I’m going to refrain from telling you how earth-shatteringly strong (literally) I think Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is.
Instead, having watched it on two of Mumbai’s IMAX screens, I’m going to offer you a simple comparison and tell you which screen offers us a better experience. And before you hardened film reviewers roll your eyes at how we call it an ‘experience’, I suspect you’re not going to want to contradict Nolan’s words when he says he designs every film of his—first and foremost—to be an experience.
But we digress.
It’s hard to come to a conclusion about which IMAX screen offers more, especially because you can watch Interstellar for the first time only once. And that first time is always special, irrespective of where one watches it. There’s also no better film to judge the screens on, because more than an hour of footage has been shot on IMAX cameras. And the other two hours has enough exposition and action to keep you fascinated.
The only way to get a 100% pure unadulterated comparison would be if I could wipe out my memory after the first time to start afresh, or perhaps clone myself for parallel time zone views—which sound like two famous movie plots on their own.
Without getting too technical, let me try anyway:
PVR IMAX (PHOENIX MILLS, LOWER PAREL)
My first time. Added to it was the thrill of watching it before Friday. So the comparison is already skewed, but there are cold hard facts difficult to ignore.
I managed to put it in perspective only after going to IMAX Wadala two nights later, but a few things stand out here. The sound—which is a major part of Interstellar being effective—is excellent here. It truly engulfs a viewer and takes us very near to how Nolan wanted it to sound universally. The sound design, which many find ‘flaws’ in, is elevated to another level here. This can also work against the larger-than-life images shown on a screen that occasionally feels too small for the environment it portrays. Where has that happened before? Gravity—yes, correct. Another IMAX experience (3D too), but it felt a bit underwhelming here. And that was my first time too. To be fair, no screen is big enough to watch Space on. Except, perhaps, space.
It goes without saying that the screen isn’t half as large as you expect most IMAX screens to be. This is a pity, because if there was ever a film created to be projected onto the vast night sky (which is still not large enough), this is it.
Having said that, I also have no other reference points for a fair comparison other than…
I experienced ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on this screen two years ago. It wasn’t even Nolan’s strongest film, but I remember being absolutely overwhelmed by what I saw. This is, in no small measure, because of the gigantic screen on which the digital (ouch) images are projected onto. It also helps that this theatre is designed to imbibe a frightening feeling of Vertigo into viewers, more like a vertically steep stadium seating system, which is layered upward and only adds to the overall experience. As a result, no annoying food-orders in front will ever distract you, unless it’s the same row. They’re either too high or too law to obstruct the view. There are times I literally bent forward and held onto the railing in front, afraid that I would drift off into a black hole. This is the nearest to adding another dimension to storytelling, and I would highly recommend this screen for Interstellar—even if the sound isn’t as vibrant as PVR.
If you’re someone who doesn’t prefer tilting your head to look at different parts of the screen (and this will happen, because of the prominent subtitles), this screen could be a tad problematic. Hence, getting a seat further behind makes sense, unlike me—who chose the third row from the screen before getting swallowed by the 5-storied screen. It added to my intoxication, definitely, but I also recommend holding onto somebody after the film is over. Injury, out of disoriented awesomeness, is a distinct possibility.
(*subject to genre. An animated 3D movie makes for better and more immersive viewing at PVR.)
However, both are digital IMAX projections, so we’re already on the second tier of viewing comparisons. I’m off to now wallow in the third-tier experience to get a more complete picture—that is watching Interstellar on a regular multiplex screen.
If any of you would like an all-out thorough comparison, please feel free to sponsor my ticket to Hyderabad so that I can have the ONLY genuine 15/70mm IMAX experience in the country. Or better still, add to this post.
(For more posts by Rahul, you can visit his blog here)