Spoiler free, but technical tidbits that might change how you perceive the movie.
Format: This subject is getting a lot of playtime on the TV and internet reviews, but I think a lot of people misunderstand. Interstellar was filmed in what’s called 15/70, which is 70mm film but at 15 perforations because it’s shot horizontally rather than vertically (vertical 70mm film yields 5 perforations per frame–the perforation is those holes where the mechanism grabs the film and rolls it forward [I just had a scary thought that my kids may never see film]). To compare, it’s like taking Blu-Ray (1.9K) to 6K by turning the film sideways. Keep in mind that not many films are shot in 70mm; Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Sound of Music come to mind–all at 5/70 not 15/70). Most non-digital films are shot in 35mm vertical, which is like VHS to our Blu-Ray/6K comparison.
Cinematography: I bring up the above to demonstrate that you are getting a lot of detail for your dollar on each frame. However–and this is a BIG however–the cinematography was not done by Wally Pfister, who did many of Christopher Nolan’s other movies. That is a big loss–Mr. Pfister is amazing with film, and the cinematographer for Interstellar is Hoyte Van Hoytema, who I feel takes a more typical approach to film.
This is where the misunderstanding in format comes into play: cinematography isn’t just about the size of the negative, it’s also about the quality of the lenses, focal depth, color balance, lighting, film grain, pace, and the “life” birthed through the developing process (contrast, grit, etc). Mr. Pfister delivers a clear image in all lighting conditions, with the proper mood and life for each scene. My impression is that Mr. Van Hoytema does the “expected” thing for each scene and doesn’t push the limits of the equipment or technology.
Verdict on the cinematography and film–Mr. Van Hoytema’s contribution to Interstellar voids the use of 15/70, so you might as well save yourself the $8 premium and watch it in the traditional theater format.
Sound: Hanz Zimmer does all of Christopher Nolan’s scores, and you either like his style or hate it–few are on the fence. In Interstellar, the music overpowers the dialog in several places, so you are left guessing what they are saying. The use of the organ was creative and unexpected–a big plus on that.
Time: This move takes three hours–take that into account on where you sit and how large of a soda you get. I would say it’s a three-act movie, with the conclusion maybe standing apart as a mini fourth act.
Science: If you are into physics, you’ll understand all of the stuff–but if you don’t know physics they present it in a way that you don’t lose anything. It’s not a confusing movie, but you do have the element of time. Folks who aren’t familiar with the term relativity may struggle a little bit, but anybody who’s watched a little bit of Nat Geo or PBS’s NOVA will be fully up to speed.
Theater, DVD, or Cable? If you like Gravity, then theater. If you didn’t like Gravity, then DVD. If you didn’t like Gravity or Inception or Twister, then Cable. If you didn’t like Gravity, Inception, Twister, or Dances With Wolves, then you probably don’t like watching movies and are probably not reading this review.
Bunnie’s review: ♥♥♥- (three out of five–but just barely)
As good as: The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek 8
Not as good as: Inception, Gravity, Star Trek 2, 6
Better than: 2001 (how’s that to start a fight!), Star Trek (except 2, 6, 8 ).
(Note: I’m not a trained professional or even in the industry, so my technical notes are just from my gleanings and self-teaching and could be way off from the actual real technicals.)