Ever since James Cameron’s Avatar made an unheard of amount of money and wowed audiences with its visuals by shooting natively in the 3D format, nearly every big release we’ve seen since has tried to cash in on the craze by offering up a 3D version of itself. This has been going on for a few years though, and in showbiz time that might as well be a century. By all accounts the 3D craze is getting a bit long in the tooth, and it’s probably time for the next big trend to come along and replace it. What will that trend be? If a couple of reports that came out today are any indication, it’s going to be filming portions of your movie with IMAX cameras.
The idea of filming select sequences of a film with IMAX cameras and charging customers a premium to experience the scope and clarity of the images on IMAX screens isn’t exactly a new one. Already Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol have used the technique to create unique visuals and score some impressive box office dollars. But, with dueling announcements that two new gigantic franchise films also intend to use this strategy, we might be seeing the birth of a full-on trend.
First comes a report from THR that the Hunger Games sequel, subtitled Catching Fire, will not only be getting digitally remastered into the IMAX format like its predecessor was, but its new director Francis Lawrence will also be shooting some scenes with IMAX cameras in order to further augment the experience. This sounds a lot like the strategy employed in both The Dark Knight and Ghost Protocol, which used the gigantic, crystal clear frame of the native IMAX format to create dizzying cityscapes for key action scenes.
Catching Fire isn’t the only big project getting in on the game though. The IMAX Corporation has put out a press release (via ComingSoon) announcing that the new Star Trek sequel will be shooting select scenes with their cameras as well. When asked to comment on the decision to use the high-resolution format, director J.J. Abrams said, “We were so thrilled with the creative results of shooting IMAX for Mission: Impossible that we jumped at the chance to use the format for Star Trek. All expectations were exceeded — the action and resolution is insane at this scale. We cannot wait for audiences to see the crew of the Enterprise in a way they never have before.”
It’s hard to deny how impressive The Dark Knight and Ghost Protocol’s IMAX scenes looked up on those giant screens. Certainly, with two films trying this strategy and both having successful results, that gives films shooting in IMAX a much higher batting average when it comes to successfully adding visual oomph than films shooting in 3D have.
How many movies that have been released in 3D over the last few years have actually been worth paying more for that third dimension? Has it been two, maybe three out of dozens and dozens? Would you welcome an onslaught of new movies that have scenes shot in IMAX, or is this too a needless gimmick that will eventually come and go without doing much to change the way we watch movies? Perhaps we’ll have a better idea of where all this is going when the box office receipts and reviews come in for The Dark Knight Rises later this summer. Can movies shooting scenes in IMAX go three-for-three? That would have to be seen as a BIG accomplishment.