Adventure Blu-ray Review

'Interstellar' Blu-ray Review

April 1, 2015Ben MK

From the Earth to the moon, and beyond...

Official Studio Synopsis: From director Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight trilogy) comes the story of a team of pioneers undertaking the most important mission in human history. Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey stars as ex-pilot-turned-farmer Cooper, who must leave his family and a foundering Earth behind to lead an expedition traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Format: Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy
Video: 1080p High Definition
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital / Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Run Time: 168 Mins.
Feature Rating:  

To put the aesthetic vision and tone of Nolan's ambitious, nearly-three-hour-long opus — rich with black holes, wormholes and giant sarcastic robots — into perspective, think Stanley Kubrick meets early M. Knight Shyamalan. Admittedly, it's not the most straightforward concept to wrap one's head around, which is why it's probably for the best that Nolan (who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother, Jonathan) chooses to launch the story in a more grounded manner: on Earth, where, in the not-too-distant future, a global food shortage threatens to extinguish the lives of every last man, woman and child on the planet.

It's here — in a rural farmhouse constantly being battered by swirling dust storms — that we're introduced to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widower and former pilot whose NASA career has crashed and burned. Nowadays, he does what he can to prolong the survival of the human race, which translates into growing corn (the only food that hasn't yet gone extinct) and caring for his two children, 10-year-old Murph (Mackenzie Foy), and her older brother, Tom (Timothée Chalamet).

That is, until the day a series of unexplained gravitational anomalies leads him and his daughter straight to the front gates of a top secret NASA base, where a group of researchers — professor Brand (Michael Caine), his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and scientists Rommily (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) — have been working tirelessly on a possible solution to Earth's no-win scenario. Their idea? A manned expedition to another galaxy, to explore the viability of life on other worlds — and they want Cooper to fly their spaceship.

With a storyline spanning multiple decades — with Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck eventually taking over the roles of Cooper's children — Interstellar may have all the trappings of a typical Hollywood blockbuster, but what's truly wondrous about it is that it works on so many levels. It's a thought-provoking sci-fi treatise, a jaw-dropping visual tour de force and a moving piece of dramatic filmmaking, with an unexpected amount of humor to boot. In fact, its daunting running time can barely contain the scope of the movie's ambition, which is just as much about the power of the human heart as it is about the power of science.

Audio/Visual Rating:  

As he did with the latter two installments of The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan — this time working with cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema — chose to film portions of Interstellar in the IMAX format, a decision that's faithfully upheld by Paramount's Blu-ray presentation, which utilizes shifting aspect ratios to best approximate the theatrical viewing experience for home audiences. The 35mm footage boasts subtle film grain, while IMAX sequences appear slightly crisper and clearer. But either way, the results are full of breathtaking color and detail, whether it's a closeup shot of Cooper on the porch of his farmhouse or a panoramic view of him standing on the edge of an icy precipice on another planet. The impressive visuals are matched by an engrossing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which immerses viewers in the sounds of rumbling spaceship thrusters, vicious dust storms and massive tidal waves. The only caveat is that the blaring crescendos of composer Hans Zimmer's score sometimes overpowers the dialogue; but it's worth pointing out that this is an intentional aspect of Interstellar's sound design, and not a flaw in the audio encode.

Extras Rating:  

Paramount's 3-disc Blu-ray release come fully-loaded with extras, including an authentic IMAX film cell, a DVD copy of the movie, an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, plus a second Blu-ray disc devoted entirely to the following bonus features:

  • The Science of Interstellar (50:20) - An extended cut of the Discovery Channel special narrated by Matthew McConaughey, which presents a real-life scientific perspective on the film. Running nearly 10 minutes longer than the broadcast version, this documentary takes a look at astrophysicist Kip Thorne's involvement in the movie, and touches on topics such as the search for habitable worlds, wormholes, black holes and the future of space travel.
  • Plotting an Interstellar Journey (7:49) - A look at the film's origins, its influences and its production design.
  • Life on Cooper's Farm (9:43) - A look at how the filmmakers recreated the look of the classic American farm on-location in Alberta, Canada.
  • The Dust (2:38) - A brief look at how the film's dust storm sequences were filmed.
  • TARS and CASE (9:27) - A look at how these two "articulated machines" were conceptualized, designed and brought to life through both CG visual effects and the efforts of puppeteer Bill Irwin.
  • Cosmic Sounds (13:40) - A piece focusing on composer Hans Zimmer's film score, touching on the development of the music and the integral role played by an unorthodox instrument: the church organ.
  • The Space Suits (4:31) - A glimpse at the semi-futuristic NASA space suits worn by the actors in the film, highlighting their functional design aesthetic and the actors' experiences wearing them.
  • The Endurance (9:24) - An examination of the movie's hero spaceship, The Endurance, providing insight into its concept and design, along with a tour of the fully-functional Endurance set.
  • Shooting in Iceland: Miller's Planet/Mann's Planet (12:42) - A look at the cast and crew's experiences and challenges filming in scenic Iceland, which served double duty as both an ice-covered and water-logged planet.
  • The Ranger and the Lander (12:20) - A look at the design of these two spaceships, along with a tour of the sets and a glimpse at what it was like to film with these full-size spaceships both on-location in Iceland and on an L.A. soundstage.
  • Miniatures in Space (5:29) - A peek into how the filmmakers utilized 1/15 and 1/5 scale models of The Endurance to bring striking realism to key scenes.
  • The Simulation of Zero-G (5:31) - A glimpse into how the filmmakers convincingly recreated the sensation of weightlessness on film.
  • Celestial Landmarks (13:22) - An examination of the real-life science behind the film, as well as how the movie's never-before-seen renditions of black holes and wormholes were brought to life.
  • Across All Dimensions and Time (9:02) - An examination of the three-dimensional shadow of an unfolded four-dimensional hypercube known as the Tesseract, including its concept, design and a look at the Tesseract set.
  • Final Thoughts (6:02) - A reflection into the film and its meaning from the cast and crew.
  • Theatrical Trailers (9:30) - One teaser trailer and three full trailers for the film.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on November 5th, 2014.

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