“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: the IMAX 3-D Entry


Even the silliest pew-pew-pew effects sound glorious when you crank the speakers up to 27.

I have no current plans to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens six times as I did with one of its predecessors, but my son and I caught an encore for fun at one of the local IMAX theaters to see if the 3-D made any difference. It’s something we try maybe once every 2-3 years, not a regular part of our movie-going diet. I confess I dig IMAX screens more for their super-sized speaker systems than for any picture enlargement. In both TV and movies, JJ Abrams tends to be one of those directors who coach their sound effects team to deliver a booming, raucous performance in which you can feel the depth and the weight of every noise great and small. As a guy with lousy hearing who watches most TV shows with the captioning turned on just in case, I love a heavy hand at the soundboards.

After seeing the same scenes twice, I noticed slight shifts in a few of my opinions, along with a few other random observations beyond what I previously wrote over here and over there. I talked to a few relatives at Christmas gatherings today who still haven’t seen TFA, so I’m not the sort of elitist to assume that anyone who hasn’t seen it yet deserves spoilers as their punishment. If you’re like them and haven’t had the time or funds, please enjoy this courtesy SPOILER ALERT telling you politely to go away for now and save this entry for later.

Random new thoughts, then:

* 3-D actually wasn’t my first choice. I was hoping to see the rare 70mm version playing at the Indiana State Museum, but three days’ worth of viable showtimes were sold out in advance. I might try again when the Star Wars frenzy dies down, if ever.

* Biggest gripe: the picture was not one pixel larger than what’s showing at other 3-D theaters. This was a full-size IMAX screen, not a lame “faux-IMAX” pretender, but most of the screen went blank and unused at top and bottom. BOOOOOOO.

* Biggest improvement: the Millennium Falcon chase through the Star Destroyer husk, which went from pretty cool to Best Action Scene of the Year. Loved the cavernous depths and razor-sharp turns and cannily chosen angles and the exacting balance between speeding ships and incredulous reaction shots.

* Best attempt at 3-D eye-poking the audience: sudden scene change to Hux’s massive Star Destroyer IN YOUR FACE.

* One drawback to the much, much louder soundtrack: the Wilhelm scream was harder to hear through the explosions.

* The angrier Kylo Ren gets, the stronger his performance gets.

* Ren’s mask made such a loud THUNK every time he dropped it, you’d think it was carved from a bowling ball.

* Oscar Isaac’s performance as Space Maverick is growing on me. 3-D gave a boost to his tracking-shot swath through the TIE Fighter armada above Maz Kanata’s temple nightclub.

* X-Wings vs. Starkiller Base: still don’t care, not even in 3-D.

* For poor Captain Phasma, I think I counted ten lines in four scenes. A slightly better showing than Boba Fett in quantity only.

* Better appreciated Domhnall Gleeson’s young-adult homage to the Imperial officers of old. In Episode VIII I’d love to see him making and/or starring in First Order propaganda films.

* Carrie Fisher’s speech pattern bugged me for the longest time, and I finally realized why: she reminds me of how my grandma sounded after she bought dentures. Not meaning to be rude about it; it’s just the odd, hesitant realization of a childhood memory unexpectedly unearthed.

* Among the guests and cameos, this time I caught three seconds of Martha Jones from Doctor Who before she was blown to smithereens, and a sliver of Simon Pegg’s grouchy accent.

* I thoroughly don’t care how much of TFA’s plot and structure were traced with a lightbox from the original trilogy. I refuse to count how many similarities there are. And it’s sad how many complaints I’ve read from other people that could be best countered with “Just think about it for a second…” or “So?” What they redid, they largely redid well. Besides, TFA is clearly part 1 and not a standalone entry. It’s the ignition sequence that gets the Star Wars saga up and running again after a decade of sitting in the garage. In my mind, it’ll be up the next two movies to fly us toward new horizons. If the new trilogy as a whole is a beat-for-beat remake of Episodes IV-VI, then I reserve the privilege to grumble with vehemence.

* I didn’t buy any TFA merchandise before seeing the movie because I don’t care to wear clothing with pictures of complete strangers on it. Now maybe I’m in the mood to own a piece or two. Say, something to look for at the T-shirt stands at this year’s conventions. No action figures, though — not at today’s prices.

* On our way out the door, I caught the “Additional Voices” credit for Sam Witwer, the guy from the Force Unleashed games and Doomsday from Smallville. I know a lot of other voices were tossed into the mix during the various flashbacks and hallucinations, but I’d love to see a Blu-Ray extra that separates and labels the audio tracks for the more notable contributors.

* Our 3-D showing included four trailers in 3-D. Ranking them best to worst, as a guy who normally doesn’t go bonkers for 3-D:

1. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I remain unconvinced the entire movie will be worthy, but the scenery, the warfare, even the over-the-top character moments look stronger through 3-D trickery. Someone’s put a lot of thought and effort into that part, if nothing else. Best part is still Bruce Wayne’s pause and ironic half-smile.
2. Disney’s The Jungle Book. Some decent footage of stretchy fake animals slinking through underbrush, pouncing in lush jungles, and sailing quiet streams. A few wide shots could’ve used more mid-ground objects for contrast.
3. Captain America: Civil War. One-half tense conversations, one-half jump-cut shaky-cam fights. Neither half is the sort of thing that works well with a 3-D upcharge.
4. Warcraft. It took a while to stop laughing. Lots of figures and props existing in completely separate planes a la Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or your local library’s kiddie puppet theater. Flat heads floating above stuffed paper dolls paraded around on popsicle sticks. Someone bankrolled a nine-figure sum to do no better than emulate all the worst flaws from the smattering of 3-D comic books we had back in the ’80s, until that temporarily resurrected fad died a second death for good reason.

4 responses

    • By the final half-hour I was ignoring the 3-D altogether, but it added a neat perk to some of the early action scenes. I think the last film I saw in 3-D was Gravity, so it’s been a while since I gave it a whirl. It’s still not a must-have, though.


What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: