The latest James Bond adventure Skyfall is not only breaking overseas box office records for the franchise in its initial two weeks of release, but it is also the first Bond film to be released in the IMAX format.
As the film opens around the US this weekend, fans may be wondering what extra they will be getting for the IMAX upcharge tacked onto their ticket. IMAX has released a comparison of how the film will look in the traditional 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and the 1.90:1 ratio for the IMAX release. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)
For IMAX purists, though, this is still a far cry from the format’s traditional 1.43:1 ratio screens and 70mm print projection. This is due to the film’s cinematographer Roger Deakins shooting the film with the Arri Alexa M digital camera rather than the bulkier IMAX film cameras as opposed to the IMAX sequences in The Dark Knight Rises and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which did use the cameras. Still, Deakins and Skyfall director Sam Mendes worked under the assumption that the film would be presented in both versions and framed what they shot accordingly.
The latest James Bond adventure, Skyfall, will also be the first of the five-decades-old franchise to get a release in IMAX theaters it was announced today. The film will be digitally remastered for the format by the time it opens internationally on October 26 and two weeks later on November 9 in the US.
In The press release announcement, which you can read in its entirety below, IMAX Filmed Entertainment Chairman and President Greg Foster is quoted as saying “It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this legendary franchise, whose iconic characters and electrifying action will only be amplified in the IMAX format.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think that last part will be exactly true.
The truth of the matter is that director Sam Mendes has not been shooting any portion of Skyfall with actual IMAX cameras. This means that the frame shot with a standard movie camera will be digitally enlarged for the bigger IMAX screen, which could possibly lead to some picture degradation. Standard digital cameras do not have the resolution capacity that IMAX projection requires and that IMAX digital cameras possess.
Additionally, I can find no mention that Mendes and his director of photography Roger Deakins have actually shot any of the film with the idea that it will be seen on IMAX screens with their substantially different aspect ratios from traditional theater widescreens. Will their work have to be cropped for IMAX?
The upshot is that this may very well not be as exciting and immersive a film experience as the recent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – which did have sections shot with IMAX cameras and an eye for the different screen requirements of the format – was.
Now it is possible that the press release is just referencing the IMAX branded screens that are nothing more than enlarged standard theater screens with a higher end audio and digital presentation and not the 1.44:1 aspect ration of what I guess we could call “classic” IMAX presentation. If that is the case, there should probably be no real composition compromise, but if the few films I’ve seen on these newer IMAX branded screens are any indication, there will still be some possibility of a less than crisp picture.
But hey, given MGM’s financial problems over the last few years, I really can’t blame them for trying to rake in a few extra bucks through an IMAX upcharge on tickets. Makes me surprised that they didn’t go all out a try for a post-production 3D conversion as well.
Here’s the complete press release -
Los Angeles – February 23, 2012 – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX), Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced that the long-awaited next chapter in the famed James Bond franchise, SKYFALL, will be released in IMAX® theatres simultaneously with the film’s international release on Oct. 26, and its domestic release on Nov. 9, 2012. This is the first IMAX installment of the iconic Bond film franchise.
In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
SKYFALL marks the return of Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007, as well as Judi Dench reprising her role as M. The film also stars franchise newcomers Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris. The film is directed by Sam Mendes from a screenplay written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli are producers.
“SKYFALL will be the cool, must-see event release of the fall, and releasing the film in IMAX only reinforces that,” said Rory Bruer, President, Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing and Distribution.
“It is fitting that with SKYFALL marking the 50th Anniversary of the James Bond franchise, we celebrate in epic style and what could be more larger-than-life than IMAX joining the festivities,” said Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officers of MGM.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this legendary franchise, whose iconic characters and electrifying action will only be amplified in the IMAX format,” said Greg Foster, Chairman and President, IMAX Filmed Entertainment. “We are excited to rejoin forces with our friends at Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM and so pleased to work with Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, and Sam Mendes to bring their vision to IMAX and Bond fans around the world.”
The IMAX release of SKYFALL will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images coupled with IMAX’s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.
So intones Stephen Lang’s Col. Quaritch in the opening moments of the sixteen minute preview of director James Cameron’s upcoming science-fiction epic Avatar which screened yesterday evening at IMAX theater locations around the country.
Yes, the line’s use could have been cliché-ic and hyperbolic. Except for the fact that Cameron’s film may just be able to live up to the hype and expectation that has slowly been building up around the project for the last couple of years. Hype and expectation that in no little part has been fueled by Cameron himself, with talk of immersive 3D presentation and photo realistic, computer generated characters and creatures.
(Surprisingly, reports from around the country state that not all showings of the preview were sold out. I say surprising, because when the free tickets for the event were made available last Monday online, the website offering them almost immediately crashed and experienced delays for several hours afterwards.)
Last night was Cameron’s “proof of concept” demonstration, and he brought the goods. The first of the five scenes previewed, all from the first half of the film, introduces viewers to the film’s basic conceit. A couple of centuries in the future on the planet Pandora, humanity has established a research outpost. However, since the planet’s atmosphere is not oxygen-rich like here on Earth, an ingenious way of exploring the planet has been devised. Copies of Pandora’s indigenous intelligent population, the Na’vi, are created and controlled via a sort of telepathic remote control. Everything that the Na’vi body experiences is experienced by its controller back at the base. It is as if the controller is their Na’vi avatar. Quaritch warns the group of Marines about to begin their assignment on the world that “Every living thing that crawls, flies or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubes…”
The second scene shows us the process in which is used to transfer control to a na’vi avatar. The film’s hero, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a former marine now confined to a wheelchair. He looks at the avatar program as a way to, in at least some way, regain his mobility. Once the transference process is complete, Jake in his Na’vi body, quickly jumps up and ignoring doctor’s and technician’s orders, begins moving about a laboratory.
It is here where Cameron begins to show off the leaps in computer-generated imagery that he claims to have made for the film. We see Jake’s Na’vi avatar close up in several shots. We see his feet and hands close-up enough to see pores, hair, wrinkles and finger prints. The depth of detail is amazing and breathtaking.
The following three scenes showcase Jake in his Na’vi avatar moving through the jungles of Pandora. In one sequence, he and some others encounter some weird six-legged beasts that look like a cross between an elephant, a rhinoceros and a hammer-head shark. The scene culminates in a pell-mell dash through the forest as Jake is chased by another, even more ferocious creature.
The fourth scene features Jake meeting one of the indigenous Na’vi, Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana) in a clearing at night. They don’t see quite eye-to-eye at first, but they must come to an understanding as the final scene shows Ney’tiri and a few other Na’vi showing Jake, now in native garb, a ritual which bonds him to a flying, dragon-like creature.
Each of these segments have an increasingly higher technical difficulty but each sequence shows no sign of slippage in the quality of work being presented. A little voice kept reminding me that eight foot tall, blue, cat-like humanoids and strange six-legged elephant-rhino-hammerhead shark creatures do not exist in real life, but yet, there they were in front of me on, and popping out of, the screen. The environs of Pandora are an impressive bit of world building and one suspects that Cameron probably has reams of notes on a hard drive somewhere that delve into far greater detail than will ever be seen or even hinted at in the final product how the ecology of the planet works. It is a hostile world and danger looks behind or underneath every tree, fern and bush. For all intents and purposes, Pandora is a real world that Cameron has somehow managed to transport us to while keeping us in the safety of our comfy cinema seats.
But will this film be as game changing as some insist it will be?
Possibly, but we can’t really make that judgment until well after Avatar‘s December 18th premier. Several factors yet to be played out, including how the final product works as a film and how other filmmakers follow in Cameron’s footsteps in regards to using the new technology and techniques he has developed for the film, will inform that verdict more than any excitement-fueled decree made today will. The 3D process used in the 1950s showed much promise, but virtually no filmmakers beyond Alfred Hitchcock (with Dial M For Murder) and George Sidney (with the musical Kiss Me Kate) really tried to push it much further than its exploitation roots. From the footage shown, Cameron seems to be using it in a similar way, as a way to draw the viewer into the world he has created rather than have the film thrust things out at the viewer.
As a way of generating excitement and showing what he has up his sleeve, Cameron has definitely succeeded in what is probably the most interesting bit of marketing of a motion picture in a long time.
In the meantime- here is the standard trailer for Avatar that was released Thursday. It does contain some footage not seen in yesterday’s preview.
Perhaps in anticipation of a Best Picture Academy Award nomination that never materialized, Warner Brothers has scheduled a short rerelease of their hit comic book adaptation The Dark Knight for IMAX screens starting tomorrow. Even without the Best Picture nod, though, any excuse to catch The Dark Knight on the big, or in this case the even bigger, screen is worth it.
It looks as if J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot is going where no Trek film has gone before- IMAX screens.
According to a report over at First Showing, the film will only have a two week engagement on IMAX screens before having to make way for the release of the IMAX version of Night At The Museum 2: Battle Of The Smithsonian. Trek is scheduled for a May 8, 2009 premier and Museum 2 is scheduled for May 22.
In addition to Trek and Museum 2, there are at least two other films – Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince and Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen – that will also be presented in IMAX in the coming year.
I have to wonder if IMAX is in danger of becoming a gimmick, if it hasn’t already. Does blowing up the films to the larger IMAX screen size really add anything to the storytelling? More than likely not. Sure the footage in The Dark Knight that was shot specifically for IMAX looked amazing. Seeing Superman Returns in the IMAX format allowed them to present a few sequences in 3D, which also looked great. Half-Blood Prince will also sport about 20 minutes of 3D footage, while Transformers director Michael Bay shot a few sequences of Transformers with the larger negative size IMAX cameras. But besides giving the audience some visceral thrills, does utilizing IMAX actually contribute to the telling of the film’s story?
A parallel can be drawn to the 3D craze back in the mid-1950s. At that time some 50 feature films and numerous shorts and cartoons were produced in the format. They featured all manner of things being shot out at the audiences from arrows to paddle balls to gorillas. The Three Stooges threw cake and sprayed water at theater patrons across America, Casper the Friendly Ghost traveled to the moon and dancers in Kiss Me Kate swung on ropes over audiences’ heads.
But there was only one director who downplayed the sensational aspect of 3D in favor of using it as a way of bringing storypoints to the audience’s attention. That was Alfred Hitchcock in his film Dial ‘M’ For Murder. If you ever have the chance to see the film in 3D, do so. Pay attention to how Hitchcock composes his shots in 3D, placing certain objects in the foreground and background. It is subtle work and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t seen the film in 2D previously.
Is there a director who can find a similar way to utilize the IMAX screen in a similar fashion? I would hope so, just to keep the format from becoming some type of ballyhoo gimmick that the public will quickly tire of.
If you are planning on seeing the Batman opus The Dark Knight from director Christopher Nolan in the theaters, you will probably want to think about seeing on an IMAX screen.
Well, Nolan has shot approximately 20 to 30 minutes of the film in the IMAX format and an IMAX theater is the only place you’re going to be able to see those scenes in all their glory. (The scenes will still be prints screening at standard movie theaters, albeit they will a bit cropped to fit the traditional wide screen ratio.)
Of course, it helps to know if there is an IMAX screen near you, so following the jump is a list of IMAX screen where you can see The Dark Knight on the bigger big screen.
Warner Brothers screened the first minutes of Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight for new York based journalists yesterday, with Nolan on hand to introduce the clip. One of several specific scenes shot in the IMAX format, the segment introduces batman’s iconic nemesis The Joker and will screen as a short film in front of IMAX screens of I Am Legend later this month.
The usual geek press is suitable stoked, as perhaps should be expected. Though UGO’s reporter’s statement of “easily the best short film I’ve seen since Hardware Wars” perhaps suggests that he needs to see short films more than once every decade or two.
Click on either link for detailed, and needless to say spoiler-filled, breakdowns of the action.