extensive extra tells how the film was inspired by the work of Walter White-lookalike astrophysicist Kip Thorne who lends his input planets with the Goldilock Zone – planets, often with rocky mountains, which can pool water. There’s also how time can change based on gravity, the possibility of living on Mars, and and how do black holes work?
Now, if we could just leave the planet before the next monsoon season hits Manchester agai…. oh, too late.
- Inside Interstellar (116:12): Another in-depth feature, this time 14 separate sections from Cooper’s farm, to filming in Iceland, to the dust, to simulating Zero-G, to the space suits and much more. It was a good shout that they didn’t try to ‘futurise’ the basics of life, even though the film was set in the future. As Nolan says, if they had tried that, e.g. what would clothes look like in the future, then they’d get it wrong, so they concentrated on the main aspects instead. This helps as it made it feel like it could be set in the near future rather than an undisclosed period of time ahead from now.
And the way they built and animated TARS and CASE was beyond incredible.
- Trailers: Four trailers – Lee (1:52), Wonder (2:34), Memories (2:35) and Mankind (2:29), these are the trailers released from the “one year from now” teaser to those out closer to the release date. I couldn’t figure out the reason for the title of the first one, however. Who is Lee?
- Audio Descriptiive track: Does what it says on the tin.
There are subtitles in seven languages – English, Castillan Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish, dialogue is in 3 languages – English, German and Castillan Spanish, and if you buy the Limited Edition Blu-ray Digibook version, you’ll also get a 48-page picture booklet edited from “Interstellar: Beyond Time And Space: Inside Christopher Nolan’s Sci-Fi Epic”. There are 20,000 copies of this one available.
Chapters are better than the usual number with 20, but since the film runs for almost three hours, it’s still not enough. I have a rule of thumb of one every five minutes.
Running time: 169 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
Released: March 30th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, German, Castillan Spanish
Subtitles: English, Castillan Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)/1.78 (cropped from 1.44:1) (70mm IMAX)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst and Emma Thomas
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cooper: Matthew McConaughey
Amelia 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.