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Author Topic: Interstellar
Dogbreath
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So, who's seen it? I went and saw it in IMAX last night. (I highly recommend seeing this one in IMAX)

I had a huge, 5000+ word review I was about to post, and accidently "Ctrl-W"ed the tab, which really sucked. What follows is an abbreviated version:

I was truly impressed by the movie, which is surprising, since I already went into it with high expectations. It was a lot more subtle and reserved than I expected, especially in regards to the special effects. The special effects were amazing, of course, but I really appreciate how subdued and restrained Nolan was with them. In a world where most modern sci-fi movies like to splurge special effects all over the screen, Interstellar instead employs muted colors, small details, background events. Special effect that blend and integrate into the environment so seamlessly that you don't know they're there, half of the time. And where they do come front and center (like with a jaw dropping rendition of Saturn that really deserves to be seen in IMAX), they're slow and contemplative, a work of art meant to inspire wonder rather than flashy whiz-bang effects. The end result is that the special effects manage to add a great deal of beauty to the film's aesthetic without ever trying to take over. And it works really well.

But on to the movie itself (spoilers ahead!):

I had guessed the "twist ending" about 5 minutes in. Nobody else I saw it with guessed it, so I guess it speaks more for my familiarity with sci-fi tropes than about the film being predictable. The mechanics of using gravity as communication across time is pretty cool and original.

I also liked the slowly dying Earth and the rather bleak, worn out people trying their best to keep things running. It's nice to see a deviation from the nuclear war/rapid climate change/asteroid/disease and mass panic that usually comes standard fare with these sorts of movies.

I especially loved the opening - slow, careful, contemplative - it really sets the tone and pacing for the rest of the movie. This is a movie that isn't in a hurry to rush you from one scene to the next, instead it's confident in it's ability to keep your attention and takes it's time to tell it's story. After a long slew of breathless action-packed movies that try and squeeze as much action, adventure and intrigue into every second, this movie is a breath of fresh air, or a long luxurious bath.

In fact, the only issue I had with pacing (which unfortunately broke the suspension of disbelief somewhat) was how Cooper gets asked to be the pilot like 30 seconds after he first goes to NASA. (you're our only hope, guy we literally didn't know was still alive until an hour ago!) My guess was they (the filmmakers) originally planned for the offer to happen several months after he first went to NASA, but they realized it would be impossible due to time constraints/clunkyness, so they did what they had to and moved on. Which I can live with.

I liked the space travel. I liked how they didn't spend too much time showing off all the bells and whistles. Notice how relatively quick the launch sequence is, for example. They knew it's already all been done before, we've all already seen this. They showed us just enough, and left the rest to our imaginations. Which I appreciate.

But I think my favorite part of the movie was actually the robots. I liked that they weren't humanoid in design, but instead built with a sort of rugged utility. But mostly I like how their artificial intelligence and personalities are handled. I've always been bothered by sci-fi movies with what amounts to autistic robots: they're somehow intelligent enough to do advanced problem solving and can carry on complete conversations with human beings discussing advanced concepts with perfect comprehension, but are somehow unable to grasp relatively simple things like inflection, tone, body language, idioms and humor. This is, I think, mostly in order to remind the audience that the robot is still a machine, because it otherwise acts like a human. Interstellar manages to do the opposite - the robots are just as good and natural at communication as the humans (better, probably), but are still distinctly machines in the way they think and act and problem solve. It works really well.

I also appreciated the movie's attempt at realism with the science involved. It's fairly accurate (for a movie, I mean). I especially liked the gravity based time dilation, even if it's grossly exaggerated for dramatic purposes. The wormhole was pretty cool, too, and probably the first time a movie has actually thought to portray it in 3 dimensions. Having planets orbiting a black hole and being warmed by it's accretion disk is a pretty cool idea too, even though the lack of a source for the disk makes left me wondering what exactly is feeding it. I also really appreciated the cool gravity effects - like the tubular space station at the end. There's a huge wealth of amazing science fiction ideas out there, and this movie is showing how films are just starting to touch of some of them. More importantly, it shows just how cool filming those ideas can be. I really hope it's successful and inspires more "hard" science fiction movies.

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Foust
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I haven't seen a movie since Contact that evoked the size and wonder of space to the extent Interstellar did. For that alone, it is worth seeing.
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Orincoro
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The black hole thing was actually fairly well researched, and I can provide you with a pretty good answer of why the science makes (some) sense.

The theory, propounded by Stephen Hawking, among others, is that a black hole would typically go through a lifecycle not unlike a star. It would start with a hungry gravity fueled growth spurt, which would suck in all the nearby material, and clear out its orbit around the galactic plane (that is, the orbit that stars typically have that takes them up and down in the Y axis of a galaxy as they circle the center.

Once the orbit is cleared, and nearby objects are either orbiting, or sucked into the singularity, the black hole bends light and energy from nearby toward itself. The majority escapes, and a minority of the energy falls into the black hole, but at least some of the energy accretes around the singularity, and is transformed into low energy particles, which orbit close to the event horizon without falling in. Over time, the layer of low energy particles in the accretion disk builds up, and begins to push high energy particles away from black hole, like an egg in a nest. The black hole is seen to be "hairy." At this point, the low energy particles begin to slowly drain the black hole of energy by converting its gravity waves into higher energy particles, which then escape its orbit. Over time, the black hole evaporates, and its accretion disk dissipates.

Thus: black holes, if big enough, could theoretically be visible (because their accretion disks radiate positively), and theoretically could also die. As far as I know, it is not known whether black holes are ever able to attain an equilibrium that keeps their energy levels constant, but it is known via observation, that they probably shrink over time, as they lose energy.

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Geraine
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I saw the movie on Tuesday at a special 70mm Imax showing here in Las Vegas.

I loved it.

My only gripe was the third act with the special guest star. While watching that part I thought it seemed a little out of place and was dragged out a bit, but in the end I was fine with it.

Some people are saying it was left open for a sequel, and I hope Nolan decides NOT to do one. I thought it ended in the right place, and there is no way a second film would be able to live up to the first.

I'd put this as my third favorite Nolan movie. The Prestige is still my favorite, followed by Memento.

I should say that I was never a fan of McConaughey until I watched True Detective. I had my doubts about him in this film, but I am glad to say I was wrong. I don't think I could picture anyone else in the role. Anne Hathaway could have easily been replaced, but I thought she did a good job. Jessica Chastain was perfectly cast.

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tertiaryadjunct
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Good review, I mostly feel the same. I didn't even mind the suddenly-he's-the-pilot thing; not only was he already well known to the NASA people, he'd apparently been lured there by the same unknown force that gave them the wormhole to begin with. If they're going to trust the "wormhole aliens", they might as well go all the way and trust their emissary. (Oops, it was near Saturn, not Bajor.)

I only had two major issues with it. (More spoilers ahead.)

One technical: they need a giant multi-stage rocket to leave Earth. As they were landing on that first planet and I was right in the middle of wondering how they expected to get back into space, my friend's kid leaned over and whispered to me, "How are they getting off the planet again?" A middle schooler whose sole experience of scifi is Doctor Who can apparently see that one coming. I was waiting for some throwaway explanation like "the gravity here is only 60 percent of Earth's" but amusingly we got just the opposite (130 percent). There were other little nits to pick but they could all be glossed over easily enough. This one was glaring.

Secondly, it wrapped itself up far too tidily and happily. The movie Chef was a good example of this, where the main character regaining his creative energy and building his relationship with his son somehow just wasn't enough for the writers, so they also had to wedge in a final scene of him remarrying his ex wife. Cooper should have died after his time manipulations in the black hole; having the (paradoxical, but hey, time travel) future metahumans dump him back out at Saturn to have a sappy final reunion with his daughter was too much. The final reunion had already happened when the daughter realized who was manipulating the watch and who'd been her "ghost" all those years.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
Anne Hathaway could have easily been replaced, but I thought she did a good job.

She easily played the the weakest role in the movie, but I think that has more to do with how she was written than how she played it. They needed her to be the damsel in distress on the wave planet, and she never really recovered from point on. I do tremendously appreciate that they didn't try and force a romantic relationship - isn't it nice to have a movie where a man and woman can become good friends and work together for a long period of time without having sex?

quote:

One technical: they need a giant multi-stage rocket to leave Earth. As they were landing on that first planet and I was right in the middle of wondering how they expected to get back into space, my friend's kid leaned over and whispered to me, "How are they getting off the planet again?" A middle schooler whose sole experience of scifi is Doctor Who can apparently see that one coming. I was waiting for some throwaway explanation like "the gravity here is only 60 percent of Earth's" but amusingly we got just the opposite (130 percent). There were other little nits to pick but they could all be glossed over easily enough. This one was glaring.

The multi-stage rocket was there to launch an entire last section of the (*MASSIVE*) spacecraft into orbit. It looked like it weighed thousands of tons, at least. They landed on the planets in small little aerodynamic space planes (only a tiny fraction of the mass of the spacecraft) that gain most of their momentum from flying.
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tertiaryadjunct
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From what I remember seeing, the spaceplane is the only thing that docked with the station after the launch from Earth. It would be great if that wasn't the case though. Perhaps other viewers here can confirm or deny. I'll watch extra closely next time I see it, too. (I still need to watch it in imax!)
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Dogbreath
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I'm pretty sure I remember it being an entire section, but I could be wrong. Hey, it's another excuse to watch the movie again! [Smile]
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tertiaryadjunct
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Through the magic of the Internet, I was able to watch the launch scene again right from my computer. The exclusive use of close-ups makes it hard to know much, but they never show anything more than just the spaceplane. Though there's this shot just before docking and this shot after which seems to indicate they brought up both spaceplanes simultaneously. I'll accept that as enough to excuse the need for a giant multistage rocket [Wink] .
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MrSquicky
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Just as a note, ctrl-shift-t will restore tabs you closed.
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Samprimary
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interstellar more like intermediocre am i right
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Sean Monahan
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Couldn't have said it better, Dogbreath.

I saw it Sunday in IMAX, and don't really have anything to add but agreement.

I also saw a lot of it coming ahead of time, and I also agree that this is probably because I'm familiar with many of the sci-fi tropes, and not because the movie was predictable.

I loved the way the scenes cut between the storylines during the more dramatic moments.

Special effets-wise, I really like the portrayal of traveling through the wormhole, and how what we were seeing *completely* did not make any sense (as I imagine it would be when perceiving higher dimensions).

Seeing that massive wave on Miller was frightening.

I also love the way they portrayed time as a spatial dimension inside the black hole. I read a scifi story once (I forget the name) where an explorer enters a black hole, and upon exiting, the time dimension gets switched with one of the spatial dimensions. This is pretty much exactly how I had imagined it, and when he appeared there I knew right away what I was seeing

When I first saw TARS walking, I thought, "What a terribly inefficient design for mobility." Then, I saw him running on the Miller planet. Whoaaaa...

I appreciated the commitment to relatively accurate science. Apparently, Kip Thorne was science consultant. The "Scientific Accuracy" section of Interstellar's wikipedia page is interesting.

I agree with Geraine about the special guest star. It took me out of the movie a little. It seemed... I don't know... too late in the movie to introduce a new character played by an A-list actor. Or something. There may also be some bias here, because I don't like him that much.

I was never terribly impressed with Matthew McConaughey (although I did not see his Oscar-winning performance), but while watching this movie, I forgot I was watching him. He was fantastic. The grief he expressed when leaving his daughter's bedroom for the last time, or seeing her face on a recorded message, is palpable.

The one thing I didn't get was at the beginning when they were trying to hijack and bring down the drone flying over the cornfield. I'm not sure what this had to do with the rest of the story, unless it was just to introduce the idea that this farmer is not any old farmer, he's also an educated/experienced aviator. (I guess I just answered my own question.)

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scifibum
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And also adventurous.
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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Sean Monahan:
The one thing I didn't get was at the beginning when they were trying to hijack and bring down the drone flying over the cornfield. I'm not sure what this had to do with the rest of the story, unless it was just to introduce the idea that this farmer is not any old farmer, he's also an educated/experienced aviator. (I guess I just answered my own question.)

A couple reasons:

A) It introduces the weird gravity fluctuations that are happening.

B) It's the first high tech (post 1930s) that we see in the movie. It's sets the stage of a technologically regressive society surviving on the scraps of the one that came before. (i.e, us)

C) It's a cool scene. [Smile]

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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogbreath:
quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
Anne Hathaway could have easily been replaced, but I thought she did a good job.

She easily played the the weakest role in the movie, but I think that has more to do with how she was written than how she played it. They needed her to be the damsel in distress on the wave planet, and she never really recovered from point on. I do tremendously appreciate that they didn't try and force a romantic relationship - isn't it nice to have a movie where a man and woman can become good friends and work together for a long period of time without having sex?


It was pretty refreshing. They each had their own lives, one back home with his family, the other on a planet in a distant galaxy.

For me, the only thing I didn't particularly like about the ending was part where Cooper jumps in a ship to go be with Brand. Sure they were friends, but the ending made it seem like there was some secret love between the two of them. I didn't get that feeling during the film, so how did it happen all of the sudden? Throughout the film I didn't get any feeling that they were falling in love, only that they were becoming friends. Cooper didn't even ask about his son, grandson, or other family members. He just said a brief goodbye to his daughter, then hopped in a ship (that I guess has the capability to travel quickly to other galaxies?) to go be with Brand.

At first I thought "Oh, he will just go through the wormhole." Then I read an interview in which Nolan said that the wormhole had vanished after he went into the black hole. That wasn't even stated in the movie, but he's the director.

At the time I watched it I enjoyed it, but the more I think about it, it bothers me.

[ November 14, 2014, 03:45 PM: Message edited by: Geraine ]

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Szymon
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I just watched it. It was a nice movie, I had a lot of fun.

I had this very strong feeling, that it was similar to Space Odyssey, the book, not the movie though. When he entered the
*SPOILER*

black hole, he was in a room, just like in the book. And, the wormhole was orbiting Saturn (in Space Odyssey, there was an inconsistency once it was Jupiter, once Saturn). And, it was sent by an unknown civilization.

I'm not saying it was a plagiarism, just couldn't get it out of my head while watching.

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TomDavidson
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The movie makes several direct homages to 2001, yes.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by tertiaryadjunct:
From what I remember seeing, the spaceplane is the only thing that docked with the station after the launch from Earth. It would be great if that wasn't the case though. Perhaps other viewers here can confirm or deny. I'll watch extra closely next time I see it, too. (I still need to watch it in imax!)

No, the spaceplane was in the tip of the rocket, but one of the rocket sections contained the station. There was a brief sequence where they had to "redock" with the station after launch, which was a similar procedure to what Apollo did with the LEM/CSM docking procedure.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
The movie makes several direct homages to 2001, yes.

But also Contact. More than most people probably realize because the film of that book was so totally unfaithful to the interesting science involved in the novel.

Interstellar communication via time travel? Check. Wormholes? Check. Father daughter drama? Check. Mysterious scientist/magnate pulling the strings? Check, sort of.

The two films also both starred Mcconaughey, which just highlights how bad an adaption Contact was to a really good novel.

I actually think Interstellar nearly a better film adaption of Contact than the film Contact was.

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Szymon
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Same with Space Odyssey, though. Of course, Kubrick's film was a masterpiece, one of the very first Science fiction movies with great special effects.

Objectively, though, Interstellar is much deeper and more similar to Clarke's novel. They didn't have the tech to film what was the most important part of the book, what happened after he entered the monolyth.

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tertiaryadjunct
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
No, the spaceplane was in the tip of the rocket, but one of the rocket sections contained the station. There was a brief sequence where they had to "redock" with the station after launch, which was a similar procedure to what Apollo did with the LEM/CSM docking procedure. [/QB]

So I just rewatched it, in IMAX.

The ship/station ("Endurance") was already up there; they only thing they sent up on the rocket were the two Ranger spaceplanes.

Here's a thing I'd heard about but had never actually experienced: many digital IMAX projectors are terrible. I mean, I knew they were all worse than the real film ones (the last two of which disappeared from Los Angeles last year) but the older digital projectors only have 2k resolution and this was my first time encountering one of those. Spending an extra $6 for tickets to experience visible pixelation and generally worse image quality than my normal theater made me quite angry. Those of you looking to see it in IMAX at an unfamiliar theater, make sure the theater has the better (4k) equipment.

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Orincoro
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Well, it still makes sense then. The spaceplanes were launched from a rocket base to save fuel for them escaping the atmosphere- it's shown that they can basically make only 2 planetary escapes on available fuel, so saving the first one makes sense. Plus, maybe they were carrying other supplies as well in the rocket stages.

quote:
Here's a thing I'd heard about but had never actually experienced: many digital IMAX projectors are terrible. I mean, I knew they were all worse than the real film ones (the last two of which disappeared from Los Angeles last year) but the older digital projectors only have 2k resolution and this was my first time encountering one of those. Spending an extra $6 for tickets to experience visible pixelation and generally worse image quality than my normal theater made me quite angry. Those of you looking to see it in IMAX at an unfamiliar theater, make sure the theater has the better (4k) equipment.
Which is why Nolan shot it on film. [Smile]
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