Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Big Screen Rises

Earlier this month, as explored by Reel Speak HERE, Disney announced a new deal with IMAX which would put many of their major releases onto the oversized screens. Not to be left behind, this week Warner Bros. inked a similar deal, which would put nearly 30 of their upcoming slate of films into the large-screen format. 

The list of films from Warner Bros. to see a big-big-screen release includes Ron Howard’s seafaring adventure IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, the DC Comics films BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, the Batman spinoff SUICIDE SQUAD, Guy Ritchie’s KNIGHTS OF THE ROUNDTABLE, the Harry Potter spinoff FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of THE JUNGLE BOOK, the sequel to THE LEGO MOVIE, and the sequel to GODZILLA. 

The IMAX format has the ability to capture and display images of far greater resolution and size than traditional film (35mm and digital). In the past decade, many feature films have been upgraded into the IMAX format. Looking at Warner Bros. interesting roster of films, it seems that many of them would certainly benefit from being seen on a really big screen. Ron Howard’s IN THE HEART OF SEA is a MOBY DICK-ish tale in which sailing ships battle whales, so the large format would certainly bring the size and scope of whales and the mighty sea to life. GODZILLA of course means everything is bigger; there is perhaps no better way to watch the king of the monsters than on a screen five stories high. And in DC Comics’ upcoming superhero matchup, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, director Zack Snyder has filmed certain scenes of the film in the large IMAX format.

The rest of the films you have to wonder how they would benefit from being made bigger. IMAX offers directors an opportunity to really convey a sense of scale to the viewer, which is the very last thing that comes to mind when thinking about Legos. Some movies do not benefit at all from being enlarged, and studios just use the heftier price tag of an IMAX ticket as an opportunity to bring in a bit more moolah. 

While the business side of the minor renaissance IMAX is going through is an easy one for studios, the opportunity for directors to explore the big-ass screen is getting better. Ever since director Christopher Nolan filmed more and more of his DARK KNIGHT trilogy in the large format, engineers have been striving to make the large and clunky IMAX cameras more portable and less of a monumental feat to take out on location. This is a great step for the film industry, because if the IMAX format is to survive a label of a gimmick (like goddamn 3D), then it needs to be done right. Directors need to start filming in IMAX instead of just having their work blown up on an oversized screen…where instead of looking at a beautifully framed shot which utilizes its entire environment, you’re looking up a two-story high nostril. 

It is important for audiences to know the difference between a true IMAX screen and what cinema multiplexes try to pass off as IMAX (often called LIE-MAX). While a LIE-MAX screen may still be bigger than the five-story height of true IMAX, it is still bigger than the standard screen in any given theatre. Audiences are often confused and don’t know what they’re seeing, and the standard-issue laziness of the average movie-goer won’t care enough to look into it. This Blogger begrudgingly is OK with that, because any incentive to bring people to the big screens, where movies are at their best, is a good one. 

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