Take us back to December 2015. Star Wars bursts back on then big screen after a ten year hiatus and The Force Awakened for us at least, in IMAX 3D. Or so were were told.
After paying a premium ticket price for “The IMAX Experience”, disappointment was to ensue. Not with the movie itself, which was brilliant, see the review here, but with the showing itself.
I have several gripes.
Firstly with “The IMAX Experience” as it was sold, or miss-sold in my opinion. The Experience seems to denote the difference between a bespoke IMAX screen, built at a ratio of 1.44:1 and capable of both 15 perf 70mm and Digital presentations, rather than the conversions, which are smaller, solely digital and with a screen ratio typically of 1:85:1, though be it from floor to ceiling.
The true IMAX screen it floor to ceiling, eight stories tall and falls lower than the front row. So, we saw Star Wars VII on this bastardised version of IMAX, similar in principle to the later single strip conversions of Cinerama in order to save money in the 1960’s, rather than the pure three-panel versions of which the format was built upon during the 50’s.
Then there is the 3-D itself and in both cases, at the cinema and at home with the newly released 3-D edition, the cinematography was clearly flat. Designed to fit in with, yet modernise the cinematography of Star Wars, connecting this sequel to both trilogies, the originals being shot between 1975 and 1983 and the prequel trilogy which was released between 1999 and 2005.
So this was obviously a stereoscopic conversion and a perfectly serviceable one, but the look of the film, the photography and the effects simply did not need it. It looks great in 2-D and slightly more defined in 3-D but despite a few shots, such as one of the Star Destroyer poking out of the screen, which is not one of the best images to be honest, as well as Han Solo demise which is set up on a thin bridge looming over a large chasm, the 3-D offered little benefit to this film.
The scenes where it matters generally involve fast spacecraft such as X-Wings, Tie Fighters and of course, the Millennium Falcon, but they were often moving so fast it was hard to appreciate them. But possibly the most anticipated moment in a three dimensional Star Wars movie is the opening crawl.
And it works well, with “Star Wars” and the three paragraphs of of the story so far, falling in to deep space with great depth but even that did not look quite right, as if lost in limbo, floating in mid air both falling away and staying put. Strange.
But IMAX and 3D failings asides, the biggest issue for me is that I am talking about this in November rather than April! This is one of the most cynical Blu-ray releases to date, releasing the 2-D version with host of extras in April and making us wait for the 3-D edition six months later towards the release of the next movie and of course, Christmas.
Then having the gall to try and sell this on the promise that not only is this the 3-D release, but will be packed with new special features, but besides a couple of new deleted scenes and much nicer packaging, there is little to justify another £20 on top of the first release, this means that you are essentially paying £35 for the this movie, when normally you would pay out no more than £20.
But having said all that, this is a great movie, a great disc and the 3-D is as good as it was in the theatre. My only gripes are that there was little reason to convert it to 3-D in the first place and the cynical release tactics, which were clearly modelled on The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit Blu-rays and DVD’S. But they were released as extended cuts of the films, not just the 3-D versions and added a host of new special features. These versions made great additions to your collection whilst this edition is essentially a replacement for April’s release.
Obviously, if you want the 3-D and/or are a completest like me, then this is a beautiful Blu-ray release, but when all is said and done, taking advantage of a loyal audience like this is not a great way to start the new franchise. Let us hope that thy do better next time…