Interstellar 4K UHD Review

Stellar

Interstellar’s grandest achievement is recreating the awe of human exploration. Pre-lunar landing sci-fi cinema often carried with it the fantastic and improbable. Post-lunar sci-fi showed the grandiose expanses of space. Soon after, the disasters – no one went exploring in space other than to crash. Interstellar goes because there’s a chance to make us better.

It’s ultimately a film of time – being in it, using it, experiencing it. There’s a fatalist attitude. Time cannot be changed. Minds, once set, will follow their own way according to Interstellar. Tinkering in the past cannot overcome human stubbornness, yet there is an ability to learn. Fatalist, yes, but Interstellar also looks brightly on future of human endeavors. Even if the future never changes, where humankind goes isn’t shown with bleakness.

A few years on, Interstellar holds onto its unusual studio sci-fi mold. Heady sci-fi isn’t infrequent – District 13, Arrival among them – but in terms of vision, Interstellar closes in on 2001. What Interstellar lacks in 2001’s cosmic surprises, it counters with a dazzling, grounded message of belief and hope. Someday, humankind will find the answers to everything because we can.

Time is valuable. We don’t have much. Interstellar makes those minutes count

To appease a broader audience, Interstellar brings a sense of scale. Planet-sized tidal waves and space disasters bridge the quiet, contemplative moments. Without tension on-board a NASA flight, the journey wouldn’t connect as it does. Interstellar concerns a crew leaving a dying Earth for a new planet, a last ditch effort, but without the typical action stakes. No one here plunges through an asteroid field in a desperate bid for survival. Instead, errors are rationally human. Most of them happen because of time – trying to outrun it or trying to shake the loneliness time brings.

It’s arguable whether Interstellar is intellectual regarding the hard science of black holes and dying stars; that doesn’t matter in context. What’s special is how Interstellar celebrates thinking. Thoughts matter, processing information and decoding solutions. That goes for shooting rockets into space as much as it does growing crops. Interstellar poses an inclusive dilemma, parking it on Earth’s doorstep and the surrounding galactic mysteries. People on the ground matter as much as those in spaceships. After all, everyone deals with time no matter their perspective.

The script, from Christopher and Joseph Nolan, parses everything down to family. It’s possible to view these events from generational eyes, some destined to plow fields, others to solve quantum physics. Live long enough and every family through the generations has a bit of both. Interstellar uses this pure set-up as a convenience even if it’s never false. Dialog concerning empathy and love – swirling around the philosophical possibilities of these being faults in logic – distill ever greater thematic value into the story. Even then however, empathy concerns time; does saving Earth matter if those living there pass away in the time it takes? Love too – do we rescue those we adore if it takes longer than rescuing those unknown? Time is valuable. We don’t have much. Interstellar makes those minutes count.

Video

Swedish cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema captures Interstellar with a vintage eye, particularly in the opening acts. Anamorphic lens effects obscure pristine clarity. Interstellar lacks defining sharpness, even in those shots captured on 65mm IMAX stock (the aspect ratio switch remains as it should on UHD).

Later, images come alive. Clarity becomes tantamount. When landing on an icy planet, images take on new found sharpness and resolution. Panorama sights bombard the eye with growing appreciation for the level of fidelity. From a 4K master, Insterstellar begins taking on the reference level quality expected of this production. Even in close, facial detail sprouts whether there’s a helmet on these characters or not. Paramount’s encode handles the mild, almost imperceptible level of grain.

As far as Interstellar’s HDR treatment, the highlights drift into space – literally. Shimmering star fields and striking auras make full use of available contrast. Perfect black levels capture the vastness of space. Highlights break out from the bleak surroundings with force.

On Earth, black levels often recede into gray. That was the same as the Blu-ray, so this UHD presentation continues as-is. Hot contrast adds dimension though, clipping slightly if with few ill effects. Generally, the mixture of fine detail and strong light play nice with one another.

Coloring sends flesh tones toward deep oranges, overly rich if designed for contrast with the blues and browns around them. Interstellar uses a palette of reduced color, restraining primaries with a handful of exceptions. Crops make use of the available greens for sure, while the rest of Interstellar holds firm to earth tones.

Audio

Using the same DTS-HD 5.1 mix as the Blu-ray, without the boost to object-based audio, it doesn’t matter. Interstellar remains a powerhouse. Massive rocket launches, engine thrusters, tidal waves, and a ludicrously strong trip into a black hole deliver LFE at levels expected of such events. The shaking and tightness delivered by this mix easily earns a reference stamp.

The entirety of the soundfield works. Dust storms rush by, packing the front soundstage without ignoring the rears. In space, exterior machinery or scrapes add ambient fear. Outstanding design keeps exterior space silent, letting Hans Zimmer’s elegant score lead. Clarity hasn’t been lost in the past few years since the Blu-ray.

Extras

The original two-disc Blu-ray set comes inside the UHD package. This 4K disc doesn’t offer anything, and the Blu-rays match the prior release in totality with two selections:

One is The Science of Interstellar. Involving physicist (and producer) Kip Thorne and Christopher Nolan extensively, this nearly one hour long feature probes the known science which was built into the feature from the outset. The realities and basis for key moments are explored.

Second is Inside Interstellar, a collection of 14 featurettes ranging from 5-15 minutes each and, annoyingly, without a play all option. These cover the usual making-of insights, from effects to characters and scripting. A handful of others will explore the ideas and philosophies presented. Paramount lists “nearly” three hours of bonuses, and they’re not wrong.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional X screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 9,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.