We’re important cosmically. At least, we think we are. Humans seek to solve the mysteries of space time for the purposes of harvesting another planet for our continued existence as a species. When it is at its most creatively interesting, Interstellar is partially asking if we’re worth the trouble.
Interstellar is a movie about reality and the lack of understanding therein – somewhat. Humans are surrounded by what we do not know. We experience things we cannot comprehend and see universes on a scale we cannot fathom. Interstellar’s use of these ideas is alluring and appropriately thought-provoking. It is quick to incite a common eco-terror episode – in this future, Earth is dying so we must leave it – yet creatively, not for the usual reasons. This not a parable; it’s simply time for us to go, another grand notion within the framework of the narrative. Thankfully, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway can save us all.
Script work does not leave audiences on Earth for long, at least in the context of a three hour film. While the writing work splurges on a moment early to rightly snap at Moon Landing hoaxers, much time is spent plotting rules and places. Exposition is often king, just behind mystery. Early dialog tends to uncomfortably stiffen.
It is, at times, rather non-commercial in execution
It is, at times, rather non-commercial in execution
Then it’s skyward, through a wormhole, to other planets, and other vistas. It’s magical. Interstellar’s blend of enormous effects coupled with the traditional, accessible drama of blinking lights and warning sirens is exceptional – arguably some of the most visionary in ages. Hollywood spends much (too much) of its time in space trying to kill us first. It’s refreshing to see a science spectacle going to such length entirely to save us. It’s less pessimistic this way.
This is not only about planet surfing. Interstellar’s mission is to reflect humanity and our evolution back toward us. Rethink, re-access, and do so with copious levels of imagination regarding current thinking with regards to all manner of space anomalies. This is an indirect story. McConaughey does not stop on a planet, stick a flag in the ground, and ping Houston. It is, at times, rather non-commercial in execution, displaying a rare respect for intellectualism.
Then Interstellar mistakenly gives answers. It explains when it should not. All of our emotions are infallible and purposeful, it says, while simultaneously applying our own instincts against us in a wildly interesting narrative twist. But, instead of offering the full breadth of these potential philosophies, Interstellar shrinks us down to simple beings, wrapping itself up with commonplace sentimentality rather than those progressive ideas which spawned this story about Earth’s slow downfall. All the while, the film dizzies with black holes, wormholes, visual time, and theories. It’s a whiz-bang scientific showcase willing to bewilder those not paying attention without satisfaction in the pay off.
In its grandest scope, Interstellar is terrific at making humankind feel infinitesimal. The best space movies always have. They charge us to explore by planting the necessary curiosity (and patience) to achieve something great. And yet, Interstellar is willing to go farther, test us and wow us, producing an extraordinary grandeur which, sadly, loses itself in the “what-ifs” rather than the impacting “what-is.” The mysteries of space and our own adherence to sentimentality prove too seductive.
Interstellar is near the realm of perfection, featuring a notable film source and at times, vintage cinematography style from Hoyte Van Hoytema (Her) recalling the beauty of classical techniques. This means some softness in the traditional sense, although not to any detriment. Interstellar has class.
Grain is barely a presence. With the exception of a late third act dust storm and some steam rising in front of Matt Damon in close-up, the encode manages to hold the material firmly. A brief flicker of aliasing in a school meeting is a single instance throw away. The rest is beauty. Space is bleak and black levels match the density for the full run time. Image depth is superlative. Suns beam into the ships and onto the surfaces to offer matching contrast.
Color, where appropriate, will fit itself into the mix, pulling out the orange in McConaughey’s tan while leaving other flesh tones intact. Primaries are often striking. Many scenes on Earth not covered by dust (yet, anyway) display plentiful saturation. Seeing Earth from above is a splendid sight. Other planets carry an appearance devoid of life, often gray and washed out. The difference is a notable narrative device.
All of this makes Interstellar a classy production in outward appearance. However, fine detail and resolution is a sealant. Visual effect shots are frequently done in 70mm, simply gorgeous as the physical models (not CG) pan across the frame. Every mark and hand crafted stroke used to create them becomes visible, even with distance. Expanses of space are utterly jaw dropping, Even in comparison, the 35mm footage is no less superb. All of the knobs and dials used to control these futuristic ships come into view, with facial definition consistent to the cinematography.
This audio introduction has been re-written three times in an attempt to avoid phrasing which may be considered hyperbole. Each time, it was a failure. It cannot be done. Interstellar contains the best LFE support of any disc on this format. Ever. Bass has never been this deep or sounded this way – ferocious. This is not a room rattler: It’s a house shaker, a neighbor irritant, and forever a showcase.
The best part is Interstellar simply drops it in full. It moves from downtrodden dialog to full force with one edit only a few minutes in. Jet engines swell from inside of a cockpit, engulfing the entirety of the room. Many sequences rise to match the power. There is the launch and exit from the atmosphere. The entry into a wormhole. Then a flood, then a dust storm, and then explosions. Every one of those is reference – a new reference.
This is not a 7.1 mix even though they seem to be increasingly ubiquitous for major productions. Instead, it’s 5.1 but no less precise. Two Oscar nominations for audio are well deserved. Space travel is well devised sonically, silent in the exterior but alive on the inside. Objects reverberate in a full 360 degree motion as they collide. Metal groans as it is exposed to higher G-forces. No speaker is left behind.
Balance is absolutely flawless too. While the bass may be an unmistakable highlight, it is never too much or out of place. Hans Zimmer’s unorthodox score and any dialog is seated well in the action too. The issue noted in theaters where the latter were notably reduced is not part of the home mix. Maybe it wasn’t so “deliberate” after all.
Two discs come inside the package along with a film cell from a 70mm print. That’s nifty. Paramount gives the movie a disc to itself. There are no extras crowding in (although there is a chunk of space left on the disc).
Instead, it’s onto the second which initially seems slim. There are only two options. One is The Science of Interstellar. Involving physicist (and producer) Kip Thorne and Christopher Nolan extensively, this nearly one hour long feature probes the known science which was built into the feature from the outset. The realities and basis for key moments are explored.
Second is Inside Interstellar, a collection of 14 featurettes ranging from 5-15 minutes each and, annoyingly, without a play all option. These cover the usual making-of insights, from effects to characters and scripting. A handful of others will explore the ideas and philosophies presented. Paramount lists “nearly” three hours of bonuses, and they’re not wrong.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.