‘Interstellar’ on the Small Screen


Disclaimer: I saw Interstellar on one of the smallest screens possible.

Alright, I better revoke that statement. It’s not like I pirated Chris Nolan’s just-released brainy blockbuster and uploaded it to my iPhone to watch in bits and pieces as a way to pass the time during my daily commute. I’m just rather positive I didn’t see it in the way it was intended to be seen. I have a job at a small, older-fashioned cinema that existed long before monopoly-grasping multiplexes with an expensiver-by-the-dozen amount of screens started popping up all over. Standing my theater’s screens next to the gargantuan IMAXs of our time would be something like those photo simulations of the RMS Titanic paling in comparison to the size of the largest cruise ships on the seas nowadays. I’m not sure the term ‘70mm’ has ever even been uttered in my workplace.

So do the circumstances in which I experienced Interstellar render me incapable of walking away from the credits having genuinely absorbed the filmmakers’ vision? The film’s theatrical run is, after all, one in a handful of real-deal motion picture events of the year. It’s star-studded spectacles like these that continue to churn out ticket sales that allow the industry to prosper. When the recession hit it was predicted that box office numbers would plummet since getting out to your local cinema is simply much less of a necessity than having a meal on your table each night come suppertime. But those numbers kind of skyrocketed, because especially when times are shitty, people need to be swept from the dust and off their feet and into a pleasanter stratosphere.

Concertgoers often rave about the opportunity to see their most cherished acts perform in a small, intimate space. There’s like an infinite number of bobbing heads in a Madison Square Gardens audience, but standing just feet away from your beloved musicians where if you’re lucky there’ll be some eye contact — that’s where the magic supposedly is. I tromped into Interstellar attempting to transpose this attitude to the moviegoing experience — even if the larger-than-life aspect would be lacking, and if at no point I’d be tricked into feeling like I was flying through the cosmos, and if either way there was no possibility of Jessica Chastain making eyes at me — if the content was present, I told myself, I’d enjoy the film as much as the attendees opting for optimal viewing circumstances for a higher price at a theater chain down the road.

The grounded reality is, I didn’t. Interstellar is nothing to write home about. You can read about it in millions of other places on the internet so I’ll save you the time by offering the summation that I spent at least 2 of the film’s 3 hours wishing I were watching last year’s Gravity instead. Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, and Hans Zimmer all do their jobs very well, but on the other hand the plot is one big wormhole that swallows itself. And save for a climax that wowed me, I can pinpoint each brief moment when I felt emotionally in tune or even comprehending of the movie’s motive. Sure, Matthew McConaughey was struggling to complete his life’s work of rescuing the human race aided by an empowering love for his daughter, but why is it that I never really cared?

Producer Lynda Obst’s and astrophysicist Kip Thorne’s initial envisioning of a scenario wherein “the most exotic events in the universe suddenly become accessible to humans” was passed around to Spielberg before into the hands of the Nolan Bros, who are being lauded by the masses for their innovative storytelling once again. It’s unclear where in that process the idea to humanize the tale with some kind of familial bond was tacked on, but what I felt the strongest was this desire to make a big space thing. Inevitably, their big space thing made a lot of money so they can now go back and do it all over again.

I’m glad so many people are enjoying it. I’m glad I didn’t decide to not see it. After I got off a busy night at work yesterday, I decided to sit in on the last 10 minutes of Interstellar. I took a place at the back as opposed to the original front where my goal had been to make the small as a big as possible, and seated there, looked out upon a theatre nearly full with backs of heads. Lit by the image of McConaughey’s character visiting his aged daughter, Jessica Chastain-turned-Ellen Burnstyn on her deathbed at their long-last reunion, I thought about the smiling audiences over the past few days who have stopped on their way out to tell me how much they loved it. I thought about the rows of people in front of me who might be having, unlike mine was and despite the size of the screen, a moving experience. I didn’t see much in Interstellar, but if I do, it’s through them.

Oliver Skinner


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