Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar was already one of our most anticipated movies of 2014. How could it not be, the guy who defined Batman for a generation diving head first into an esoteric sci-fi epic full of big themes and idea? We were on board from word one. But then they had to go an throw in that first teaser trailer that dropped this morning, the one that has been making the rounds with Peter Jackson’s latest return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Now all we want in the world is for it to be November 7, 2014, so we can stand in line and watch this wash over us in IMAX.
This trailer is a hard thing to talk about. You don’t learn much about the plot—Nolan is big on secrecy, misdirection, and playing things close to the vest—but what it does well is create mood and feeling. Watching this gave us goose bumps, chills and all that sort of thing. It almost plays like a dramatic commercial for continued space exploration and technological advancement, like something NASA dreamed up in order to help generate additional public support. For a first look, this is incredibly moving.
There isn’t much footage from the actual film. The bulk of the time is taken up by stock footage of big events in modern human history, what Matthew McConaughey’s voiceover calls the moments when we dared to aim higher, when we went further and faster. You see Chuck Yeager blowing through the sound barrier, clips of Gemini 7, and, of course, no highlight reel of the 20th century would be complete without acknowledging Neil Armstrong’s 1969 jaunt to the Moon.
Though it is oblique and indirect, this teaser does tell us something about the bigger picture of Interstellar. It becomes clear that the action involves efforts to ensure the prolonged survival of the human race. This is a quest that is going to take us from rural cornfields all the way into space, deeper than mankind has ever been able to venture before. The sparse footage from the actual film—which is still in later stages of production—also confirms previous rumors that a large portion of plot revolves around corn. Climate change presumably plays into this part of the story, which leads to a mission through a newly discovered wormhole. This is the portal that allows us to hurtle far past all previous limitations to space travel.
From all indications, Interstellar will tread deeper thematic waters than Nolan’s Dark Knight films. Maybe not deeper, but certainly broader, more in line with what he did in 2010’s Inception than with Christian Bale running around kicking the crap out of bad guys dressed as a flying rodent.
This trailer does a fantastic job of creating a feel of universality, a collective sense that we, as a species, are in this together, though the video is obviously culturally biased towards American audiences. There are a lot of firsts included in this compilation of space stock footage, but no mention of the Russian contribution to the space race. Where’s Yuri Gagarin? Being the first man in space certainly has to count for something. But still, you get the point their trying to make, that dealing with global climate change and the search for a new home, or at least new answers, is going to have to come from a collective effort, rather than one nation off on its own, traipsing around space. We’ll see how much of that is actually in Interstellar, but that is definitely the idea they’re going for in this quick glimpse.
As the voiceover says, we’re still pioneers, and our greatest achievements aren’t in our past. And not only are they not in our past, they can’t be in our past. If our biggest accomplishments have already come and gone, we’re doomed. We may be explorers, but this time it isn’t necessarily by choice. We’re not crossing oceans for glory, gold, or spices. We’re not moved to action solely by some feeling of adventure or drive to explore the unknown. This time survival is the key.
In more ways than one, this Interstellar teaser gives us a glimpse of the future. This paints a picture of one potential destination, where man made alterations to our environment have pushed humanity to the brink, to the point where we’re willing to fling ourselves into the unknown, through a wormhole, in order to further explore the universe. It also provides science fiction fans, and probably movie fans in general, with a prediction of what we’re going to be doing a year from now, wormhole or no. Most of us will be lined up outside the IMAX theater of our choice, ready for Christopher Nolan and company to take us on a journey through cornfields and deep space.
What do you think of this first look at Interstellar? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.