The Dark IMAX

I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight yesterday. I don’t know why the rule that comic book sequels are always better than the originals, but it continues to hold. (Superman II, Batman Returns, The Incredible Hulk). Possibly it also holds in sci fi in general: The Wrath of Khan, Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, etc.

As everyone already knows, Heath Ledger was incredible as The Joker, and Christian Bale once again blew chunks. (Why no actor has ever been able to voice Batman properly, I have no idea; but in my head I just never heard him talking in some funky whisper. Batman has a strong, authoritative, commanding voice. It’s Bruce Wayne who disguises his voice, not Batman.) Nonetheless, it’s a really good movie. Go see it.

The reason I waited so long was that I wanted to see it in IMAX. I heard that it had been specially designed and shot for IMAX, and that it would really take advantage of the medium. Wow, was that wrong.

The simple fact is the IMAX screen was way too big for this picture. IMAX wants lots of spectacular outdoor shots that encompass large vistas and have three different things happening on the screen at once. Think Star Wars II; Attack of the Clones or some of the great nature pictures that have been done in IMAX over the years. However, despite all the explosions, The Dark Knight is really an internal picture. The focus is more often than not on characters’ faces, and action more often than not takes place indoors in cramped spaces. Even outdoor scenes are usually in the lower-Manhattan-inspired concrete caverns of Gotham City. There’s just not enough movie there to fill a screen this big.

As a story, The Dark Knight works. The Joker looks genuinely crazy, but does it matter whether his face is 2 meters high or 20? And the Joker comes off better than most because his makeup makes him look less human. With their faces blown up to 20 meters, normal folks like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, etc. all just end up looking grotesque.

I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but this movie cries out for a smaller screen; not necessarily one of the postage stamp sizes you find in the shoeboxes of an excessively subdivided old theater, but at least a more normal multiplex venue. When half the movie takes place on characters’ faces, you need a screen that’s a little closer to life-size.

2 Responses to “The Dark IMAX”

  1. Kevin Says:

    “Why no actor has ever been able to voice Batman properly, I have no idea…”

    Beg pardon: no live-action actor has ever voiced the character properly. If you haven’t already, check out Batman: The Animated Series, or the Batman’s appearance in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Kevin Conroy voices the character brilliantly.

    IMO, Christian Bale played Bruce Wayne well, and the Batman badly. And even so, he’s better than anyone else that has assayed the role in live action.

  2. Dave C. Says:

    I’ve now see the Dark Knight in both an IMAX and a standard-size theater. The standard-size theater (which featured digital projection and a good sound system) was the better of the two experiences.

    The scenes from the film that were actually shot in IMAX, just a few city-scapes shot from a helicopter, were better on the IMAX screen, but the non-IMAX scenes, which made up the vast majority of the movie, were pretty terrible on the IMAX screen. They seemed to be in soft-focus, I suppose because they were over-enlarged. In contrast, both the scenes shot in IMAX and 35mm looked just fine on a standard movie screen.

    By the way, I almost hate to say this, but Adam West voiced Batman properly. Sure, his delivery was campy and over-the-top in keeping with the style of the TV show, but the strength, authority and timbre were all spot-on.

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