Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Christopher Nolan controls every single aspect of his movies from preproduction through publicity. He wants every single thing about his film to be handled just right, from something as important as the IMAX film capture all the way through to who writes about the movie before release. Recently, multiple reports said he personally went to numerous theaters that would be screening his latest film, Interstellar, to double- and triple-check the sound and picture quality. That’s a comforting fact, to know that he’s out there making sure things look and sound great.
Much less comforting is the buzz coming out of those screenings. From the first press screenings through opening night, fans have been complaining about issues with the film’s sound mix. Reports say multiple scenes have the music and sound effects so loud that dialogue is drowned out. This doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. It’s a complaint that’s been registered all over the US, Europe, and Canada.
Below, we’ll present some of those reactions, some of the stories, and some of the explanations hoping to get to the bottom of these possible Interstellar sound issues.
We’ll start with my personal experience. I saw Interstellar at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on opening night, 8 p.m. November 4. It was a sold out show; an employee greeted the crowd by explaining how Nolan himself had been watching every early screening in this very theater to make sure this was the best place to show his full vision for Interstellar. According to the man introducing the screening, IMAX had spent $600,000 to upgrade the theater for the film, including bringing in a brand new film projector just for this movie.
A few days before, my colleagues Peter Sciretta and Russ Fischer saw the movie in the same venue and had complaints about the sound in the theater. So that was one of my points of emphasis when watching the film. From almost the very first scene – a plane sequence – the dialogue is almost completely inaudible under the music and sound effects. In that scene, maybe it was intentional. We’ll let it go. Later, in a scene where Coop (Matthew McConaughey) closes the window to his daughter’s room, his command for her to leave is only recognizable because she does so visually. Once the film gets into space, multiple bits of comic relief with the robot TARS are missed because of the sound. Those are just a few points.
After the movie I spoke to fellow patrons their thoughts. One man, Jeff, a filmmaker, said the sound was a “major issue” and it hurt his enjoyment of the film. Every single other person I spoke with agreed dialogue was hard to hear, but most didn’t find it as distracting. A few who’d even seen the film in this theater weeks prior said the sound was better than it was at their first viewing, but it was still an issue.
To be fair, almost all of these people sat in and around the same middle section of the theater. No one was in the back, in the very front, or very side. Maybe this was just an issue of location. Still, if this was a theater Nolan himself personally checked, that even one person found the mix an issue is a problem.
Here are a few other tweets from people who saw the film at the TCL:
Curse of Thrompy, Super-Cranked Theatre Sound: The sound at the TCL Chinese during last night’s Interstellar s… http://t.co/OYzXDkwMXQ
— Hollywood Elsewhere (@wellshwood) October 24, 2014
have heard INTERSTELLAR 35mm and digital don't have any issues. But I can report my IMAX screening had issues w/dialogue in select scenes
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) November 3, 2014
Can someone get Christopher Nolan to an ear doctor?
— Russ Fischer (@russfischer) November 4, 2014
But maybe this was a one theater problem, right? Nope. Not even close.