Having polluted the Earth beyond its ability to recover, a disease called Blight has destroyed the world’s crops until corn is all that’s left. For former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), life as a farmer hasn’t been without its challenge, as the recent death of his wife has left him with teenagers Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and the bright Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who’s recently been suspended for arguing that the Apollo moon missions were in fact real. When a poltergeist-like event occurs in their library – where several books and a model have inexplicably fallen off the shelves – Cooper and Murph realize that it’s actually a message and a location, which leads them back to Cooper’s old boss Professor Brand (Michael Caine). There, Cooper is told two unshakable facts: the Earth will end with Murph’s generation, and Cooper is the only one who can save the human race. Via a wormhole that has appeared near Saturn, Cooper and his team (including Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, and David Gyasi) journey to three potential planets on the other side of space-time, seeking the original astronauts who ventured out years before, but who have not been heard from since. Along the way, Cooper and his colleagues will witness the very wonders of the cosmos and endure unimaginable danger, while humanity itself teeters on the edge of oblivion.
Even after months of discussion – from the scientific community to those at the 2015 Oscars – INTERSTELLAR is still a tough movie to nail down. Is it a sweeping space epic where love is as constant as gravity? Is it a scientific and political commentary on where the human race is headed? Or is it an amalgam of several different plots, Frankenstein-ed together with science and incredible sensory experiences? Adding to that conundrum, we get slam-dunked on theories like Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, dimensional gravity, and the effect of black holes on humans, while the drama of space exploration and the wonders therein try to keep up. My opinion of INTERSTELLAR has changed somewhat since I saw it (twice) in theaters, due entirely to my repeat watchings at home. I had the same reaction until I viewed 2001 over the years, my love for it growing each time. To appreciate the beauty and wonder which INTERSTELLAR boldly embarks upon, one must see it as an evolution instead of trying to catch all that matter through a beaker.
Nolan certainly commands this production like a scientist – and hearing him in the supplements does prove how brilliant a filmmaker he is – while his technical know-how has definitely evolved. He’s perhaps the top director of our time, and yet the film won’t make converts out of everyone. Penned by his PERSON OF INTEREST brother Jonathon, INTERSTELLAR misses the human portion, at first making Cooper and Murph’s relationship center to the story, while never piecing it back together as the two are literally in different dimensions by the end. The way Murph ultimately dismisses Cooper to find Amelia is surprising, considering all the hate she stomached through Acts 1 & 2. The emotion and danger of space travel do give us some good scenes between Cooper and Amelia, but it ultimately feels a bit cold and therefore less genuine. There’s also several convenient plot devices that seem to place Cooper in the right place at the right time in order to keep the story from getting lost in space. These WTF moments happen too often, are not explained simply enough, and remind us that good story telling relies on showing – not telling – us how these elements fit into the greater plot. The best cast of 2014 isn’t used as effectively as they could, including Murph’s older iteration played by Jessica Chastain, who harbors deep but overly simplified resentment towards her father. Instead of working to find a way to communicate with him – as he does through space-time in the climax – she sends angry messages to him with no idea of whether they are ever actually received.
If you like a lot of silent exposition – as astronauts push buttons and look stressed while ships float through space – with many basic questions never answered, you’ll find a home here. What does the Earth resemble in the future? Why doesn’t Cooper use the same wormhole to begin searching for his lost crew/love? Why should we care about Amelia and her fate in the first place, when she has all the human eggs with her and CASE the metallic robot? Granted, that would have resulted in a four-hour film, but when you raise the questions, you have to answer them. If you’re not of a scientific mind – as I sadly seem to be no matter how hard I try – INTERSTELLAR will feel like you’ve been at someone’s home who speaks a totally different language than you.
And then there’s the brash, beautiful, and sometimes oppressively loud music by Composer Hans Zimmer, his soundtrack crossing the barriers of traditional scores into a realm that might outlive his already impressive resume. And yet with all those missteps, INTERSTELLAR should be seen, owned, and discussed around water coolers as much as the most recent gossip and entertainment news. Scientist and technical adviser Kip Thorne lends a credibility that legitimizes nearly everything, from the space suits to the warping around Gargantua. This should hold up nicely as the decades go on, taking its place among the classics, so long as you can get past the galaxy-sized plot holes. With the Fox program COSMOS firing the imagination of kids everywhere, INTERSTELLAR should go one step further to encourage all of us to look to the stars for our future, instead of petty territorial disagreements and the minutia of our daily lives.
Ultra HD Blu-ray Video Quality: Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar looks amazing and breath taking in 4k Blu-ray with the colors benefiting from the HDR to showcase the rich spectrum while also hitting hard with the deepest of blacks.
The Blu-ray of INTERSTELLAR arrives with a beautiful MPEG-4/AVC transfer that’s supple in its tones one minute, harsh and unforgiving the next, but always stunning in its clarity. Any complaints about the transitions between IMAX and the traditional widescreen are unfounded, leaving the print better than when we saw it in theaters. There is a beauty to the print that high-definition platforms will thrive on, revealing transitions between light and shadow that come from Nolan’s use of a hybrid of practical and digital effects. Some blacks and whites are washed out, but that’s not Paramount’s fault – they reproduce his world with stunning details that were initially missed on dirty white screens in old theaters slow to adapt to technology. There is a definite difference between the slightly oversaturated Earth tones of flesh, green crops, and clothing and the stark patterns which emerge as we begin to visit the worlds beyond the wormhole. You might read that some critics witnessed hairs on the print, but I could not find them on either the BD or the DVD. I’m not criticizing anyone, but I looked through that sequence several times and did not see it. Detail is extraordinary throughout, revealing a dirty and well-worn Endurance, a Blight-filled Earth with individual grains of dust fairly apparent as you get into closeups, and breathtaking imagery of Gargantua. Human features are just as striking, such as the sweat on Cooper’s face, the huge waves on Miller’s Planet, and the various interiors and clothing of our astronauts. If you do see the technical issues some critics are observing, do let us know in the comments section below. But at this point, INTERSTELLAR is gorgeous and receives high marks.
The 4K Disc no different then the Blu-ray is also only boasting a 5.1 track.
INTERSTELLAR flies in with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that should have been a 7.1. but displays a rich environment nevertheless. From the moment we visit Cooper’s memory of the failed test flight, it’s clear that Paramount has something special planned…at points. The entire soundfield is on display here, from the large-scale booming of the NASA rocket launch to the dust storms which plague Earth in the first act. There’s also a lot of subtlety to the track: crowd noise, the beeping/booping of instruments, and footsteps show up frequently. Forward speakers deliver the requisite music and sound effects, all of which come across quite beautifully, while the channel provides us with nothing but dialogue. And that’s the problem: in those moments where the scene is quiet, it’s very difficult to hear McConagey’s mumbling and even some of Hathaway’s nearly scientific tones. Some will be off-put some in trying to play The Remote Game, suddenly finding themselves dialing it back when Zimmer’s thunderous – and frankly overpowering – score arrives. Zimmer should have won at the 2015 Oscars, his use of pipe organs elevating soundtracks to a whole new level. But I found myself yelling over it many times to debate with my wife the precepts of the film instead of normally enjoying the audio presentation. After reading other reviews, I feel better in laying down some criticism that was just as loud in IMAX and XD when it premiered in theaters. Still, I think very highly of Paramount’s efforts to bring Nolan’s awe-inspiring production to the home, with mostly precise, clear sounds that will make any home theater shake, rattle, and roll.
The INTERSTELLAR 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comes highly recommended. Excerpts from this review were written by Hi-Def Ninja writer Matt Cummings.