Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” (2014)

Mankind is a race of explorers– from the governmental level on down to the individual family unit, we’re constantly pursuing the expansion of our domain into uncharted territory.  The fundamental desire that drove us across entire continents and oceans has also given birth to the tribal mind-set of nation-states, drawing up arbitrary borders in a bid to separate ourselves and our natural blessings from the nebulous “other”.  It wasn’t until the dawn of space flight in the mid-twentieth century that mankind was able to ascend high enough to observe the entire planet within their field of view.  Up there, they realized that there were no borders, no nations, no distinct divisions of heritages and cultures— there was only, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, a single blue marble suspended in a black void.  The planet Earth is a lifeboat in the middle of a vast, turbulent ocean… completely at the mercy to the fickle whims of the fates.  

It is hard for those of us stuck here on terra firma to grasp just how precarious our cosmic existence is.  Thanks to our relatively short lifespans, we are cursed with abysmal foresight– we don’t worry about tomorrow because there’s already too much to deal with today.  But what if there was no tomorrow?  What if the mounting effects of industrialization and civic “progress” had turned our fragile blue marble into a dusty wasteland of blight, drought, and decay?  What if we had to find out the hard way that, unlike our fancy electronic gadgets, there was no cloud backup for humanity?

“Mankind was born on Earth.  It was never meant to die here”.  This phrase, while admittedly devised as an unusually-eloquent bit of marketing tagline copy, is the fundamental sentiment that drives Nolan’s ninth feature film, INTERSTELLAR.  The film dares to show The Last Frontier as it really is: an experience beyond the limits of our wildest imaginations.  While INTERSTELLAR’s heritage harkens back to the tactile innovations of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), its actual development history began much more recently, when theoretical physicist Kip Thorne and producer Lynda Obst hatched the initial seed of the story and set it up for further development at Paramount.  In 2006, the studio hired Jonathan Nolan to write the script as a directing vehicle for Steven Spielberg.  Six years later, Spielberg had departed the project for greener pastures and Christopher was in search of his next film after wrapping up his DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY.  He was intimately familiar with Jonathan’s aspirations for and frustrations with INTERSTELLAR by virtue of his familial relation, but over time he found that he too had become interested in the project from a directorial standpoint.  When he learned the director’s chair was open, he simply placed a call to Paramount and offered his services.  

Having made all his previous studio features at Warner Brothers, Nolan had forged warm relationships with the top executives there.  Unwilling to miss out on the next project from one of their most valuable talents, Warner Brothers took the unorthodox step of co-financing INTERSTELLAR with Paramount.  As such, two of the largest studios in Hollywood threw their combined weight behind Nolan to the tune of $175 million dollars– an astronomical sum considering that Nolan also enjoyed a $20 million salary, a 20% profit share of the film’s gross and carte blanche control over the execution of his vision.  That kind of creative freedom– nearly unheard of at this budgetary level– was a testament to the faith that studio executives had in the significant commercial appeal of Nolan’s aesthetic.  The fact that Nolan ultimately brought the picture in $10 million under budget is, conversely, a testament to Nolan’s disciplined work ethic and goodwill towards his financiers.  INTERSTELLAR finds Nolan working with the largest canvas he’s ever had, which is pretty damn big considering the overwhelming scale of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  Funnily enough, Nolan’s first foray into science fiction succeeds almost in spite of its limitless scope, finding its profound emotional resonance in the simple, intimate theatrics of human connection.

Drawing from iconic sci-fi works like the aforementioned 2001, METROPOLIS, BLADE RUNNER, STAR WARS, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND as well as offbeat sources like Ken Burns’ documentaries on the Dust Bowl, Nolan infuses INTERSTELLAR with a Spielbergian wonder towards the mysteries of the cosmos.  Indeed, Nolan strives to evoke the artistic sensibilities of Spielberg by structuring INTERSTELLAR as an ode to spaceflight, a paean to the romanticism of adventure, and a portrait of the special and complex bond shared between a father and his children.  If THE DARK KNIGHT RISES heralded the end of the world with a bang, then INTERSTELLAR sees it arrive with a whimper.  The world, simply put, must be saved– but this time, the responsibility falls not to superheroes but to scientists and mathematicians.  We begin in the back half of the twenty-first century, where the mounting effects of  pollution, industrialization, and other byproducts of modern civilization have ravaged the earth.  Crops are failing, water is growing scarce, society is stagnating. A desperate and hungry world has discouraged frivolous pursuits like space exploration in favor of raising more farmers to till the increasingly-infertile fields.  Short-sighted bureaucrats have even gone so far as to formally disband NASA and publish textbooks that assert the moon landing was faked in order to bankrupt the Soviet Union and win the Cold War.  There’s a pervading sense that our future is decidedly earthbound.  

In America’s blight-plagued heartland, where a new Dust Bowl rages with increasing intensity, an ex-pilot turned corn farmer named Cooper is trying to eke out a hardscrabble existence with his two children and father-in-law.  When Cooper examines the curious phenomena of patterned dust in his daughter’s bedroom, he manages to decode it as geographical coordinates.  Cooper and his daughter, Murph, follow the coordinates to a secret underground bunker, only to discover a secret refuge for the remnants of NASA– an underground facility in which to build the next generation of starships and ferry mankind off the dying planet.  The mission has been spurned on by the discovery of a wormhole near Saturn, placed there by an unknown intelligence.  Almost overnight, an entirely new galaxy has been placed within their reach– complete with three potentially habitable planets orbiting a supermassive black hole named Gargantua.  One of the few pilots qualified to lead a mission of this importance, Cooper is duty-bound to leave his family behind and command an interstellar reconnaissance mission to find a new home for the human race– before we lose the only one we’ve ever known.  

The consistent pedigree of Nolan’s work naturally attracts (and retains) high-caliber talent, and INTERSTELLAR serves as yet another prime example.  It’s tempting to assume that the casting of Matthew McConaughey as Cooper was a reactive action on Nolan’s part– jumping on the “McConnaissance” bandwagon and securing the talents of a performer operating at the peak of his prestige.  If the study of Nolan’s filmography yields only one insight, however, it’s that any artistic choice he makes is never a reaction to current trends in filmmaking or Hollywood at large.  Indeed, he’d been aware of McConaughey’s flinty, blue-collar physicality for quite some time– over the years he’s proved himself to be one of the few actors capably of truly embodying the “everyman” persona Nolan felt was so crucial to the proper conveyance of his protagonist.  McConaughey succeeds Guy Pearce, Al Pacino, Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio as the latest in a long line of tortured and haunted male heroes within Nolan’s work.  Cooper’s story so far has been one of quiet tragedy; he’s a former pilot who had to give up dreams of spaceflight for an unglamorous life growing a failing crop and raising a family doomed to do the same.  Like MEMENTO’S Guy Pearce, INCEPTION’s DiCaprio, and, to a certain extent, Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, Cooper is a widower; cursed to wander the rest of his life without his mate.  Also like those characters, he’s whip-smart and resourceful; a natural-born leader with bottomless reserves of courage and a ferocious commitment to his family.  The loss of his wife in and of itself does not make Cooper a tortured protagonist in the typical Nolan mold, however– it’s the fact that he must leave his beloved family behind if he’s to save them, along with the very real possibility that he may never see them again.

As Cooper’s absence stretches from months, to years, to decades, his children grow into disillusioned, bitter adults.  They’re angry at the father who abandoned them, the most vindictive sibling being Murph– ripped from her father’s warmth and guidance at a fragile young age.  Jessica Chastain continues her winning streak of strong performances for prestigious directors here as the adult Murph, a brilliant and driven scientist working for NASA.  Her insightful ability to see patterns where others do not allows her to successfully receive messages sent by the universe and employ them towards the salvation of the human race, all while communicating with her long-lost father in a way that transcends both space and time.  Casey Affleck is even more humorless and bitter as Cooper’s grown son, Tom.  In his father’s absence, the work of maintaining the family farm has fallen to him, and the hard, fruitless work and tragic death of his firstborn son has left him an angry and hollow shell of the optimistic and eager boy he once was.  Well known for his gangly, boyish physicality, Affleck instead conveys an imposing corn-fed frame and a pragmatic coldness that puts him at odds with Murph’s good intentions.

Ever since THE PRESTIGE brought back several members of the cast from BATMAN BEGINS, Nolan has made a habit of retaining key actors for multiple successive collaborations.  Michael Caine is easily the most visible example of this aspect of Nolan’s career, having appeared in all of the director’s films since 2005.  In INTERSTELLAR, Caine plays Cooper’s mentor Professor Brand, the weary NASA scientist in charge of the Endurance mission.  The character is a variation on the archetype he typically plays in Nolan’s work– that of the sagely mentor and charming bearer of exposition– but where the Professor Brand character diverges the most from prior performances is in his intentional misleading of Cooper and his crew about the ultimate impossibility of their primary mission objective.  Anne Hathaway, hot off her first collaboration with Nolan in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, plays Professor Brand’s daughter, also named Brand.  As a character who finds herself caught at the intersection of faith and reason, Hathaway capably conveys her character’s vulnerable intelligence and idealistic confidence.  More than just a potential love interest for Cooper, Brand is a conduit through which Nolan presents one of INTERSTELLAR’s key ideas– the idea of “love” as a powerful, quantifiable cosmic concept.  In other words: the idea of “love” being a separate dimension unto itself that can transcend and influence time, space, and gravity.

The rest of INTERSTELLAR’s supporting players are comprised of faces well-known, obscure, and surprising.  Shielded from all marketing materials prior to the release of the film, Matt Damon unexpectedly turns up halfway through the film in a major role as Mann, a team member from a previous reconnaissance mission who is discovered on a desolate, icy planet ensconced in his hypersleep pod.  Upon waking, Mann is initially grateful and overwhelmed that someone came to find him, but as the realization dawns that his planet is ultimately not suitable for Earth’s new home, he reveals the ruthless and cowardly survivalist side of his nature.  His name is no doubt a nod on Nolan’s part to director Michael Mann, a filmmaker who has served as a profound influence on Nolan’s particular aesthetic.  Following the casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in INCEPTION and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Nolan’s casting of Topher Grace and John Lithgow here evidences what could seen as a curious fascination with 90’s sitcom stars, with Grace making his way from THAT 70’s SHOW and Lithgow well-known from his stint on THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN (which also starred Gordon-Levitt).  Grace plays Getty, adult-Murph’s NASA colleague, while Lithgow eases into a grizzled seniority to play Donald, Cooper’s father-in-law and grandfather to Murph and Tom.  One of the more interesting aspects of Lithgow’s character is his age in relation to the timeline of Nolan’s story, which would place him as a member of the contemporary Millennial generation.  Veteran character actress Ellen Burstyn is a poignant presence as the elderly Murph, having eclipsed her own father in age thanks to the relativistic aspects of time and space travel.  Wes Bentley and David Gyasi play Doyle and Romilly, respectively– two fellow astronauts on the Endurance mission who help explain the film’s brain-twisting concepts about relativity to the audience.  Bill Irwin makes the best of a thankless task by providing the voice and puppetry for TARS, a non-humanoid, artificially-intelligent robot that accompanies the Endurance crew.  Despite having his presence painted out of the frame entirely, Irwin ably injects a genuine sense of lively humanity into TARS, resulting in a memorable silver screen robot in the mold of HAL-9000 and C-3PO.  

Nine features into his career, Nolan has solidified a core group of trusted craftspeople in service to his vision: producer/wife Emma Thomas, production designer Nathan Crowley, composer Hans Zimmer, and editor Lee Smith.  However, INTERSTELLAR forces Nolan to make a radical change in a key department.  Wally Pfister, who had shot all of Nolan’s films since MEMENTO, was unavailable to shoot INCEPTION because of the production of his own directorial debut, TRANSCENDENCE.  Understandably, Pfister leaves big shoes to fill, but Dutch-Swedish cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema proves a more-than-capable replacement, reinvigorating Nolan’s outsized aesthetic by virtue of his fresh perspective.  He ably replicates the muted earth and metal color palette of Nolan’s previous films while infusing INTERSTELLAR with a gritty, documentary-style immediacy uncommon to most sci-fi films.  He achieves this by shooting a majority of the film handheld, which results in naturalistic compositions that evoke an organic, lyrical nature not unlike the late-career aesthetic of Terrence Malick.  Hoytema employs other tools like blown highlights and Spielbergian and Abrams-esque lens flares that fan out into concentrated horizontal bands of light– a visual artifact unique to anamorphic lenses.

From the cinematography on down to the final sound mix, Nolan intended for INTERSTELLAR to be his most technically ambitious work to date.  The lion’s share of his attention is lavished on the visuals, building on his innovative use of large-format film gauges in a narrative setting.  If its staggering runtime of 2 hours and 49 minutes wasn’t enough, Nolan projects the unprecedented scale of INTERSTELLAR’s narrative by shooting his largest ratio of IMAX to 35mm film yet.  The supersized IMAX format betters conveys the infinite depths of space, restoring a sense of grandeur and wonder to a genre that’s otherwise been lost in recent years to an orgy of flimsy CGI-fests.  Indeed, when Nolan juxtaposes the microscopic insignificance of human spacecraft against the massive backdrop of Saturn, it’s hard to imagine any other format that can better communicate the awe-inspiring scale of the heavens.  With each successive film, Nolan further innovates and strengthens IMAX’s capabilities for narrative storytelling, and INTERSTELLAR provides him with the opportunity to use it in conventional dialogue scenes or handheld in cramped quarters in addition to grandiose moments of spectacle.  The use of IMAX also highlights Nolan’s preference for celluloid, allowing him to better demonstrate film’s strengths while combating the ballooning resolution of digital formats fast approaching their ten-thousandth pixel.  In a way, Nolan achieves a poetic sublimity in his use of IMAX on INTERSTELLAR– one of his primary motivators for using the format in the first place was his reasoning that if an IMAX camera can be lugged into space, it can be used to shoot a narrative feature film.  With INTERSTELLAR, this reasoning comes full circle, finding Nolan employing the format in service to the depiction of space.    

One of the core operating principles of Nolan’s approach to INTERSTELLAR was that anything that could be captured in-camera would be captured in-camera.  Granted, Nolan typically avoids CGI wherever he can, but the particular challenges of making INTERSTELLAR presented special consideration.  As he had done for select scenes in INCEPTION, Nolan once again looked to the model of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, a science fiction masterpiece whose groundbreaking practical effects are still convincing after half a century.  While one could certainly make the case that Kubrick would have preferred the control and precision afforded by digital techniques had they been available to him, 2001’s practical, in-camera effects are nevertheless a major component of its longevity.  Following Kubrick’s lead, Nolan mandated that INTERSTELLAR would resort to computer-generated imagery only when necessary.  As such, a grand majority of the film’s spaceships, costumes, sets, and non-human characters are physical builds or miniatures.  INTERSTELLAR’s two robot characters, TARS and CASE, were achieved through a mix of computer graphics and physical puppetry, with actor Bill Irwin giving life to the bulky slab of inanimate metal via an elaborate counterbalance system.  Rather than juxtapose green-screened astronauts against a computer-generated alien landscape, Nolan simply flew the production to the real-life alien landscape of Iceland, which stood in for the film’s water and ice planets.  This approach also extended to sequences set on Cooper’s farm back on Earth, where he had his team actually build a functional full-scale house and plant fields of corn out in the Canadian province of Alberta.  The spaceship sets, built on a soundstage in LA by returning production designer Nathan Crowley, were designed to be as realistically functional as possible in a bid to emulate the harshly utilitarian conditions of space travel.  This meant foregoing the luxury of breakaway walls while projecting high resolution images of space onto a giant cyc, enabling the cast to look out the windows of the Endurance and actually feel like they were in space.  Even the four-dimensional tesseract sequence– one of the most abstract concepts ever presented in a mainstream Hollywood film– was, surprisingly, built as a practical set.  This isn’t to say that INTERSTELLAR doesn’t contain its fair share of computer-generated imagery, but rather that Nolan’s conscious decision to capture as much as he could in-camera should be celebrated, and has arguably created a piece of work that will hold up considerably well in the years to come.      

INTERSTELLAR further echoes 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in striving to depict the challenges and logistics of space travel as accurately as possible.  Towards this end, Nolan brings on Kip Thorne not just as an executive producer, but as a key creative partner on the level of a cinematographer or production designer.  Thorne is one of the leading minds in his field, which makes the ideas presented in INTERSTELLAR not only scientifically accurate, but exceedingly cutting-edge.  These ideas aren’t just limited to technical aspects like the conceivably-realistic spaceship interiors or the accurate approach to sound design in the vacuum of space; every development in the story bases itself upon the established laws of physics and relativity, no matter how fantastical or impossible it may seem.  Admittedly, the film does deviate dramatically from hard science when Cooper allows himself to drop into a black hole, but the ultimate impossibility of knowing what lies beyond the event horizon is an appropriate enough excuse for a little dramatic license.  To Nolan and Thorne’s credit, the depiction of the black hole itself is derived as accurately as possible from our current understanding of them– Thorne worked out complicated relativity equations for the computer graphics team so they could accurately recreate the warping and luminescence of Gargantua’s accretion disk.  Even the simulation itself was an immense undertaking, generating over 800 terabytes of information and some frames taking a hundred hours or more to render.  In the process, Thorne and the visual effects team managed to make actual, quantifiable scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of the heavens’ most mysterious phenomenon.

INTERSTELLAR goes to great lengths to explain how black holes entwine the forces of gravity and time, using the relativity of time as a major source of emotional conflict.  Each time the Endurance mission faces a delay or unexpected problem, years or decades go by on Earth– and Cooper’s chance of ever seeing his family again drops precipitously.  Naturally, this is a very heady concept that isn’t easily grasped, necessitating frequent expositional and jargon-laden monologues that lay out the challenge our characters face in no uncertain, unsubtle terms.  Yet, these moments never feel like a chore or a burden to struggle through.  Nolan deals with mind-bending plot devices so frequently that he’s made the delivery of bulky exposition into something of an art form.   

Since their first collaboration on BATMAN BEGINS, composer Hans Zimmer has played an increasingly important part in shaping Nolan’s artistic identity.  After spending several years working as something of a journeyman composer for big-budget action films, Zimmer’s collaborations with Nolan have increasingly steered him towards an avant-garde minimalism.  Nolan has pushed Zimmer to reinvent the wheel with each successive project, and INTERSTELLAR just might be the veteran composer’s most ambitious score to date.  Having grown weary of the conventional director/composer collaborative relationship, Nolan employed an inspired tactic: rather than scoring off of the edited film, Zimmer was given a one page brief before the start of production.  The brief did not outline the story of the film, describe the character, or give any indication of the scale– it didn’t even state that this was a science fiction film.  Instead, the brief described abstract sentiments about family, parenthood, and time that zeroed in on the beating heart of the film’s emotional core.  From this barest of sketches, Zimmer generated a beautifully atmospheric, mysterious, and hopeful suite of music.  Advised by Nolan to stay away from the tried-and-true orchestral string arrangements, Zimmer sourced his sounds from a palette of ticking clocks, melancholy piano chords, and most notably, an urgent church organ.  Indeed, the organ (and the particular acoustic resonance gained by recording it inside an actual cathedral) is the defining characteristic of INTERSTELLAR’s score, perfectly evoking the religiosity of the celestial heavens as well as our tireless search for a higher meaning to our existence.  By not tailoring his score to the expectations of the science fiction genre, Zimmer is able to tap directly into universality of the human experience at the center of the story and deliver one of the finest works of his career.   

INTERSTELLAR dovetails quite naturally and cohesively with several of the core thematic fascinations that comprises Nolan’s artistic identity.  Time (and the manipulation thereof) consistently shapes the structure of his films, and INTERSTELLAR posits that time is a spatial dimension unto itself– one that can be stepped outside of and looked in on as it stretches and warps in a relativistic relationship with gravity.  Whereas MEMENTO played with the lateral direction of time, or INCEPTION explored how a single action’s effect could compound along multiple parallel timelines, INTERSTELLAR goes one step further by turning time into a physical dimension, embodied in the four-dimensional tesseract that allows Cooper to interact with his daughter across multiple points of her lifespan.  It’s immediately apparent that Nolan sees great dramatic potential in the relativity of time as it pertains to gravity– one of the film’s most emotionally resonant sequences finds Cooper and Brand marooned on a water planet closely orbiting the gravity-dense black hole.  Because the individual perception of time differs according to the strength of gravity’s pull, they perceive themselves as being on the surface for only a few hours.  When they return to the ship in orbit, however, they learn that twenty-three years have passed on Earth, and Cooper has an inbox with a lifetime’s worth of messages from his kids, who have grown up in his absence and have reached the same age he had been when he left home.  

Nolan’s fascination with time is also represented by his usage of montage and cross-cutting in pursuit of a subjective emotional experience and the building of dramatic intensity.  Looking over his series of collaborations with regular editor Lee Smith, it’s not uncommon for Nolan to employ cross-cuts that span great distances of time and space, but INTERSTELLAR’s cross-cuts compress whole decades and unfathomable light-years within the space of a single frame.  One memorable sequence late in the film cuts between Murph diverting her brother’s attention by burning his corn crop, while on an icy world in a separate galaxy, McConaughey battles for his life against Damon’s attacks.  They are separated by untold millions of miles and several dozens of Earth-years, but they are united in their singular, cosmic struggle to save the human race.  Nolan’s films explore and subvert our perception of time in pursuit of a greater, unified statement about the subjectivity (and fragility) of our individual realities–  there is no single objective truth in his films, no matter how hard his characters search for it.  Perhaps that’s why his protagonists are always so tortured or burdened with regret… they’ve devoted the entirety of themselves to the pursuit of something they ultimately can never attain.

Nolan has sometimes been called an “emotional mathematician”, most notably by fellow director Guillermo Del Toro.  Beyond his championing of technical precision and a tendency to manipulate the emotions of his audience through calculated technique instead of raw artistic ingenuity, the phrase also alludes to his use of academic disciplines like geometry and science in his storytelling.  In other words, a large portion of his life’s work has been a celebration of the magic of data.  This is true in INTERSTELLAR more so than any of his previous films, with entire plot points hinging around the conveyance of ideas and messages via morse code, binary coordinates, flight path equations, and even gravity as a form of interdimensional communication.  A considerable amount of screentime is dedicated to Cooper and his crew figuring out how to best conserve their limited fuel supply, which isn’t as boring as it sounds when it means we get to see him pull daredevil spin maneuvers to slow down his lander rather than using fuel-consuming air brakes.  This conceit folds in well with Nolan’s reputation for structuring his plots as puzzles his characters must solve.  INTERSTELLAR’s astronauts must summon all their intellect and resourcefulness in order to solve the biggest puzzle of all: gravity.  Architecture plays a significant role in this regard, most notably in the design of NASA’s cavernous underground bunker.  The space is shaped like a massive centrifuge, and for good reason– once Brand solves the problem of gravity, he plans to physically lift the building into space as a 21st century ark that will ensure humanity’s survival.  Its circular shape will allow the station to spin in orbit, generating artificial gravity for its inhabitants.  

The exotic world of space travel allows Nolan to indulge in his continued exploration of functional style.  Great consideration was given to the film’s spacesuit costumes, with Nolan striving for a sleeker silhouette than the cumbersome suits employed by modern astronauts.  As a piece of equipment designed to sustain an astronaut’s life systems in hostile environments, these suits are inherently functional, and Nolan finds the opportunity to enhance their functionality towards the film shoot itself by building microphones directly into his actors’  helmets.  Classic literature has also played an increasingly prominent role in Nolan’s work, stemming from his college years as an English Lit major and most recently evidenced in the inspiration that Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” served in the development of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  In INTERSTELLAR, Professor Brand routinely recites Dylan Thomas’ classic poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” as a propulsive mantra, continually reminding us of the ultimate cost humanity will pay should the mission fail.  Though Nolan is very mechanically-minded in both the thematics and execution of his story, INTERSTELLAR’s ultimate message is surprisingly organic and optimistically abstract: that love is a higher dimension than both space and time; that we all draw from an interconnected, cosmic soul; that our love for each other gives the human race meaning and significance in the face of a cold, endless oblivion.

By the time of INTERSTELLAR’s release in November of 2014, Paramount had completely ceased the distribution of celluloid release prints in favor of an all-digital delivery to theaters.  However, Nolan harnessed his considerable clout and convinced the studio to make an exception for him, even going so far as providing an incentive to see the IMAX, 70mm and conventional 35mm film prints over digital by making them available a full two days before the film’s official release.  INTERSTELLAR scored mostly-positive critical reviews, most of which praised Nolan’s considerable technical showmanship and awe-inspiring ambition even as they found some faults in the overall cohesiveness of his story.  While the film’s box office performance didn’t post BATMAN kinds of numbers, Nolan’s rabid fanbase and INTERSTELLAR’s buzz as “the most anticipated film of 2014” all but guaranteed a healthy haul.  INTERSTELLAR’s legacy as a technical triumph was confirmed at the Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.  It would go on to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects– the same category that Kubrick won for his work on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.  While INTERSTELLAR may not end up as timeless a classic as Kubrick’s masterpiece, it will nevertheless go down as one of the most audacious and ambitious science fiction epics ever made.