Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Under the Sea and Why IMAX 3D

Deep Sea Monster

Thanks to my friend I got to watch a special screening at Shaw Theatres' latest 20 million dollars renovated flagship, Lido, now equipped with Singapore's only IMAX hall. And the result is A+, which I have raved about at the bottom. But first, the review proper.

Under the Sea is a documentary that brings us to the depths of the oceans to be introduced to the various sea creatures that we hardly see, unless you're an avid diver and being knowledgeable enough to know your undersea flora and fauna. To the uninitiated and non-divers like myself, this is one thrill ride that reminds us we're not alone in this world, and there are countless other species living in 70% of our world that we hardly ever see.

Narrated by Jim Carrey, yes, that Jim Carrey, the visuals are spectacular, showcasing the vibrancy of colours underwater, and very strange fishes and creatures both predator and prey, stretching from the waters of Papua New Guinea to Australia's Gold Coast. I've lost count on the number of species on display, but for fans of the ocean you will get to see them in their natural habitat engaging in various activities from camouflaging, mating to pure survival in keeping themselves fed. Given the presentation in IMAX it's really in your face stuff, especially when it boils down to snapping at its own food chain, and what I really felt uncomfortable with, were the wriggly, venomous sea snakes swimming toward the screen. Yikes!

Perhaps the primary weak point in the film is Jim Carrey's narration, as his voice was somehow drowned out by the soundtrack and ambient underwater sounds. Granted he's no James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman whose voices inherently have a certain booming, commanding gravitas, Carrey's came across as somewhat smart-alecky at some points, though of course fingers can be pointed to the writer of his lines, and as they say, don't shoot the messenger.

Then there's not much of a weaving narrative attempted to tell a story here, other than to launch you into the visuals direct and describing what's going on, and if it's something a lot more educational you're expecting, then you'll be a tad disappointed. It skims the surface of the various species introduced, and of course the legwork of research and investigations into more detail lie with you the audience in digging up more information after the screening, and that is if you're bothered to.

One can almost feel that this slightly under an hour film served its purpose as a presentation preview for audiences to the new IMAX 3D format, and would have certainly piqued the interest of many to make this presentation format the format of choice in films slated in its lineup, starting with this summer's blockbusters.


I think Singapore can accommodate more IMAX halls, with some renovations involved of course, because of the unparalleled quality and audience experience to be felt, and all the more very suited for big budgeted summer spectacles. There are cities overseas that can boast more than 1 IMAX equipped cinema, and with Singapore having one of the highest cinema attendances in the world, shouldn't this make commercial sense with a carefully worked out ROI?

Forget about premium and luxury class halls where the only kick you'll get is from having a butler serve you food and drinks as you struggle to eat in the dark and getting distracted as you take your eyes off screen to make sure the food gets into your mouth. Or having a swanky lounge to relax in prior to the start of a movie, to watch trailers that can be found online anyway.

We're talking about an immersive, wrap around experience that envelopes your senses totally. 14,000 12,000 Watts of digital sound, and a pristine digital projection that puts you into the film, I'd swear even the talkers in the cinema will shut up and be in awe at what the cinema experience now brings. Why pay premium for a luxury class (every major cinema chain has their own branding for such a hall) when the audience pays a little less for an IMAX 3D film that offers what they're there to experience - movie entertainment on a big screen with a good sound system, to paraphrase one of the local advertisements on anti-piracy efforts.

Premium halls are small halls with small screens. The one at Lido is huge, but of course arguably by no means the largest in country, but large enough to feel the difference in what a classy, quality projection and mega-watt sound system can bring to the table. Even the IMAX 3D glasses are extremely lightweight, and with large lenses that doesn't stifle your face like how a rigid pair of goggles do, as it fits onto your face snugly, even if you're bespectacled, like me.

If I have a choice with a steady stream of funds available, every film that is screening at Lido IMAX, you will see me there. This hall sets the stage for the rest to catch up, and catch up they must. GV MAX and Cathay Grand The Grand Cathay can't hold a candle to the mighty Lido IMAX, and no, I'm not being paid to say that - watch a movie there, and you'll feel that gulf in class and complete end-user experience, that you'll become a convert too, at the drop of a hat.


Wise Kwai said...

I'm surprised Singapore only has one IMAX. Bangkok has three, and counting, showing the latest 3D and IMAX-format Hollywood fare.

Stefan S said...

Hi WiseKwai, yes unfortunately Singapore is lagging behind on the pick up of IMAX. We had one previously but that was closed down. I'm secretly hoping the other cinema chains would start to consider this should the Lido one prove to be successful.

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