The Dunkirk 70mm Imax preview, plus the support film, Star Wars Rogue One
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Paul Sutton
In keeping with the bizarre British practise, the Science Museum now requires
patrons to choose their Imax seat at the time of booking online, which means
that all the good seats sell out the moment they go on sale. Such a daft
practise also stops you from arranging to meet up with friends and renders many
of the seats unsaleable, i.e the front rows and the end of aisles, hitherto the
just desserts for late arrivals.
Last year, when I told a friend I was going to the Imax cinema in the London
Science Museum on such a day at such a time, he decided to bring his family
along and meet up, and we were all able to arrive early, choose good seats when
we got inside the auditorium and sit together. No such luck this year. The day
the tickets went on sale, I scrolled through and found that the ‘good’ and
premimum priced tickets had mostly sold in a flash. I found a single good seat
for the 4.10pm screening on the first Monday of the Star Wars release and so had
to go by myself. Of course, the cinema was almost half empty. No one wanted to
pay huge prices to sit in the front rows or on the sides and no one had the
option of arranging to meet up and sit with friends.
Then the show began. There were a lot of adverts. By a lot I mean there were,
for example, SEVEN adverts for cars, and others for X-box and all kinds of
things I’m not interested in. If you are going to take up my time by forcing me
to sit through commercials then don’t charge me or anyone for the ticket.
Then the main film began - six minutes of Christopher Nolan’s "Dunkirk" - and it
was really rather thrilling, except that the large latticed metal barrier in
front of the front row obscured a lot of the bottom part of the screen from my
view from the top price seat in the very middle of row G. From this I learned
that if you want an unrestricted view you have to pre-choose a seat higher up
than row G. This rule applies only to films filmed and screened in the imax
format (which is higher than it is wide). Like "Intersteller", Nolan's
shape-shifted as it moved from scenes shot in Imax to a brief shot of a scene
shot in 65mm (and therefore wider than tall and not partially obscured by the
The presentation of the "Dunkirk" footage reminded me of the super 8mm edits of
feature films one used to enjoy back in the day - a collage of show scenes with
just enough exposition (about 10 lines of dialogue) to get the story across.
Much of the footage was of an aerial dogfight, fabulously filmed from within and
without the cockpit, and of hordes of properly pale-looking young Englishmen in
uniform carrying stretchers, huddled in boats, and looking very apprehensive as
the sound of bombers zero in on them and scream all around us. The soundtrack is
truly monumental and terrifying and immersive. The production design looks right
to the last stitch, the scale is a wonder to behold, and this must be the most
authentic recreation of large-scale war scenes on film, except for one howler.
Nolan doesn’t attempt to get the colours right. Instead of using the colours of
the day and of nature, he has plumped for the cliché of destaturation to leave
us with nothing much more than a weak and watery blue. Doubtless, if I live long
enough, I’ll be able to see the film in every real cineaste’s favourite
mono-colour - Bradford pink.
|More in 70mm reading:|
Oslo 70mm Film Festival
Cinerama Festival -
Seattle October 2011
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - The IMAX
After the mainshow, the supporting feature was this year’s Star Wars film.
I didn’t like last year’s Star Wars film at all, but
I stayed and watched this year’s Star Wars and I loved it. Early on,
I grudgingly admitted to myself that I liked the designs.
I liked the realism of the rust on the undersides of metals, and the dirt and
the dust on the stormtroopers uniforms. I loved the tapestry of details from the
child’s stormtrooper doll to the integrated monsters and machines. I was
grinning from ear to ear during the richly detailed deep-focussed space battles.
The writing was better than serviceable and some of the dialogue was good. As a
film it was ambitious and dark. Surprisingly dark. For comedy relief there is a
bad CGI cameo of Princess Leia, and bad CGI scenes of the little boy from "The
Polar Express" now all grown up and playing Grand Moff Tarkin (why hasn’t
CGI improved since 2004?).
The print was immaculate, of course, brand-new, but I was surprised that the
dark scenes lacked contrast, particularly in the first reel. The black scenes
lacked black. It was a muddy brown print, a fault, I presume, of the processing
and manufacture? or the problem with shooting in digital and blowing it up and
printing it on film? There was depth but there wasn’t a true Imax or 70mm
immersion (except in the computer-generated outer space scenes). I think that
part of the problem was the editing. I was not at all surprised to see the
credit ‘additional editing by Stuart Baird’. Baird’s first film as editor was
Ken Russell’s glorious rock opera, "Tommy". Thereafter Baird imported Russell’s
psychedelic high style into Hollywood action pictures but without carrying over
Russell’s understanding of pacing and drama. The Baird style has long been the
Hollywood action style, all flash and dash and no substance, blazes of images
without geometry or geography, and without a satisfying sense of pace and this
clashed with the director Gareth Edwards’s strong sense of space and place. The
Baird editing style allows us to glimpse, it doesn’t let us see. 70mm film is
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