Sunday, September 25, 2005

You're next

Photo of reflection in movie poster with slogan "You're Next"I've now had my first experience of a 3D movie at the new Cinemark IMAX theater in the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, when I went to see Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D.

When I caught my reflection in the glass over the movie poster, I could not resist taking a self-portrait under the movie slogan "Only 12 have walked on the Moon. You're Next."

Before the movie began there was a short film describing the special IMAX theater with projection on a screen ten times the size of other movie screens. The short film also showed off the impressive sound system which included speakers positioned behind the screen. The screen had small perforations to enable sound to pass through it to the audience.

There was also a trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The experience of seeing the trailer on the massive screen was stunning, and left a strong impression that seeing a feature film in the IMAX theater would be memorable. I wish that the theater had given more directions about when one should wear the special 3D glasses, because there was nothing in the Potter trailer that required the glasses, and in fact the glasses detracted from fully appreciating the trailer.

Magnificent Desolation was an inspiring story that mixed original film footage and sound clips with CGI animations and the voices of actors reading quotations from the astronauts. Tom Hanks narrated the 45-minute documentary.

I think that there was a major inaccuracy in the way the movie used sound. Perhaps they felt it was necessary to add sound effects because the theaters would have such outstanding sound systems. But they made the cinematic experience of being on the moon unrealistic by adding sounds that one would not have been able to hear from the perspective of the observors sitting in the theater. There were a number of occasions when the recording of a historic moment was punctuated by the sound of a camera shutter clicking and the camera's motor advancing film. Although there is a very thin lunar atmosphere, I maintain that we would not have heard the sounds the way they were played through the theater speakers.

Filmgoers have been misled by decades of science fiction movies that feature loud explosions in outer space, most recently in Revenge of the Sith. When I talked with some of the teenagers at Central Perk about the problem that sound does not travel in a vacuum, some of them maintained that the explosions would have made noise but it would have been quieter. I'll let any scientist readers correct me, but it seems to me that any "sound" an observor would hear from an explosion in outer space would be caused by particles ejected from the explosions striking the exterior of whatever vessel contained the observor. Ridley Scott had it right back in 1979 with the Alien tagline: "In space no one can hear you scream." (CORRECTION: According to IMDB, the tagline for Alien is credited to Barbara Gips.)

Setting aside the sound inaccuracies, I enjoyed the 45 minute documentary, and felt that the animations were very helpful in giving a sense of the vastness of space and the significance of the events they depicted.

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