Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fall Flicks: Interstellar

After a quiet Halloween weekend, the Fall Flicks season is about to go off with Warner Brothers' big budget, big scope, big star filled space drama Interstellar going head to head with Disney's adaptation of obscure Marvel comic book Big Hero 6.  Following the critical and commercial successes of Memento and Insomnia, filmmaker Christopher Nolan reinvented the superhero genre with Batman Begins.  For better or worse, things went gritty and prequel following the well received film and it's even more successful sequel, The Dark Knight.  While third entry The Dark Knight Rises divided audiences, Nolan and company's approach to Batman reinvigorated a franchise and set him up as one of today's premiere filmmakers.  In between Bat flicks, 2010's Inception was a deft, somewhat confusing yet wholly engrossing take on the action blockbuster with tones of old school James Bond mixed with a mind bending reality.  Now, we get Interstellar, which has been one of the most anticipated flicks I can think of since it's first trailer dropped a year ago.  Said trailer gave nothing away besides promising some big scale space shenanigans and culmination of the McConaissance as star Matthew McConaughey's transition from likeable, southern surfer dude to serious leading man and actor was now complete.

Nolan has long been a proponent of shooting on film versus digital and along with filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and J.J. Abrams, are turning the tide on the system and keeping film stock alive.  For the last 10 years, theaters have been urged by the likes of George Lucas and James Cameron and assisted by the studios and exhibitors to convert to digital projection.  The Weinstein Company and Paramount were looking to cut film print distribution completely (ironic as Paramount helped fund Interstellar) and in today's market, it's hard to find a skilled projectionist to actually screen film.  Interstellar was shot on 70mm, a stock that allows for higher resolution and brighter images, a method used in the 60's and 70's to make going to the movies more of an event with bigger screens and sound to combat the growing threat of television.  However the added cost of the system would eventually be it's downfall.  Now, the 200 theaters left in America able to project film received the flick 2 days early.

We ventured out to Hollywood's recently renovated TCL Chinese Theatre on Tuesday night to see the film.  Even though it's not a true IMAX screen, the Chinese is the largest capacity IMAX theater in the world, I believe with over 900 seats.  Touted as IMAX 70mm Film, this screening would feature "projection of the brightest, clearest images at nearly 10x the resolution of standard formats with laser-aligned digital sound and customized theatre geometry to create the most immersive movie experience in the world".  Apparently, Chris Nolan had been in to the theater several times in the last few weeks watching the film and making adjustments to the picture and sound so ensure audiences would see it as he intended.

Interstellar opens up in the near future, we're not told what year but we do know that the planet is dying and running out of food.  Dust storms are normal and dirt on everything is just a way of life.  We meet former engineer and pilot turned corn farmer Cooper (Reign of Fire's McConaughey) raising his kids Murphy and Tom with the help of grandfather Donald (Cliffhanger's Jon Lithgow).  Strange anomalies keep happening in Murphy's room with things being knocked off of shelves and we think maybe aliens are sending us signals.  Cooper ends up finding the remnants of the long thought dismantled NASA program and is asked to pilot a ship traveling into space to find worlds fit for human habitation.  I won't get too much more into it because the trailers honestly only give you a peek at what you're in store for.  But space travel, ice planets, water planets, family drama, worm holes, black holes, time streams, relativity, gravitational pulls, love and hyper sleep all follows.  Writers Christopher and Jonathon Nolan effortlessly create a world where the future is literally now.  It was kind of weird to be watching as nothing is given any build up or extra explanation, you just go with it and nothing seems that far out of bounds as it would have 20 years ago.

McCoughey is solid as Coop and is in about every single scene.  He anchors his first half performance with a burning desire to do more than farm as a man who was never given the chance to do what he excelled at.  His loving relationship with his two kids and stand offish one with his father in law create a strong launching point for his conflicted inner self to either go and try to save the world or stay back and protect his family.  Michael Caine shows up as a former professor now working for NASA and Dark Knight Rises alum Anne Hathaway plays his daughter and fellow space explorer with her usual skilled aplomb.  What I liked about Interstellar was the experience of it all.  I wasn't watching it per se, I was just wrapped up in the characters, the drama, the conflict and was never taken out of the movie as I didn't know what was going to happen next for the most part.  While I couldn't explain to you everything that happened or why it happened and the ending doesn't quite match the excitement and drama of what precedes, I felt the movie.  I felt it in my heart from the emotional drama and in my chest from the rumbling sound (which wasn't as loud as The Dark Knight IMAX where I was literally rock concert deaf afterwards).  There are so many ideas at work here, the science, the ambition, the resolution, I'm sure people will pick it apart and over analyze the film but for me, I was involved, engrossed and totally into the world created and will definitely see it again before it leaves the theater because it won't be the same at home.

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