I eventually got around to watching “Solo : A Star Wars Story” today (more then 36 hours after it was released!). To summarise, it was good but not great.
This film is basically an origins/back-story for Han Solo, in the Star Wars timeline it is approximately 10+ years before the original (“Episode IV: A New Hope”).
Although it takes part in the Star Wars universe, it could stand alone. Yes the Empire is there with Stormtroopers and there’s speeders and R2 units etc. But they are really all pretty much incidental to the film. That’s not to say there’s nothing there for Star Wars fans, there’s lot’s of little nods for the fans, where did Han get that iconic blaster? or meet Chewie and Lando? And of-course there’s a brand new shiny Millennium Falcon and we finally get to see how Han “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” (“well if rounding down”).
Unlike all previous films it does not really have a good versus evil (dark/light) theme, there are no Jedis, no mention of “The Force”, as I said the Empire is not really a significant factor, there are some interesting indications at the evil Empire and good rebels but they are not really major plot lines (for the most part).
Without giving away any spoilers, the end does throw up a couple interesting links to the mainstream timeline and also leaves room for a new “Star Wars Story” outside the main timeline.
It was an enjoyable diversion/filler until the next Star Wars Episode, Episode IX is due for release December 20, 2019.
I don’t go to the cinema that often, usually for “special” movies that should be seen on the big screen at least once, why spend that money when you can own the film a few months later for approximately the same price. I especially don’t spend the extra money for IMAX and/or 3D. I did watch Avatar in 3D at the cinema as that was hyped as the next generation of movie experience (it wasn’t). Anyway I stumbled across a 3D IMAX one day only “Filmfest” a while ago, showing 4 films for £3 each, so I got myself a ticket for “The Force Awakens” (I also tried to get a ticket for “Fantastic Beasts” but it was already sold out).
So let’s start with the “disclaimers”
- I am aware that the Edinburgh Cineworld IMAX screen is not actually a “true” IMAX screen, I won’t go into the details but it’s the wrong size, aspect ratio and I believe uses digital projectors instead of 70mm film, you can Google the differences for yourself or compare it to the IMAX in Glasgow which I am led to believe IS a “true” IMAX screen.
- The Force Awakens was NOT filmed using IMAX cameras except for (I read) one short scene; so this probably means that disclaimer 1 above doesn’t matter as much.
- The Force Awakens was not filmed using 3D cameras but converted in post production, this may well have had an adverse effect on the end result.
- I probably was not sitting in the perfect seat (C15) which is on the third row and slightly to the right of centre, it was a pretty good seat but slightly higher and more central may have improved my viewing experience, but they were all sold when I booked, although many were actually empty (I guess a lot of people bought tickets but didn’t go).
To be fair some parts of the 3D looked fantastic and worked really well but there was so much that didn’t work that I will be very unlikely to pay the usual full price for a 3D film at the cinema (unless there is some stunning new technology breakthrough).
Now we have that out of the way, why does 3D IMAX suck?
- Focal Depth – The 3D view creates an unnatural “layered” effect in some scenes which makes things look like cutouts in a diorama. I assume this is partially due to the post production 3D in that it cannot render perfectly every part of the scene to the correct focal depth so selects the major parts of the image to a specific focal depth and extrapolates the bits in between, e.g. in a crowd scene the people may be set to a specific focal depth (i.e. how sharply in focus they are) but the bits of the scene between the people may not match exactly.
- Focal Point- In some scenes the main main object in the scene is in sharp focus and everything else is deliberately out of focus, which can look fantastic but sometimes the image jumps around so much that your eyes have to move quickly around the screen. Now I appreciate that this IS also an issue with 2D films but it is so much more noticeable on a large 3D image, I suspect that if the film was originally designed to be in 3D that the editing would have been done differently to compensate for this, for example, some subtle panning to draw your view more gently.
- Poor quality 3D – Some scenes just did not render well in 3D, especially fast moving scenes with lots of objects at different depths overlapping, I noticed on numerous occasions where the edges of objects were not sharp and clean as they should have been, they were jagged and blurred, I’m guessing that this is due to the post 3D rendering not able to do a perfect job on every single frame. It was usually only for a split second but it was noticeable enough to be off putting and occurred often enough to be an irritation.
- It looks too good – Maybe this one is just me but some scenes looked so good in 3D that you want to study all the subtleties of the the 3D rendered screen instead of watching the movie. I know this sounds counter intuitive but imagine the scene where *WARNING -Minor Spoiler alert* Ren and Fynn are fighting in the snowy forest, instead of watching the fight you are admiring how well all the trees and snowflakes look in 3D!
Don’t get me wrong some parts of the film looked totally spectacular but there were so many other parts that just did not work well, ranging from mildly irritating to very bad, that it came close to ruining the experience completely. I certainly will not be paying the normal extra cost to watch another film in 3D IMAX in future.