Patrick Dane writes for Bleeding Cool
At this point, it seems a little redundant to try and review Raiders of the Lost Ark. Temples, Raiders, Lost Arks – you almost certainly know the story and there have been many more qualified than me to review the actual film so, instead, I will just try and assess the up-scale conversion to the IMAX format.
By and large, this IMAX version does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s Indiana Jones, but bigger.
This is your chance to see Harrison Ford‘s face as big as you have ever seen it, so if that sounds great to you, party on, you will have a blast. But it is important to discuss the drawbacks here.
What I find an odd phenomenon is that the idea of an IMAX conversion is met with so much more enthusiasm than a 3D conversion despite the fact that they are facing some of the same essential problems. In both cases, films are being altered for viewing in a format that they were not originally made for. That will always yield problems.
One of the biggest issues to consider is how the vastness of the screen is going to present the sets and shot compositions. A key example here is in the iconic opening scene. In some of the original shots, the expansive temple set framed Harrison Ford pretty effectively. Now that the image is much bigger, the parts of the set doing nothing but framing him is huge, and can feel empty. When so much screen space is left essentially unoccupied the action will often, ironically, feel smaller.
On the flip side, vistas can look beautifully expansive. Looking at Karen Allen against the beautifully restored Cairo was phenomenal on an IMAX screen.
The other major consideration of an upscale is how an audience’s eye-tracking of the images will be changed. Fundamentally, it’s because the size of the IMAX screen means your eyes can not cover the same amount of information with the same ease. Your peripheral vision is no longer as reliable as it is when viewing on a smaller screen because it’s not necessarily reaching out to the edge, or past the edge of the frame.
While I can’t say that my head was moving side to side throughout the whole movie, my eyes were certainly made to work.
Generally the experience was okay for me and it only ever became a real issue when there was more than one focal point in a shot. For example, there’s a scene towards the beginning of the film where two government officials visit Dr. Jones with the proposal to attain the Ark. few shots here contain both men. When the focus is on both, there is no overwhelming guide to direct your eye. In IMAX you have to focus on one, where as a on smaller screen, you would experience more as though you could see both at once. Really it is up to you if that is a problem in your viewing experience. Would you say that you want to be able to scan the whole image easily, or that the IMAX format gives you more of a picture to explore?
For me, there were certainly moments where I felt a bit detached, but I’ve heard plenty say they found this IMAX version more immersive.
If you love Indiana Jones and IMAX, it really is a no brainer. The Blu-Ray will be great and is a must for all Indy or Spielberg fans but seeing a film on IMAX is certainly a more ‘extreme’ experience. It’s a n experience with a broader spectrum of highs and lows.
It really comes down to your preference as a cinema goer and what you want from a movie. If you want an extravagant event-like experience, this is for you, but if you want something a little more organic… maybe it sometimes doesn’t work as well as you’d hope.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is playing at the BFI IMAX in London for a limited run from the 21st-27th of this month. That’s for one week, starting from this Friday.