Saturday, November 08, 2014

Is 'Interstellar' Too Loud?

Our son called last night with a glowingly positive review of the new Christopher Nolan-directed epic, Interstellar. It made me mildly interested in the film, which has been promoted like crazy on TV during recent sporting events, because my son and I usually have similar tastes in movies. (We both love classics like Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, The Maltese Falcon, and Field of Dreams, for example, though I can't for the life of me figure out what he sees in Gladiator.]

But according to Washington Post film critic Anne Hornaday, the film deserves criticism for being too loud. She's not alone, apparently:
By now, audiences eager to see “Interstellar,” Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated space epic starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway, have heard the word on the movie, which has received mixed-to-positive reviews.

The unanswered question is whether they’ll hear a word in the movie.

In what is becoming a distressingly predictable ritual for Nolan’s movies, “Interstellar” has been dinged in recent weeks by critics and other gadflies for a muddy, thuddingly loud sound design, in which Hans Zimmer’s booming score (he’s all about that bass) and similarly thumping sound effects render spoken dialogue a submerged garble. The sound was “so bassy and woofer-throbby and aimed at my rib cage that I couldn’t hear half the dialogue,” complained Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffery Wells after an October screening. “My ears felt left out, not to mention the part of my brain that enjoys hearing words and sentences.”
Movies are frequently louder these days, crowded by frenzied film scores from composers seemingly emulating John Williams' work in the Star Wars franchise. The films are also crowded by frenzied action and often, cartoon-like character development.

I don't know if this is true of Nolan's film, but I do think that Hollywood is in defensive mode, seeing movie audiences continue to shrink as consumers increasingly opt for pulling up the drawbridges around their houses to for in-home entertainments, serving up loud, crowded stews that are more like video games or roller coaster rides than movies. It's as though Hollywood is screaming, "Hey, look at us! There's nothing to see, but we will put you through a buzz saw of sensory overload!"

Interstellar may be a great movie. But I think Hornaday and others raise a good point.

I love cranked up tunes at rock and hip hop concerts and in my car. Sometimes though, I think, all that "loud," along with the visual pyrotechnics, take away from films.

[HT to Instapundit for linking to Hornaday's article.]

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