Interstellar Study Guide

In 2014, Christopher Nolan's epic science-fiction odyssey Interstellar exploded into theaters with the kind of gravitas associated with only a handful of its genre predecessors. It was Nolan's first movie after finishing direction on the Dark Knight trilogy, and the acclaimed director pulled out all the stops (literally, in the case of composer Hans Zimmer) to bring audiences a gripping, strongly-acted, well-written thrill ride of scientifically-accurate space exploration.

Interstellar's conception began in 2005, when film producer Lynda Obst phoned theoretical physicist and future executive producer Kip Thorne to brainstorm ideas for a sci-fi film that would go beyond what most before it had dared to show or tell, depicting "the most exotic events in the universe suddenly becoming accessible to humans." After bringing Steven Spielberg on board as a potential director, the team hired screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher Nolan, to tackle the screenplay. Jonathan churned out three versions of the story between 2008 and 2010, studying relativity at the California Institute of Technology while writing to ensure the script's scientific accuracy. He drew inspiration from sci-fi films with apocalyptic themes, such as WALL-E (2008) and Avatar (2009). However, when Steven Spielberg was forced to drop from the project in 2009, the film was left suddenly in limbo, without a director. It would remain that way for 2.5 years.

In 2012, after some prodding from his brother and Thorne, Christopher Nolan signed on to direct Interstellar, as well as to write the final version of the screenplay. The total budget for the film was set at an incredible $165 million, dually funded by Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Studios. Principal photography lasted four months in such locations as Iceland (on a glacier, no less, to set the world of Dr. Mann's stark, barren planet), various parts of Canada, and Los Angeles. After a series of early screenings for The California Science Center and the Screen Actors Guild, the film opened in select American theaters on November 5, 2014, and more widely on November 7, 2014.

Interstellar grossed $132.6 million globally in its opening weekend, and would go on to earn a massive $675.1 million worldwide. The film was lauded by critics and general audiences alike for its stunning visuals, strong acting performances, powerful soundtrack, and bizarre and ambitious story. Scientists additionally applauded it for its painstaking dedication to scientific accuracy, from the effects of gravity on time to the visual depiction of wormholes and black holes. In fact, the film provided such an accurate image of what a black hole looks like that it went on to inspire two scientific papers. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film now has a rating of 71% based on 319 reviews, with a rating average of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent film-making moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp."