Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is Getting the IMAX 70mm Treatment and a History of Star Wars in IMAX!

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! If you read my blog, you may already know I loved the movie “Dunkirk” when I saw it. And I did a few posts on it, not just a review, but mainly posts dedicated to how it was presented. You may also know I went to see the movie in IMAX 70mm film. The clearest format a movie’s ever been presented in. There were 37 locations presenting the film in this format as a special engagement. There was also IMAX laser, which is a high quality digital experience, but it’s still not as clear as IMAX 70mm. I went to the one in Providence, RI, and for what I can tell, that projection probably won’t be used for awhile for feature length films. After all, I checked the Wikipedia page labeled “List of IMAX DMR films” and none of them say that any of the future films on there are shot with IMAX cameras, which plays a prime factor into which IMAX movies get to be played in the 70mm format. Now, there are ones that are being shot with IMAX digital cameras such as “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Mission: Impossible 6,” but those, based on experience, won’t be in 70mm. If it weren’t for one other movie, “Dunkirk” would have been the only feature length film released in 2017 to get the 70mm treatment. That other movie by the way, is the upcoming “Star Wars.”

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Before going any further with this 70mm IMAX mumbo jumbo, let’s talk about the movie itself. You may already be aware this is the eighth installment in the main saga of “Star Wars” movies, based on what I’ve seen, this takes place after “The Force Awakens” and I’m willing to bet it starts off right where that movie stopped, on the island where Luke and Rey are standing in front of each other as Rey is holding Luke’s lightsaber. This is supposed to be the second installment of the latest trilogy of “Star Wars” films, which is supposed to bridge the gap between “The Force Awakens” and the untitled “Episode IX,” which will be released in 2019. As this episode bridges the gap, Rey continues her adventure as she receives training from Luke Skywalker, and others give it their all, continuing to take down the First Order.

For the record, this is not the first time a “Star Wars” movie has been shown in the IMAX format. In the main saga, episodes II and VII have both been in the format, and the spinoff, “Rogue One” has also been presented in IMAX. Also, every single one of these movies has been shown in IMAX 70mm, which was the only option for “Episode II” because that’s the only projection technology IMAX used until 2008, although there was a projector that was used for some time that supported the format (first used after Episode II), but the screen was smaller and different. Fun little fact about “Episode II,” this was the second movie to be shown in IMAX as a film to go through IMAX’s DMR process, which is the process that pretty much every feature film goes through before it’s released in IMAX. Also it was first shown in IMAX starting November 1, 2002, which is months after the movie’s official release in theaters. “Episode VII” was shown in IMAX, including a limited number of locations that played it in 70mm. It was even one of the earliest films to be shown in IMAX laser. “Rogue One” was shown in IMAX too. Fun fact about that, for those who went to see it in IMAX 15/70mm or IMAX laser, they got to see a 6 minute preview of “Dunkirk” which covered the entire screen. Part of me wonders if that was an intention someone thought of long ago or an ultimate afterthought, and you’ll understand why I say that in a second.

When it comes to “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” that was shot digitally, shooting IMAX footage in movies wasn’t even a thing yet. By the way, that started in 2008 with “The Dark Knight.” Digital does have some perks when it comes to shooting, for example, the storage for your video isn’t as tacky because instead of film, you have a memory card. Although certain directors prefer film. Directors like Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight), Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, The Master), and Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception). Also, George Lucas, director of “Attack of the Clones” along with the other two prequels actually pretty much kicked off the rise of digital projection with “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” one of my least favorite movies of all time. People thought it was amazing at the time, but looking back, the world is increasingly becoming more into film, which I find amazing because digital is at pretty much every theater now.

“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was the first movie in the series since “Episode I” to be shot on film. This was shot in three formats, digital (aerial plates) 35mm film and IMAX film. Most of the movie was presented in 35mm, which was in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Also if you saw the movie in a format that wasn’t IMAX, the aspect ratio would remain that way for the entire picture. This was also how the DVD/Blu-Ray release played out as well. In IMAX 70mm and laser, the aspect ratio would change to 1.43:1 for some time, or if you’re watching in IMAX digital, the aspect ratio would change to 1.90:1. Although this was for one scene only, specifically the scene where Rey, Finn, and BB-8 escape from Jakku. Due to this the total time spent showing IMAX footage ultimately came out to 5 minutes, which is significantly lower than other films shot in the IMAX format.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was the first live-action spinoff in the franchise released in theaters, and one thing I noticed is that when it comes to movies released in IMAX 15/70mm, this one is different than other ones released over the past few years. Aside from “A Beautiful Planet,” this is the first movie since “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” to be released in IMAX 70mm that wasn’t shot with IMAX cameras. Although UNLIKE “A Beautiful Planet” and LIKE “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” this movie didn’t cover the entire screen. However, I will say the screen was fully covered before the movie. That’s because, as mentioned before, there was an extended preview for “Dunkirk” shown exclusively in IMAX 70mm and laser. Also from what I gathered, “Rogue One” was shot using an Arri Alexa 65, which is a digital camera, but it’s also one that is higher in terms of quality than other digital cameras used in certain movies including the one George Lucas wanted to use in the prequels.

Now with this out of the way, let me just blurt something at you here. I don’t know how much footage was shot in the IMAX format for this movie. Wikipedia suggests that the IMAX camera was used for certain scenes. As for the rest of the scenes, the same camera used for “Rogue One,” the Arri Alexa 65, is used here, and you also have a Panavision film camera which shoots in 35mm film. I’ve seen many films in IMAX, in 70mm, digital, and laser, and I usually have an enjoyable experience, some better than others, but still. When it comes to IMAX 70mm film, I’d say that it’s worth the ticket price just for getting the highest quality image possible. Based on what I’m hearing, I don’t think it’ll be as worth it as “Dunkirk” was but I’d still say go for it, after all, “Star Wars” is a movie that’s made for audiences to go see together, and I think the best way to do that is by going to an IMAX 70mm theater. If I were a filmmaker, I would, depending on the movie I’m making, want it to be IMAX 70mm friendly. I want it to be big, bold, beautiful, the three b’s.

Another thing you should consider is the 2D vs. 3D option. If you ask me, I usually don’t care, 2D is cheaper, but 3D at times can be a fun ride. If you choose to see the new “Star Wars” in IMAX 70mm, 2D is going to be your only option. I don’t really think that’s a bad idea considering the size the movie is when projected on film and having to deal with what technically qualifies as two movies can be a hassle. Not to mention, there are IMAX film projectors that can’t even do 3D. I even looked at a website called lfexaminer.com, and there are only two theaters this is playing at in the IMAX 70mm format that can handle 3D.

One more thing to keep in mind that a good number of these locations are IMAX domes. These are also referred to as Omni Theaters and OMNIMAX. These theaters usually never play feature films, you’re more likely to find those on straight IMAX screens. OK, not completely straight, they do have an intentional slight curve, but you get my point. I have never seen a feature film in an IMAX dome so I don’t know what it’s like, however I have watched IMAX documentaries there, which were fun experiences that covered the whole screen. And keep that in mind, while IMAX often plays movies that will make you see black bars on the screen, kind of like some stuff you might watch at home, it might be weird in an IMAX dome. This is because the dome is basically a fish eye, making the curve a lot less slight than other IMAX screens. You’ll still get amazing sound and clear projection, but it’s something to keep in mind. Also, if you don’t like looking up at screens instead of directly at one, this isn’t your theater.

Also, I’ll restate the fact that when “Dunkirk” came out, it was playing at 37 locations in IMAX 15/70mm. That is rather small, and believe it or not, it is more than the total locations playing the movie in laser, which happened to be 25 by the way according to IMAX’s website. I’m not sure how many laser locations have been established since July, but the amount of laser locations playing this movie is likely to be small. Guess what? The 70mm locations are smaller than what “Dunkirk” had! When “Dunkirk” was available for the IMAX 70mm treatment, people from multiple countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, and Thailand could view it the way director Christopher Nolan intended. According to IMAX, “The Last Jedi” will be available in 11 theaters in the 15/70mm format, and if I feel the need to, I’ll give you some information as to what type of theater it is if you’re interested. Just a hint, if you see me listing whether the theater is capable of 2D or 3D, the theater has a flat screen.

US THEATERS:

ALABAMA:
IMAX Dome, McWane Center: Birmingham
IMAX, US Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville (Dome)

CALIFORNIA:
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum: San Jose

CONNECTICUT:
IMAX, Maritime Aquarium: Norwalk (2D)

INDIANA:
IMAX, Indianapolis State Museum: Indianapolis (3D, also does certain films in IMAX digital)

IOWA:
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center of Iowa: Des Moines

MISSOURI:
OMNIMAX, St. Louis Science Center: St. Louis

NORTH CAROLINA:
The Charlotte Observer IMAX Dome, Discovery Place: Charlotte

PENNSYLVANIA:
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute: Philadelphia (Dome)

TEXAS:
Omnitheatre, Fort Worth Museum of Science & History: Fort Worth

UK THEATERS:
London Science Museum: London (3D)

As you can see, not only do we have a small amount of theaters listed here, but there’s only one outside the US! Just like I said before, the total number of theaters listed here in fact comes out to 11. So the number of IMAX 70mm presentations for “The Last Jedi” is less than the number of seasons of shows like “Criminal Minds,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Supernatural,” and “NCIS.” By the way, all of those shows are still on! If you live close to one of these theaters, I gotta say, you’re so lucky. The closest one to me is the at Maritime Aquarium, which is almost 3 hours away from my house in Massachusetts. Just for the lack of theaters available, I’d say this is worth experiencing just to say you saw the movie in this format. Now I’m going to see this movie opening night in standard 3D, if I like this movie enough, I’d probably make an attempt to go to Maritime. Also, if you are a movie buff, depending on what you’ve done under said label, you might be interested to know there’s a restaurant right near the theater called Johnny Utah’s. Why do I bring this up? Well if you ever viewed the movie “Point Break” which came out in 1991 starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, that was the name of the character played by Keanu Reeves. Just to clarify, when I say restaurant, I actually mean club. They have a mechanical bull, it’s very loud, and it’s not exactly kid friendly. Oh yeah, and it has two stars on Yelp, totally worth a trip amirite!

Will I see “Star Wars Episode VIII” in IMAX 70mm? I’m not sure yet. I’ve got to consider the time it takes to get to the theater it’s playing at and how much I even like the movie upon first watch since I already have tickets for it at another theater. Nevertheless, if you do plan to see “The Last Jedi” in the clearest way possible, consider this post a recommendation. Also, if you missed “Dunkirk” in IMAX 70mm I’m willing to bet this will absolutely make up for it. Thanks for reading this post! Next Monday, I’m going to have my review for “Thor,” which is going to start off my series of “Thor” reviews leading up to “Thor: Ragnarok.” Not really much else is happening, I might watch something and if it has some significance I’ll review it. So stay tuned for more great content! Also, I have a few questions. Are you planning to see “The Last Jedi” in IMAX 70mm? Are you seeing “The Last Jedi” in general? If you are seeing “The Last Jedi,” where are you seeing it? Leave your responses in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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