The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Such a bad movie in such a great place

with 7 comments

It was a long ride in the escalator to get to the IMAX theatre at Lincoln Square in New York City. But it turned out to be well worth it once the movie started to roll. I found myself in giant land in a double sense. I felt as if I was on the top of the world – quite an achievement considering that the movie I watched was so mediocre.

The room – or I should probably call it hall, considering the size – was almost empty. I had caught an afternoon screening of Jack the Giant Slayer, a movie that didn’t seem to be a box office hit in the first place, and which also had been running for some while. The only reason I could see why they showed it at all was that Oblivion hadn’t opened yet and this was what they had that was suitable for a big screen.
I wasn’t alone in the theatre – but not far from it. As I showed my pre-booked ticket for the usher, she told me that I was free to sit wherever I wanted since there were so few bookings anyway. “You see best if you sit fairly high up, far back”, she advised me, and so I did, inexperienced as I was.

I had never been in a theatre with this format in my entire life. You see, we don’t have them in Sweden. For once it was pretty much irrelevant which film I watched. The whole point was to see what it was like to see a movie in IMAX. The fact that it also was in 3D worried me a little since I’m generally not a fan of those, but it didn’t deter me from giving it a try.

What it was like
What was it like then? Well, my first observation was that the commercials looked pretty weird on a screen like this. They were projected at a very small area in the middle of the screen. It looked like a miniature in comparison to the space around it, but I figured that this format probably suited a normal screen very well. And then the movie began. I put on my glasses… and my jaw dropped. I looked like the people do at genre pictures of movie audiences: starry eyed and smiling. I always dismissed them as unreal, and here I was all of a sudden with the same ridiculous enthusiastic expression on my face. I felt completely immersed, pulled into this other world, which is quite an achievement considering how unexciting and underwhelming the story is.

And while we’re at it, this is what I thought about the actual film: com

  1. I don’t understand why Hollywood insists on making violent film adaptations of fairy tales. Who is the audience? The grown-ups will be bored by their lack of complexity and innovation. The children can’t see them because they’re too scary for them.
  2. The movie doesn’t only fail the Bechdel test, it also has an annoyingly passive princess, whose only function is to be in peril so the men can volunteer to rescue her. Apart from her, there are very few women in the movie at all and you may wonder how the giant breed since every single one of them is male.  We expect more from a 2013 movie.
  3. I’m such a big fan of Ewan McGregor but he has nothing to do in this film. He deserves better.
  4. If you take away everything that the IMAX adds and imagine watching this on a small screen, it’s a rather dull movie.
  5. The 3D didn’t bother me. Perhaps it works better in this format. It could also be that I watched it without subtitles. Subtitles are very distracting in 3D movies since they seem to float in their own dimension, in front of everything else, adding a cardboard doll feeling to the lot.

Mixed feelings
To wrap it up: I was overwhelmed by the IMAX experience and underwhelmed by the movie. And this leaves me with a little troubled wrinkle in my forehead and mixed feelings.

On one hand I wish we had a theatre like this where I live. The size of the screen makes a whole lot of difference to the experience, as simple as that. If a crappy movie like this one was gorgeous to watch, how awesome wouldn’t it be to watch a good movie like Skyfall in IMAX?

Big TheatreOn the other hand I can’t rid myself of the troubling idea that the film industry might be tempted to focus more on surface, technology and size and less on the core: good story writing and acting. An ever so great IMAX theatre can’t compensate full for the fact that the movie is bad. I want movies that can be enjoyed in a smaller scale as well. If it’s good enough it should be able to give me, if not the full experience, still something – even if the screen is a cell phone.

And then there’s the financial side of it. I realize that theatres aren’t non-profit organizations that screen movies out of their kindness. They need to make a plus and it’s understandable that they grab the opportunity and raise the price on IMAX 3D tickets considerably compared to standard tickets. I went on my own, since my family thought that New York City offered better pleasures than to dwell in the darkness of a theatre. But if my family had chosen to come with me, it would have been a noticeable expense, something you’d think over carefully before doing.

I want theatres that are affordable so you can watch a lot of movies anytime you want. Going to the movies shouldn’t be something you do once a year, like taking your children to an amusement park. If movie going remains cheap, you can also allow yourself to be more daring and to try out movies you’re not dead certain you’re going to like.

On this occasion, in this theatre, under those circumstances, it was totally worth every cent I paid. As much as I love my little non-profit art house theatre where the seats are worn down and sometimes even broken, it was great to catch a glimpse of this world of theatre giants before I had to climb down to Earth again.

Jack the Giant Slayer (Bryan Singer, US 2013) My rating: 2/5
The experience of watching a movie in IMAX format for the first time: 5/5


Written by Jessica

April 12, 2013 at 12:06 am

7 Responses

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  1. The point about how fairy stories are portrayed is a good one. Not quite sure what to make of it myself.

    I do find it strange however how certain children’s stories can be about fairly serious, deep stuff – yet almost any attempt to bring it to the small or large screen would run afoul of age laws. I am thinking of things like Brothers Lionheart, which is as dark a tale as any I have read that is aimed for children. Take even The Hobbit – which was given a 12A rating over here (and I have not had a chance to see) – was originally aimed for children five years or so younger than that (I read it at 8).


    April 12, 2013 at 1:15 am

    • Actually the Brothers Lionheart has been made into a movie. It was definitely aimed as a movie mainly for a younger audience (though not for very small kids). It has some charm – a beautiful score and some magic scenery in the cherry tree valley, but the special effects reflect the time and budget and it feels a bit aged.
      Rumour is that they’re going to do a remake, directed by Tomas Alfredson, with script of the Johan Ayvide Lindqivst, who wrote Let the write one in and a budget that is huge for being in Sweden. I’m actually pretty excited about this!

      What bothers me most are are those fairytale movies in the genre Grimm/Perrault etc: Snowwhite, Cinderella etc. I really can’t see the point of doing those over and over again rather than coming up with something new.


      April 12, 2013 at 8:54 am

  2. Great post! IMAX sure is amazing, although it makes me dizzy. Glad you had fun, even at a crappy movie.


    April 13, 2013 at 1:53 am

    • Thank you! Fortunately I didn’t get dizzy. I did notice though that I had to keep my head pretty still or the picture would get blurred. But that was connected to the 3D. The glasses looked different in US than what I’m used to. I don’t know if there’s a connection.


      April 13, 2013 at 8:37 am

  3. Have not seen this movie yet and wish we had a true IMAX screen. There are a couple which are called IMAX, but they are small compared to real IMAX screens. We used to have a real one in the nineties, but it shut down (probably because they didn’t play enough regular movies), shame really.


    April 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    • I don’t know where the closest IMAX screen is but I guess I’d have to go to London to find one.


      April 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      • Yeah, maybe Germany also has them, but then you run the risk of the movie being dubbed…


        April 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm

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