Last night, I walked into the IMAX theatre at the UA Colorado Center to see Interstellar. And the experience was stellar. We got the chance to see the film actually projected on film, and that doesn't happen very often anymore.
It was awesome.
I walked out having been engrossed, transported, transfixed, and inspired. Sounds completely cheesy and I'm aware of that. But it's happened a handful of times for me. That feeling hit me with Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and the recent Birdman. That's a laundry list of films, but they all have that characteristic in common for me.
Seeing it on the IMAX is the gold standard for this movie. It's what Nolan wanted, it's how he wanted people to see the movie. And more importantly he wanted people to see it projected on film, not digital - 4K or otherwise. If you live in Denver and you're at all interested in this movie, go see it at the IMAX. It's being projected on 70mm and is one of the few IMAX theaters in the country still doing this (here's the list of theaters nationwide). This is what the official Interstellar website has to say about IMAX 70mm:
It's a pretty penny to get into the theatre, but it's well worth it. Get the Regal Card and you'll also save a dollar off your ticket at the theatre (Regal should pay me for that plug, right?).
About an hour of the movie utilizes the IMAX cameras that had previously just been used for sweeping landscapes or city-scapes. Nolan makes use of them off of their locked-down rigs and put them on cars, and his camera operators shot with them on shoulder rigs. What you end up with is a use of the cameras that no one thought possible before. There's a really cool video about it here.
So what the heck is this movie about anyways? Well it is a science-fiction-fantasy-adventure-human-survival story. Like Nolan's films before, he not only presents fantastical worlds, but compelling characters searching for more. In the not so distant future, the world has run out of food and we are exhausting our planet, most of us have been assigned to be farmers. But even that is failing; dust storms are killing crops. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former NASA pilot and engineer. NASA has now been forced to operate in complete secrecy and they recruit Cooper to pilot an exploration mission.
I don't really like reviews with spoilers, so I won't touch any more on what happens in the almost three-hour movie. It also stars Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, and some other surprise guests. All actors turn in solid performances, which McConaughey leading the way as a father, leaving his children behind.
If you've seen the trailers you know that 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' makes its way into the movie. It's one of my favorites as well:
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
- Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953
This seems to be what fuels Cooper, and indeed Nolan. He is a director who will not give up on the medium and we're on board. He is one of the most outspoken advocates of shooting and projecting on film. And his movies benefit from it; all the way from Following, to Memento, to The Prestige, Batman Begins, to Inception and now with Interstellar. The exciting thing is that he is commercially successful and able to do it by and large bucking the "normal" trends in the studios. He is perhaps one of a very, very small list of directors who can make the movie he wants, they way he wants, without interruption from a studio.
So far, we've taken a look at some other reviews out there, and the results are mixed from the critics. Some are totally on board, and others are completely not. I think that makes this a movie to absolutely go see. It was split like this when Memento came out too. Some of the highlights of these other reviews, without going into too much detail: the movie's science was horrible, the dialogue was lofty and awkward, and the plotting was precarious at best.
I'll take them one at a time.
As to the science in the movie being "bad," well this is a movie, right? A SCIENCE-FICTION movie? You know, one where you walk in and hand over the normal laws of time, space, gravity to filmmakers who might bend it a little bit to tell their stories. They, after all, set the rules for their stories. If you don't feel they did a good job setting the rules of their universe they've created, that's another matter. But if you want to know what would actually happen if you went into a Black Hole, any museum of Nature and Science could probably tell you. I wonder if these reviews also hated Star Wars because of the lightsabers and Star Trek because, no, Scotty can't really beam you up.
The dialogue...yes, I will admit it was a bit formal at times (Nolan is a Brit). But this is the same guy who took us into the collective unconscious in Inception. His schtick is philosophy. And more-so in this film than before. The characters are struggling with important questions about our place among the stars, and about love. I ask myself these lofty questions. I'm a dreamer too.
And as to the plotting, there seemed to be a consensus that the bad science led to bad plotting. So I don't need to handle that part again. A filmmaker sets story rules, you either buy them or you don't. There were moments in the movie where the plotting is heavy, like an outside force compelling the movie where it needs to go. For me? I'm okay with it. This isn't a camera-following-subject documentary about space after all.
It’s about the human element, not the science. If you go into this movie expecting the science to be 100%, don’t go. Go watch a documentary. This is not that. But it’s okay, it doesn’t have to be, and it doesn’t aim to be. It’s a sci-fi fantasy, time-travelling, dimension bending movie. (Speaking of dimensions, check out Imagining the Tenth Dimension).
Suspend your disbelief. That's what the movies are all about. I walked out of the theatre thinking that they're will never be an opportunity to experience that film like that, on 70mm IMAX, again - until I go see it for the second time next week. With Netflix, iPads, and tiny movie screens in our pockets, seeing a movie in the theatre on film is something that doesn't happen all the time. I hope we see a resurgence of film. Because there really isn't anything quite like it.
The movie is hopeful. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder about our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt,” as Cooper says. It reminded me of looking up at the stars at night. Just looking up and thinking about what it is to live, what it is to be a part of such a big world, such a big cosmos.
Rage on, rage on.