Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The IMAX Experience

Saw Superman Returns this morning on IMAX 3D. I have to say it was somewhat of a disappointment. Not the movie, which I enjoyed immensely, but the IMAX theater itself. Apparently, SM Cinema management gave out tickets to the first day first showing (which I had bought tickets to) to the press, making the whole thing a press engagement replete with camera crews and reporters and their families. While not so bad in itself, I was expecting to watch the SOLD OUT (technically not true, since most of the tickets weren't sold at all) screening with true fans who made their way to the cinema on a work week during morning rush hour. Instead, I saw it with people who got free passes. This is kind of like seeing a concert with people who got complimentary passes and are likely just there because they got free tickets and not because they liked the music. That said, there was a healthy smattering of Superman die-hards in Superman tees and got the good seats by virtue of actually paying for them. I know I've been sounding somewhat stuck up with that, but I had high expectations of the crowd I was going to be watching with.

There's a different energy watching it with the right crowd. I remember watching Episode II on two different occasions. One was an advance screening with a lot of geeks and fanboys, and the other was some snooty high society screening in Greenbelt attended by people who mostly appear on Maurice Arcache's column. In the former, during the scene where Yoda turned on his lightsaber for the first time, the crowd went absolutely nuts! There was cheering, whooping, clapping... there was a real thrill from people who remember the Frank Oz's cantankerous puppet. On the other hand, the Greenbelt 3 screening had exactly two whoops from the audience when that scene came on -- from me and my friend Kristine. Oh, and it was more of a who- than a whoop since we cut ourselves short when we realized that none of the high society snobs were going to cheer for a tiny green man with a glowstick.

Anyhow, the SM Cinema IMAX showing was something like that. Furthermore, the IMAX theater stank. It smelled like carpet adhesives and old cloth. Mall of Asia's IMAX also seems to be in violation of the National Building Code of the Philippines... there were exactly two aisles, one at the beginning and one at the end of the row. With over thirty seats per row, it threatened certain doom for people in the middle of the rows if a fire broke out.

Lastly, the IMAX experience was marred by an SM executive prefacing the screening with a nervous speech. And when the credits rolled, the lights came on and the exec went on his mic and asked us if we enjoyed the show. Not quite, but thank you. The movie itself was a real pleasure. The 3D scenes were real cool, too. I don't think it was as amazing as the trailers for The Ant Bully, Happy Feet, and T-Rex, but being the first full-length live-action film to have IMAX 3D scenes had its moments. It might have been a humongous visual experience, but the sound was awful. In one scene where Superman goes up to the thermosphere to listen to the sounds on Earth, the sounds he was hearing were vastly underwhelming. I watched Superman Returns in Glorietta 4 that same evening, and that scene in THX was so much richer. Overall, I enjoyed the film, despite the subpar theater (the non-contour of the huge IMAX screen created rippling effects from certain angles during 3D scenes; the IMAX theater in Singapore reportedly has a more immersive screen), the lackluster crowd (the Glorietta crowd cheered more and laughed at the right scenes), and the unwelcome commentator. You gotta go run out and see Superman Returns. IMAX entirely optional.


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