Christopher Nolan’s newest film, Interstellar, has received an onslaught of criticism for its sound mix, as viewers have reported that the music drowns out the dialogue. There have been so many complaints that one movie theatre employee was forced to post a disclaimer about it on their front door.
The space saga, starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, was released on November 7th and immediately met with criticism for its mix. Interstellar features an orchestral soundtrack scored by Oscar-winning composer Hanz Zimmer, which, according to many viewers, overpowers the film in volume.
One sound professional, who chose to remain anonymous, described his experience at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. “That is the best-sounding private theater in the world, and I noticed right away that there were parts where the music totally obliterates the dialogue. Many others in the sound community were starting to question whether it was an anomaly or the way the film had been released.”
Since then, it has become evident that the latter is the case. Theatres across the country have now reported customer dissatisfaction with the sound. It has been noted that IMAX theatres in particular seem to be having the most issues.
One theatre in upstate New York attempted to mitigate the complaints by displaying a sign outside of the theatre, which blamed the director for the sound problems. Cinemark Tinseltown USA and IMAX in Rochester posted the following statement to their door: “For customers seeing: Interstellar – Please note that all of our sound equipment is functioning properly. Christopher Nolan mixed the soundtrack with an emphasis on the music. This is how it is intended to sound.” Cinemark has since removed the sign, stating that it was put up independently of their corporate department.
Neither Paramount Studios nor representatives of Zimmer or Nolan have acknowledged the issue. However, Christopher Nolan did state pre-release that he wanted the film’s mix to take maximum advantage of the current sound system equipment in theatres. According to the studio’s website, “The sound on Interstellar has been specially mixed to maximize the power of the low end frequencies in the main channels as well as in the subwoofer channel.”
Some critics are particularly puzzled because of Interstellar’s superior sound-mixing team. Seasoned professionals like Gary Rizzo and Gregg Landaker were among the recording mixers who worked on the film. Rizzo won an Oscar in 2010 for his work on Nolan’s Inception.
“Any professional would have spoken up and said, ‘We can’t hear the dialogue,’” said the insider. “It takes you out of the movie.”