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Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar



Interstellar, UK/USA 2014. Directed by Christopher Nolan, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan.

Lichtburg Essen, Row F, Seats 21. 70mm analog projector, original version

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

When Interstellar came out in 2014, we went to Eindhoven in the Netherlands to watch the original version on IMAX—there are no analog IMAX theaters left in Europe except in Prague, but even the digital version was fantastic. (Interstellar’s primary camera was an MSM 9802, just like for Oppenheimer, its secondary a Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2.) Last Monday, I watched Interstellar on 70mm analog at the Lichtburg Theater in Essen, which is not only the largest and most gorgeous movie theater in Germany, it’s also among the last nine theaters around with a 70mm analog projector.

How did these two versions compare?

It was pretty clear. For all the spacey content, including the wormhole, the black hole, Miller’s Planet (“these aren’t mountains”), or Mann’s Planet (Matt calling an interstellar Uber), the IMAX’s larger (vertical) format and supercrisp laser projectors clearly had an edge over the analog version. But with regard to the earthy content, including the farm, the blight, the villages, the fires, the fleeing people, the (digital) IMAX version couldn’t hold a candle to the 70mm analog version.

I’m so happy to have seen both now!

Enough ink has been spilled on the movie’s scientific accuracy, and I will only mention two minor aspects. First, the most improbable scientific assumption, interestingly, was the unstoppable blight that proceeded to affect every crop on Earth. Then, for the extreme time dilation on Miller’s Planet, which Nolan insisted on having for dramatic reasons, Kip Thorne indeed found a solution to make it happen, with a very special case of black holes. (I’ve read Thorne’s book The Science of Interstellar, of course, and before that other books by him as well.) Often overenthusiastic Phil Plait, not as painstakingly careful and accurate as he should be with a huge audience like his, initially didn’t understand that (and apparently didn’t ask), so he had to fully withdraw his harsh criticism on that point in a later post. That could’ve been avoided!

Finally, say what you will about Hans Zimmer, but Interstellar is yet another movie where he absolutely kills it. Phenomenal soundtrack.

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