How am I going to fit into this?' ... Matthew McConaughey in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar | Image Source: theguardian.com
Might Interstellar be the movie that finally sees Christopher Nolan traverse the vast reaches between popular acclaim and awards season success in 2015? The British film-maker has a hugely impressive track record as a genre film-maker, and before that a purveyor of intriguing indie brainteasers, but has a mere three Oscar nominations spread over two films, Inception and Memento , to his name.
Yet everything about his new space-exploration drama, the latest full-length trailer for which has just hit the web, seems to have tumbled into place just at the right moment. The Academy handed another space film, Gravity, seven prizes this year, and Interstellar's star is Matthew McConaughey who won best actor for Aids drama Dallas Buyers Club. The supporting cast is not too shabby either, with Oscar-winners Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Ellen Burstyn joining nominees Jessica Chastain and John Lithgow on the credits list.
Moreover, the Academy seems to have begun a process of transforming its rather crotchety membership into a voter pool that actually reflects the modern world of film. In theory, we should start to see a lot more Wolf of Wall Streets and Django Unchaineds and rather fewer August: Osage Countys among the nominees (certainly if new Academy voter The Stath has anything to do with it). Nolan himself may be partly responsible for the move: it's rumoured that the Academy's decision to leave 2008's The Dark Knight off the year's list for best film lay behind the body's decision to expand the number of nominees from five to 10 in 2010.
The initial teaser trailer for Interstellar hinted at a Spielbergian sense of wonder at the universe, but the new promo suggests that Nolan has his feet grounded firmly on Earth even as he stares into space. There may be shots of distant planets – one icy, one apparently boasting abundant water supplies – but we also see the pain McConaughey's widower engineer must go through before embarking on a mission to find a new home for humanity. His children are left behind, as their father heads through a wormhole in a desperate attempt to find hospitable planets.
The tone is downbeat, bereft of fantasy leanings, and suggests that Interstellar might cleave closer to moon-landing movies such as Apollo 13 than Nolan's usual, flashier, oeuvre, not-to-mention more hopeful all-American future visions such as ET or Close Encounters. "We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt," says McConaughey. But there's also a determination not to give up on mankind's last chance of a future, embodied in Caine's delivery of lines from Dylan Thomas's defiant and inspiring Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
Going on a space mission … Interstellar director Christopher Nolan (left) and Matthew McConaughey at Comic-Con 2014. | Image Source: theguardian.com
At Comic Con in San Diego last week, Nolan told the audience Interstellar was "about what it is to be human, and what our place is in the universe," adding: "The further that you travel out into the universe, the more you realise it's in [your heart]." Hathaway's astronaut seems to be saying something similar in the trailer: "Maybe we've spent too long trying to figure all this out with theory. Love is the one thing that transcends time and space."
If that all sounds a bit gooey, there are hard science facts (or at least theories) at the centre of the movie, which is based on ideas about wormholes posited by the American theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Nolan told Comic Con the conversations between film-maker and scientist were "intense" and even admitted: "It actually made my head hurt a bit. I actually said to Kip, 'Well, I don't want to understand this stuff too much because I have to be able to explain it to the audience.'"
If the film-maker succeeds, he might just pull off the most vital and relevant science-fiction movie of all time. That alone should surely be worthy of some long-awaited Oscars recognition.
Samantha Pouls is an amateur filmmaker who dreams of being in a high-calibre field seating next to her idols Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg. Read more about her works on this Facebook page.