They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

2001 On Steroids

We don't normally go out during the week -- school night, you know. But sometimes we make an exception. So I drove Mrs. Dr. Phil to work today, then picked her up downtown at the engineering school. Had Jimmy Johns for dinner and popcorn for dessert. Popcorn was exceptionally good today.

IMAX films are tough. At one point they couldn't be longer than 2 hours until they came up with a machine to help change the humongous film platters in mid-stream -- this one is billed at 169 minutes and so they didn't even show ANY trailers. Wow.

As mentioned the other day, we bought advance tickets and carefully chose dead center in the first row. For our IMAX theatre, rows C and D dead center are optimal. But with my leg, row A is really a lot easier. Plus no one sat next to us. (grin)

Interstellar IMAX 70mm [PG-13]
Celebration North IMAX Theatre (18), 6:20pm, Row A Seats 14-15, 2×$7.25

Matthew McConaughey pilots a mission through a stable wormhole near Saturn to try and find habitable worlds to save humanity from a dying Earth. Been there, done that, right? Not right. FINALLY we get a film with enough length to develop the story. And by develop, I mean there are tiny details that make you go -- gee, that's a nice tech shot of a part of a spacecraft, nice to see such detail, only to have said details become major plot points later in the movie. There is a plot, there is a cast, there is gorgeous photography, there is unbelievable settings. There are twists. And by gosh, there's some honest to goodness Physics in play here.

If you have access to an IMAX Theatre, you want to run and see it there. This is not in 3D, so you don't have to deal with dimmed images or registration problems or motion sickness. But... our IMAX theatre I believe has a 50,000 watt sound system. Crystal clear and loud when it needed to be, not loud just to be loud. Some of the sounds were terrifying and several times our seats shook. Way, way back in the 70s there was Sensuround -- which added giant bass speakers to shake your chairs. But it was a gimmick and you could tell in the action scenes when it was turned on or off. This is not a gimmick.

And space is silent when it needs to be.

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar was something of a secret project for a long time. By the time I first heard about and saw an early trailer, they were deep in postproduction. Real live Physicist Kip Thorne was a consultant regarding traveling through wormholes.

Often I use my review space to reference other movies. For Interstellar there are dozens I could do. But in this review I am only going to reference one -- Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. I first saw that in Cinerama in a Toronto the summer I turned ten. It was only showing on a few screens in North America and we were in Toronto on vacation. My father really wanted to see it, but we found out that the reserved seating had been sold out for weeks. And then they added a midnight show. We barely got four seats in the balcony. One of the top film experiences of my entire life.

To put this in perspective, I consider Interstellar to be another. Top Five Movies Of My Life. It's that good.

That wormhole travel? How many times have we seen this in film? Contact... Stargate...? This is impressive. It's as if the psychedelic trip through the Monolith for Bowman was reborn and redone anew.

How do you show a dying Earth? We've seen this before. But not like this. Because we spend time on the farm. We see how everybody deals with the continuing crisis on a daily basis. And if you're doing Dust Bowl type events, you can't do better than actually getting footage from Ken Burns and his Dust Bowl documentary the other year.

I think what I like is not just the stuff they show and the stuff they take the time to explain, but what they DON'T do. There are several scenes which would be mandatory and long set pieces in more ordinary films. In Interstellar your intelligence is not insulted. Some bits are shown in clips, some just mentioned in asides -- you the intelligent SF and space and science fan are allowed to fill in the blocks.

Fairly recently I have mentioned Disney's epic disaster of a film, The Black Hole, which far from being the scientifically accurate epic it was touted as, was a train wreck of an embarrassment. Interstellar is not that movie.

I worried for a bit. Because one of my complaints about space movies in the past twenty years is that apparently going off on space exploration isn't exciting enough -- you have to add aliens. And I thought they were going there. And... no. It's more thoughtful than that.

This is like the second space SF major film in the last two years to star Real Actors not known for doing SF. In 2013 we got Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Now we have Interstellar with the aforementioned Matthew, Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and more.

And the special effects are seamless. If you've seen the trailer -- and they've been saturation bombing TV recently -- there's a mountain range on one planet... oh... that's not a mountain range, that's a wave. And on a 50-foot high IMAX screen in Row A with a 50,000 watt sound system, it makes the killer wave in Deep Impact look like a ripple. Hans Zimmer's score is haunting. I may have to add it to my movie soundtrack collection.

If I had a criticism of the mission, it's that the crew should have dotted a few more i's and crossed a few more t's so they weren't so surprised as things go pear shaped -- but that's just carping versus having an exciting movie.

Finally, you can't reference 2001 without talking about HAL -- or the Monolith. ThinkGeek did an April Fool's ad for a 2001 Monolith "Action Figure" and they ended up having to make the damn thing. The AIs in Interstellar are extraordinary. And I want a T.A.R.S. action figure. The first truly new robot design in decades. There were some guys behind us who were going nuts every time the robots did something. Yeah, the opening evening IMAX crowd was mostly twenty-something geeks, it looked like.

The audience applauded when the credits ran.


Trailers: NONE. Really.

Dr. Phil

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