film -> Interstellar IMAX review

Interstellar IMAX review

Nolan’s beautiful, befuddling sci-fi epic


After writing a hopeful, heartfelt op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal about the direction of the film industry and the potential death of cinema, filmmaker Christopher Nolan put a lot more pressure on his already ridiculously-anticipated follow-up to The Dark Knight Rises.  With his newest film, he seemingly hits all the theatrical and cinematic highs—achieving what he described about the theater experience in his op-ed piece.  Unfortunately, he misses the emotional mark, causing the narrative to run into a few bumps.  The heart of Interstellar is the grandiose movie theater experience Nolan dreams of in his WSJ piece, but in order to get the desired effect, one must catch it on an IMAX screen.

The works of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, winner of the Lilienfield Prize and Einstein Medal, come into play for Interstellar.  A casual viewer need not have a thorough understanding of relativity, but a primer would make getting into the rest of the film an easier transition.  In a nutshell, the late 21st century sees the beginning of the end of the human race on Earth.  Famine and dust hit planet Earth.  A NASA professor (Nolan regular and two-time Oscar-winner Sir Michael Caine) reveals to the protagonist (Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey—Dallas Buyers Club, “True Detective”) that the present generation will beget the final one.


McConaughey’s Cooper then receives serious pressure from NASA to pilot an endeavor into a miraculous, newly-appearing black hole as a last-ditch effort to save humanity by transplanting and repopulating another planet in the galaxy at the other end of the anomaly.  As usual, Nolan keeps one foot in reality.  His other foot extends Thorne’s work and gets even more unbelievable than Gotham City surviving the blast radius at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. We certainly hope the celebrated filmmaker hasn’t caught a mild case of Shyamalan syndrome.

McConaughey delivers yet another captivating, memorable lead performance as a father trapped in another galaxy trying to return to see his family again.  Only time, space, and deception defy them.  Unfortunately, the script offers little for McConaughey beyond the perpetual, “I just want to see my daughter again.”  Nolan describes Cooper as an “everyman” character during Interstellar press rounds, but don’t let McConaughey’s lack of a British accent fool you—he’s somewhat of a genius.  Cooper transcends a conceptually ridiculous five-to-three-dimension adapter devised by future generations and then reminds us, “Oh yeah, McConaughey was already in a movie like this…But didn’t Jodie Foster kind of have the job he has in this one?”  Despite Contact featuring extra-terrestrials and Interstellar featuring black hole/ relativity concepts, make no mistake that Kip Thorne was a long time friend and colleague to Carl Sagan in addition to Stephen Hawking, as well.  Some ideas overlap, particularly space travel.


The other memorable performance, without divulging too much, comes from surprise cast member Matt Damon (The Bourne Ultimatum, We Bought a Zoo).  His name doesn’t show up on most billing, but he appears nonetheless—not unlike Kevin Spacey’s appearance in Se7en.Damon’s Dr. Mann hits a number of notches on the emotional spectrum and begins with a profoundly human introduction.  Nolan enlists an expertly talented cast of award-winners (John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Caine, McConaughey, and Damon) in order to elevate some lazy writing that exists to carry one scene to another.  The visual spectacle is the dynamic for Interstellar, not the narrative or the performances. See this in IMAX if you want the real worth of ticket price.  Unfortunately, many IMAX theaters nationwide have already posted poor audio track quality for their copy.  This will certainly hurt the box office, but hopefully not the reception.

Due to a ridiculous dimensional device appearing in the climax and some routine, predictable character arcs, Interstellar certainly won’t stand as Nolan’s most memorable film in the class of The Dark Knight and Inception.   However, he strapped an IMAX camera inside of a Learjet for travel shots.  The sheer experience of Interstellar is not to be missed, especially if cinema would remind the public why a movie theater experience is separate from just another device screen streaming “content.”  The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Her) combined with Nathan Crowley’s (The Prestige, Batman Begins) sets and Hans Zimmer’s transcendent, ambitious score on an IMAX scale create a heart-pounding ride.  A ride with a few pacing problems that occur when the concept of time as a dimension, or black hole travel are explained.    If the concept is too difficult for film translation, Nolan never should have thrown so much deception at the viewer in addition.


Keywords: Interstellar, IMAX, Matthew McConaughey, Christopher Nolan, Kip Thorne, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon
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