Destination Film: Celebration! Cinema North & IMAX - Batman vs Superman

Andrew saw Batman vs Superman on 70mm IMAX film at the Celebration Cinema!

As with Star Wars: The Force Awakens last December, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice represents the latest major franchise film to receive a limited 15/70 IMAX 70mm film release throughout the country.  

Approximately twenty minutes of 15/70 IMAX sequences were shot for Batman vs Superman totaling a number of four sequences including the entire opening credits introduction, a bizarre dream sequence had by Bruce Wayne, the titular epic battle between the two superheroes and the closing finale.  What this means for moviegoers is that the standard digital release will be presented in the fixed aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1, IMAX digital releases will present the select IMAX sequences in approximately 1.90:1 and the fully uncompressed 15/70 release will present the open camera ratio of 1.43:1 for the select scenes while the rest of the film was framed at approximately 2.20:1.  Bear in mind like the aforementioned Star Wars film, the amount of prints circulating the globe are extremely limited, down to eleven this time around although rumor has it a standard 70mm release version in the fixed aspect ratio of 2.20:1 will follow also.  The closest theater to this 70mm fanatic was at the Grand Rapids, Michigan cinema chain, the Celebration! Cinema.  Of the twelve theaters operated by the theater chain in the immediate area it was the North theater multiplex connected to the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids which was one of the few to receive the limited edition print.  Thus began what would be a 70mm road trip where I got a chance to see the most hotly debated and divisive superhero film in living memory in the highest quality film presentation possible.

Pinterest Google+ StumbleUpon Twitter Reddit Facebook

Entering the multiplex I was greeted by a dome tower in the main lobby followed by two ticket booths on both sides of the theater, multicolored neon light palm tree lights hanging from high above.  Inside the lobby which was connected to the Woodland Mall were several stores and restaurants with floor and balcony seating and a beer lounge in the central lobby area.  The blue and red neon lit hallways had the colorful feel of, say, an Argento film and as I made my way towards the IMAX auditorium containing the 70mm print I happened upon a neon IMAX sign, furthering my excitement for what awaited inside.  Arguably for a full IMAX theater, the auditorium was about the same size as Detroit's own Henry Ford IMAX theater and a fraction of the size of the Indiana State Museum.  No matter because once the film began I was entranced by the grainy 35mm and 65mm footage playing onscreen.  As expected, the digital sound was very strong with heavy directional use and the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL comes through loud and clear.  The real attraction to seeing the film in 70mm is the unparalleled crisp clarity of the IMAX specific sequences and Snyder's first foray into 65mm filmmaking is a welcome one.  

Much of the film has the feel of being projected onto a thick carpet with Snyder's trademark heavy grains and desaturated colors, a technique which has worn on some fans but honestly looked unlike anything I had seen in 70mm before.  Not since Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, Park Chanwook's Oldboy and Steven Spielberg's Minority Report has a major film sported this much grain on the image and it was rendered beautifully on high resolution filmstock.  The IMAX sequences themselves maintained Snyder's grainy aesthetic but were significantly sharper and brighter than the rest of the movie and the opening and closing sequences were stunning to behold.    The biggest reason fans should go out of their way to see this is for the titular fight between Batman and Superman, which was shot and exhibited entirely in 70mm and despite noticeable CGI which is true of all of Synder's films, the physicality of the toe to toe battle was palpable with raindrops glistening off of Batman's mask.  The first time the screen shifted to the full IMAX ratio for the fight was an aerial shot of Batman looking up at the camera with his enhanced bright blue eyes and like everyone else in the sold out screening I sat up in my seat for the forthcoming fight.  Brightness and contrast were perfect and despite criticisms of the film's dark light and color levels, in 70mm you saw every nuance, every fine grain and every image shot in low light.  

The Celebration! Cinema is a splendid little theater chain in the Grand Rapids area and one of the only multiplex theaters I've been to with a true 15/70 70mm IMAX projection system.  While the auditorium was smaller than others I've attended in the past, I was not disappointed with the presentation at hand.  Digital might be the standard form of film exhibition as of current but those who are fans of Batman vs Superman are inclined to go an extra mile to see their favorite superheroes as they've never seen them before.  Furthermore, Zack Snyder fans are in for a real treat as despite his prior films receiving 70mm blow-up prints for IMAX theaters, Batman vs Superman represents the first time the divisive director worked with 65mm filmstock, presenting astonishing clarity, depth of field and tonal range not afforded to the director previously.  With the advent of IMAX laser on the horizon, 70mm film is still the truest way to go as it is as close to Zack Snyder's controversial and polarizing vision as possible.    

-written by Andrew Kotwicki