When Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey took the stage of Hall H on Thursday afternoon, it was a genuine surprise to most people in the room. As it turns out, it was a pleasant surprise for the studio as well, who weren't sure it was going to happen until very early Thursday morning.
If they had not been there, the new trailer for the movie would have had to speak for itself, and I suspect it would have been fine. Instead, the director and the star did a nice job of setting the table for the trailer, which should be in theaters soon, and presumably online as well.
What I love already about the film is the idea that it is ultimately about how we've lost our explorer's spirit as a people. I think it is one of the most discouraging things about modern life. When I was young, I lived in Florida near Cape Canaveral, and I was inspired by the notion of mankind as a species who always yearned for something else. I consider our trips to the moon to be the pinnacle of our accomplishments, and it blows my mind that at some point, we looked up in the sky, pointed at that big beautiful thing in the sky, and said, "We should go there." The moment we stop saying "We should go there," we become less.
"We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt." That line, delivered by McConaughey, sets the stage for the trailer. The film is set at a point in human history where we have had to give up the notion of engineering or science for the sake of science, and all of our resources are focused on sustaining us. It's not "Mad Max" or anything, but it certainly feels like a dying world. McConaughey's character, Cooper, was trained as a pilot and an engineer, and he gave up on the idea of ever really doing either of those things. When an opportunity comes knocking on his door, though, he is suddenly given a second chance to live that dream.
The new trailer, which includes some of the material you've seen already, really emphasizes how hard that choice is for Cooper to make because he's a father, and he knows that his trip to space means there's a good chance he will miss everything. We see him trying to explain what's happening to his daughter, and the new trailer makes it clear that Jessica Chastain plays the adult version of that broken-hearted little girl, left behind on an Earth that's just barely holding on.
What really impressed me is the suggestion of scale that we get from the new trailer. There are a number of new shots that give us a sense of the alien landscapes that Cooper and the rest of the crew (including Anne Hathaway) are going to encounter, and it seems like there is some real peril they face beyond just the idea of space travel and trying to navigate a wormhole. The wormhole effects themselves were so disorienting and beautiful that I can't wait to see how they handle them in the full sequences. Nolan talked a bit about how they worked hard to create a real environment for the actors so they weren't just reacting to bluescreens, and it looks like they shot on real locations for most of the alien stuff. Even in quick sequences, it was clear that Nolan's not kidding when he mentions the "2001" influence. There was one shot that reminded me of the Star Gate effects, with land both above and below the camera as it pushes forward.
I love that there's still no conclusive answers about what we'll see in the film. Hints, sure, and suggestions, but Nolan's secrets are still intact, and I hope that is the case when the film finally opens.
"Interstellar" opens on November 7, 2014.