Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Adelaide needs an IMAX

My heart was pounding, my mind racing, my breathing fast. I didn't want to look down but couldn't resist. Eight hundred metres below me lay the desert sprawl of Dubai, and certain death. I adjusted my grip on the window of the 160 storey skyscraper I was clinging to, and took a deep breath...

Well OK, so it was actually Tom Cruise facing death on the side of that skyscraper, not me. I was sitting in the two-storey cinema stuffing my face with popcorn and watching his new film Mission Impossible IV.

But I swear that's what it felt like. Never have I experienced borderline vertigo while watching a film until now. Until IMAX.

Save for climbing up Dubai's Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), smashing a window and popping out onto the ledge for a quick look around, watching MI4 in an IMAX cinema is about as close to being international daredevil spy Ethan Hunt as you could ever hope to get. (Or Tom Cruise, for that matter, who actually DID HIS OWN STUNTS. Blimey.)

Remember Adelaide's IMAX? It shut down in 2002, because all it ever screened were weird documentaries about whales and dinosaurs and no one went. Which is sad, because it's probably going to be the future of cinema.

With its giant screen (typically 16 metres tall, about double the height of a regular cinema screen), greater resolution projectors, ear thumping sound and stadium seating that allows for wider views and a more immersive experience, IMAX is cinema turned up to 11.

It used to be a novelty, but in recent years it's surged in popularity thanks to some blockbuster films released in the format like Avatar, Inception and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. MI4 has at least 30 minutes specially shot on IMAX cameras, as does upcoming Batman film The Dark Knight Rises – director Chris Nolan chose it over shooting in 3D. (If ever there was a death knell for 3D cinema, this is it.)

When you watch an action flick like that on that giant screen, it's not hard to understand why many are predicting IMAX will be the next big thing in cinema – literally.

The clarity of detail in MI4 is simply incredible. Sweeping shots of Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai are so crisp you'd swear you were flying over them in a glass helicopter. The beads of sweat on Ethan's face practically drip off the screen. You can almost feel the heat from the explosions.

As traditional cinemas continue to shrink - grand old theatres like the Chelsea and the Capri, swallowed up by suburban multiplexes - and home televisions grow bigger and bigger, going out to the movies is starting to lose its gloss. What's special about paying $70 to cram your family into one of 15 small cinemas to watch a film you could probably download at home and watch on your gigantic flat screen?

Going to the cinema should be – it used to be - an experience. IMAX brings that experience back. If only Adelaide still had one.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on January 15 2012.

1 comment :

  1. BRAVO! I love the fact that SOMEONE realises the medium and why nobody wants to bother with cinemas any more!

    We (well, at least a sizable chunk) want IMAX, not 3D gimmickry!

    If IMAX had held on one more year, MATRIX would have saved it. *sigh*