Focused. If only word had to be used to describe the IMAX Laser experience at the TCL Chinese Theater, focused would be the only one I could choose. More than anything, it is a pinpointed experience, an experience so focused on creating the most immersive nature that it is astonishing. It wasn’t the loud, overly obnoxious extravagance that its parent company IMAX made it out to be, even if the audio system could certainly be described as that, especially for weak ears. It was focused on what it wanted to do and it accomplishes that massive list of objectives, despite there being strongly limiting parameters, handily. And what is that massive list of objectives? What caused IMAX, a company made legendary thanks to the presentations of its exclusive format, IMAX 70mm, to move from that tradition and into the modern age with such flourish? What caused it? The answer is quite simple. To redefine the theatrical experience for a new time and generation. To redefine what it could mean and how it could be presented. And on most fronts, this new format works. It’s quite simply a redefining of the theatrical experience.
Even though it emerged into high-end theaters across the nation and the world a few years ago, the format has never really gained too much traction and popularity as it demanded a massive screen and expensive projectors that pushed into the millions territory for the theaters lucky enough to even consider it. As a result, I have never had the opportunity to see what IMAX has cooked up for its passionate sum of cinephiles. And yes, what is presented here will only appeal to cinephiles.
It’s difficult to see how a regular family could be swayed enough to a point that they care about the exact precision of these projectors. It’s difficult to see how a couple on a short, easy date would care how the audio system is so innovative for its time. These are all attributes that only a select few cares about, and they are attributes that are admittedly, especially with the picture quality if you are sitting from a decent distance, sometimes difficult to point out. And none of these attributes would make the notably more expensive ticket prices, surging past twenty dollars, worth it. But if these are all things you care about, then IMAX Laser may just be worth all the trouble.
My only experience from the format came from an afternoon showing of Shazam! at the TCL Chinese Theater as previously noted. The theater was one of the first to convert to this new style of theatrical presentation as it made for a fantastic novelty for tourists to gawk at. And simply put, Shazam!, despite its hundred million dollar budget, simply isn’t designed for such a large-scale format and it shows. The aspect ratio never changed in the iconic way that some IMAX films would, the most prominent examples being Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Interstellar.
In addition, the audio system wasn’t nearly as impressive as I would have hoped with the IMAX-tampered sound mixing never being powerful enough to make a lasting impression. Instead, for the first time in my entire life, the previews were some of the best moments I had in a movie theater. That’s a phrase that I am shocked I would ever think, let alone type into a computer, but it was the honest truth. The IMAX presentations of the first Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer, the second Dark Phoenix trailer, and the second Avengers: Endgame trailer quite simply floored me.
The audio system was locked in perfectly with what has happening on screen with each beat of the epic, grand orchestral soundtrack thumping my chest. The images were crystal clear even from the decent distance that I was sitting from the screen. And finally and potentially the most important, I was sitting in an auditorium of people who in some regards cared. An auditorium of people who recognized the value of that additional surcharge for the format and what it entailed. And my childlike wonder didn’t cease there.
As announced by Warner Bros and New Line via their social media outlets, the footage of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which was shown previously at Wonder-Con 2019 andCinemaCon, was shown to all audiences who saw Shazam! in IMAX its opening weekend. We covered the footage itself right after seeing it at Wonder-Con, and it was a blast being able to see it again on such a grand and prestigious format. The visual effects popped; the sound effects boomed, and the gorgeous shots left a rare impression.
Simply put, these previews and exclusive showing of King of the Monsters made up for the slight disappointment I had from the actual showing of the film and reaffirmed my position that IMAX is not only the best way to see films, but it is the only way.