Christopher Nolan

And while earlier in the panel McConaughey had suggested that Nolan is only interested in the original, when an audience member quizzed the director on his inspirations for the movie, he actually cracked a joke, saying "I don't want to do a list because when you watch it you'll see all the things I've ripped off." He then, of course, offered to list some of those very movies: "'2001,' 'Blade Runner' has always been a favorite of mine, but the whole gamut. I think the single biggest influence was '2001,' which they re-released after 'Star Wars' came out and I was able to go with my dad to see it on the big screen. It was such a memorable experience for me. We have an ambition on this film, not to do what that film did, but tell a similarly ambitious story on that scale. I want kids to be able to go with their parents and watch this story unfold."

This anecdote about his father was touching and genuine, and after watching the new trailer for the film (we'll get to that), it felt appropriate. "Interstellar" appears to be overstuffed with wonder, with the kind of wide-eyed, big-screen magic that you can only find at the movies. Nolan wants to make an original, challenging, thrilling experience, and from the looks of things (and from what we've heard elsewhere), he seems to have done just that.

The trailer opened up similarly to the previous two teasers (*mild spoilers*, though you'll see the trailer yourself next week), with McConaughey as a farmer, talking about how we used to look up at the stars and now "we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” The trailer then moves quickly: McConaughey says goodbye to his children and then agrees to go on this desperate voyage. As the trailer moves along, more and more is revealed and, as many had speculated following the earlier teasers, it seems pretty clear that Jessica Chastain is McConaughey's grown daughter. More importantly, though, are the images that show our characters actually landing on another planet. (Hey, we said spoiler warning.) These images were incredible, just as awe-inspiring as the earlier elements of the teaser that demonstrated the explorers traveling through space and possibly bending the physical universe around their spacecraft (crazy, but true). The images of the planets also possessed an eeriness that suggests the best of Ridley Scott's sci-fi output and a palpable, otherworldly strangeness.

But more than just jaw dropping and awesome, which is what most of the audience probably took away from things, we were staggered by the emotional potency of it all. At one point McConaughey is gripping his young daughter, holding him tightly in his arms as she sobs. "I'm coming back," he says, trying to console her. There's a beat, where he's rocking her in his arms, and then she says, "When?" And he can't answer. It's totally heartbreaking. And the trailer is full of little human moments like this. The music is twinkly and soaring. Anne Hathaway asks McConaughey a question about his daughter. People seem to age and die and drown. There's a great beat where Nolan seems to play with a red blanket that once belonged to McConaughey's daughter and now (magically?) appears on the spaceship.

In short: this "Interstellar" footage was beyond impressive. Nolan appears to be raising the stakes yet again, going for something bigger and bolder than anything he's done before, possibly a movie that will push both storytelling and technological limits. When this thing opens, it's very like audiences will be surprised, startled and probably moved.

At one point during the Q&A, Nolan said, "No film is finished until it meets its audience. But certainly what we've already learned in the journey of making the film so far is that it's really about human beings and what it means to be human. What we've found, and other filmmakers have found before, is that as far out as you go in the universe, you realize that it's all about the humans." After seeing the trailer and listening to McConaughey and Nolan talk, it sure felt like mission accomplished.