Space is big. Really big. And so is Christopher Nolan’s tale of wormholes, time dilation and higher dimensions.
Release Date: OUT NOW! 2014 | 12 | Blu- ray/ DVD Director: Christopher Nolan Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi
You wait years
for a serious- minded space blockbuster, then two arrive almost at once. Following Gravity, a tight adventure story where people in space struggle to get back to Earth, here’s Christopher Nolan’s sprawling epic about astronauts seeking a new home for humanity as Earth is buried in swirling dust- storms.
Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, an ex- pilot turned farmer in a future world that officially denies humans went to space. A ghost haunts his house and daughter Murph ( Mackenzie Foy). The ghost leads Cooper to the remains of NASA and away from Earth. Together with his companions, Cooper braves wormholes, time dilation, seas and glaciers, and higher dimensions.
As he did on his Batman trilogy, Nolan sets out to make a film apart from established screen genres. Avoiding silver- suited futurism, Nolan sets much of the action in a blighted rural America where dust- clouds engulf farmhouses and cornfields, drawing on The Grapes Of Wrath and the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. In talking heads interludes taken from a 2012 documentary, elderly survivors of the “Dust Bowl” years in ’ 30s America talk about their memories of the time, embedding Interstellar’s imagined future in the historic past.
Like Gravity, Interstellar feels like a battle between audience- friendly Hollywood and the coldly rational underpinnings of hard SF. On the one hand, the film conveys the terrifying vastness and loneliness of space. The image of the tiny human vessel crawling through the void might have impressed Kubrick. He’d surely have liked the film’s most stupendous image, of a sea humping up into mountain- sized waves on a world where neither land nor life belong.
And yet the film also insists on staying with its story of one cosmically separated family. Anne Hathaway’s scientist may make Werner Herzog- like statements about the indifferent universe (“Is a tiger evil because it rips a gazelle to pieces?”) but she later talks of love as a Star Wars- style force. Cooper’s journey leads us to a circular- logic ending which feels like 2001’ s stargate reimagined by an especially soppy Spielberg. The timey- wimey handwaving and dubious character resolutions could have been written by Steven Moffat.
Other problems, though, are obviously Nolan’s. Multiple repetitions of Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” soon get laughably portentous, much like the closing speech in The Dark Knight. Even before that sub- stargate ending, the film runs short of steam. The last act has long anticlimactic sequences which aren’t exciting or interesting, for all the brawling on glaciers, breathless intercutting between different worlds, and best attempts by composer Hans Zimmer to ramp up the suspense.
And yet for all its disappointments, Interstellar makes it easy to turn off one’s critical faculties and just enjoy the bigness: the waves, the glaciers, the cornfields, the whole super- sized package.
The DVD is vanilla, with the extras exclusive to the Blu- ray ( rated). They include 13 making- of featurettes, plus a longer documentary, “The Science Of Interstellar”.
Viewers who watch bonuses for candid footage and comments from the actors may be disappointed. Interstellar’s extras are much more about the technical challenges and visualising the science, which makes for dry viewing at times. Still, there’s a lovely comment from Michael Caine, whose character writes huge equations on a blackboard: Caine confesses that when he talked to the physicist Kip Thorne, who supplied the real science, he was lost three sentences in!
It was Thorne’s equations that determined how the wormhole and the black hole were visualised in the
Interstellar makes it easy to turn off one’s critical faculties and just enjoy the bigness
film, the first as a marble- like sphere in space, the second as blackness surrounded by a gargantuan blazing halo. The documentary does a fair job of exploring these topics, as well as time travel, relativity, the search for habitable planets and the Dust Bowl catastrophe of the ’ 30s which inspired
Interstellar’s future. However, some of this material gets repeated in the shorter featurettes.
One of the best of these is “Cosmic Sounds”, about the creation of Hans Zimmer’s music, dominated by a giant London church organ which exhales its music. Zimmer began his score thinking it was for a father- son drama, not a space odyssey; true to his vision, Nolan didn’t want Interstellar to have a genre soundtrack. The music developed through the film’s production, each shaping the other.
Other featurettes highlight Nolan’s practice of filming as much as he can for real. In the studio, we see spaceships being turned on massive gimbals. When the Endurance manoeuvres through space, you’re often looking at a near life- sized prop being filmed with real lighting. The blocky robot character TARS was frequently a heavyweight prop too, worked with rods by comedian Bill Irwin, who also supplied TARS’s voice. Even the abstract, surreal Tesseract environment was partly a giant physical set, with McConaughey hanging in a harness. Iceland, formerly Bruce Wayne’s training ground in Nolan’s Batman
Begins, doubled as Interstellar’s water world ( an endless delta) and ice world ( a glacier). And if you’re wondering why the ice world looks rather black, that’s residue from Iceland’s 2010 volcanic eruption – the one which stopped all the planes! A Limited Edition Blu- ray comes with a 48page booklet, featuring material from the book Interstellar: Beyond Time And Space.
Their fellow astronauts didn’t believe in wearing spacesuits.