It feels like an event. Can I proclaim it’s even a bit daunting? I’m honestly even a little bit afraid of it. “Interstellar” appears so BIG, with so much riding on it, that I’m somewhat reticent to attend. In fact, ever since 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, director Christopher Nolan features have felt like more than just movie. Has he truly reinvented the blockbuster? It certainly skews close to that, and I don’t believe labeling him a modern millennium Spielberg, is all that far off.
After the low-budget, and barely released “Following” in 1998 (seek it out on Netflix…it’s worth a look for completists), Nolan struck pay dirt with the reverse chronology “Memento” in 2001. That mind-bender pinned him firmly on the map. Returning in 2002 with the underrated remake of “Insomnia” (starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams), he was eventually selected to reboot Warner Bros “Batman” franchise. That hiring resulted in the ambitious “Batman Begins” in 2005, and it’s where Mr. Nolan really started to reach for the sky. He got all twisty and gimmicky again in 2006 with the solid “The Prestige”…and then happenstance created a monster after that.
2008’s “The Dark Knight” was going to be huge no matter what, but it’s a certainty that the tragic death of Heath Ledger was what shot it into the stratosphere. The fact that it was great filmmaking, as well as one of the finest films of last decade, was almost beside the point. It won two Academy Awards (including a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for Mr. Ledger) and grossed a billion dollars. The sci-fi thriller “Inception” premiered in 2010, eventually garnered 825 million worldwide, and boasted 8 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture)–pulling down four. And then 2012’s “The Dark Knights Rises”, wrapped up Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, inadvertently prompted a mass shooting…and raked in another billion bucks. The tragedy of Aurora was stomach-churning, but the trajectory was obvious. Christopher Nolan was capturing the zeitgeist, and changing the way blockbusters are viewed worldwide. And he’s never utilized 3D even once.
Which brings us to “Interstellar”. Everything about it appears GIGANTIC. It’s nearly three-hours long, it MUST be viewed in the IMAX format, and it’s being compared to a slew of the greatest science-fiction epics ever made. Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 “Solaris”, Steven Spielberg’s 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and Philip Kaufman’s 1983 “The Right Stuff” are pretty heady company, and I’ve heard them all referenced in comparison to Nolan’s latest. Can his space epic possibly live up to these prestigious predecessors? The wait to find out in North America is over, because “Interstellar” officially hits theaters today. It stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn and Michael Caine. Hang on…it looks like it’s bound to be a helluva ride.