Thursday, February 23, 2017


I found out the hard way that my critics card isn't accepted for IMAX.

Well, almost the hard way.

I showed up more or less on time for the 9:30 IMAX screening of The Great Wall at Hoyts Highpoint on Monday -- actually early, but I fiddled around on other things before buying my tickets because I didn't expect any issue with doing that. And when I say "buying" I mean that sort of literally in this case. Even with my critics card, I knew that Hoyts charges surcharges for things like screen size and 3D. (I've ranted before about how the so-called X-treme Screen costs us an extra four bucks, even though it is only marginally bigger than its "regular" sized brothers.)

But when I got to the front of the short queue, I learned that $28.50 was what they expected me to pay for some shitty Matt Damon whitewashing movie set in China.

I pushed back, but it turns out that they were right: IMAX is not covered. IMAX, in most if not all cases, is an independent body that more or less rents space in theaters, meaning the agreement Hoyts has with the Australian Film Critics Association is something IMAX can choose to honor or not. It chooses not. And I can kind of understand that logic. You don't have to see a movie in IMAX in order to properly review it, though if positive reviews that lead to more ticket sales were the goal, you'd think they'd want us to see it that way.

I got out of line long enough to realize I couldn't actually disprove what they were saying with any documentation I had on hand. Which then left me behind about six other people. I was seriously facing the prospect of seeing no movie whatsoever, since 9:30 was the last starting time for anything, and I wasn't about to fork over $28.50.

Fortunately, I had an ace up my sleeve. The Great Wall was actually playing at 9:15 on one of those "regular-sized" screens, so I ended up getting to see it without even the $10 in surcharges I thought I'd have to pay. I couldn't have waited a moment longer, though, as I got to my seat perhaps 30 seconds after the movie had already started. (And if you come in to a movie like The Great Wall late, you'll have no idea what's going on. I kid. Plot is not its strong suit.)

But there were strong suits to The Great Wall, many of which come down to that first battle scene. To anyone who has seen a trailer for this movie (which is probably everybody) it won't be a spoiler to say that the humans in this movie have very non-human adversaries -- four-legged green monster-beasts called Tao Tei. The swarming of these beasts in unimaginable quantities as they attack the titular wall was truly impressive, to say nothing of the defenses mounted by the Chinese awaiting them, which might put us in mind of the display of synchronization and force demonstrated by the Chinese in their Olympic opening ceremonies. Accompanying this whole scene is the syncopated drumming of rows of drummers, who in function and even a bit in form reminded me of the guitarist that plays them into battle in Mad Max: Fury Road. The sequence is a spectacle of color, action, violence and generally impressive digital effects, and it reminded me of my favorite sequences of Starship Troopers -- a very high compliment for me.

The rest? It was fine.

Still, I got enough out of those visuals that I can't imagine myself having liked it significantly more by seeing it in IMAX 3D.

I mean, IMAX can't make a script more interesting, can it?

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