Last night, Joel and I went to see Star Wars: Episode II at the IMAX theatre in the Museum of Natural History. Lucas apparently thought it might be a good idea to chop out a whole bunch of the movie, and blow it up onto a huge 7-story screen. The results are, I think, mixed.
The scenes that were cut are those that add character development, but are not absolutely essential to the plot. Although I noticed them missing, they didn’t affect the story a great deal, and even lessened the pain of the adolescent “courting” scenes. Although� now that I think about it, most of what they removed are the machinations of Chancellor Palpatine and his maneuverings in starting the war to give himself “emergency” powers and, of course, eventually become Emperor. Odd, that.
The IMAX size, though, was problematic. Often, the size of the image in the frame was such that there was an extreme closeup of someone’s head towering at least 30 feet above my mid-level seat. This and many other scenes with close-up shots and frantic camera movement made it hard to view, and hard to orient yourself in the shot. When you’re in a regular theatre, you can glance at most of the image at once, and gather that, though you’re following a young Jedi who’s trying desperately to cling to the exterior of a flying speeder, the ground� for instance� is that way. On the IMAX screen, though, you can’t take in the whole screen at once, and you have to look around frantically, craning your head, trying to find some corner of the image that gives you a clue as to your orientation, but before you can, you’re on to another shot.
The wide, vast shots worked best on the IMAX screen, giving you a chance to breathe, and just look around at the scenery. I noticed in several shots as well, the shot that was cropped in the original widescreen film was revealed vertically to form a nice wide shot. For instance, during the nighttime discussion between Obi-Wan and Anikin in Padme’s apartment, there was an extended wide 2-shot that replaced the series of closeups that were in the original film.
Also, as Joel pointed out after, it was blindingly obvious which shots were all-digital elements (rather, meaning created as CG, instead of shot, as the whole “film” was shot on hi-def video). I presume this is because the CG shots were re-rendered at the higher IMAX resolution, whereas the elements that were actually shot on set were merely enlarged.
Overall, I think it was an interesting experiment. Converting Episode II to IMAX after-the-fact seems to have been filled with more minuses than plusses, but it would be really interesting to see a narrative film that was shot and designed to be seen on the gi-normous IMAX screen. Any takers?