Review - Apollo 13 (IMAX) (2002)
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Apollo 13 in IMAX (2002)

Universal Pictures

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski


When a person goes to see a movie in a theatre today, the film that is projected is 35mm—that is the film itself is 35 millimeters wide.  Apollo 13, made some years ago, was filmed in 35mm, which has been the standard film gauge for 100 years.


To understand why it is such a big deal that Apollo 13 is now playing in IMAX theatres, it is necessary to say something about IMAX.  Most people are familiar with the IMAX format-- short travelogue-type films projected on a gigantic flat movie screen which is ten to twelve stories high.   But not everyone knows just exactly what the IMAX process is. 


To put it simply, IMAX uses large-format film which has a film-image- area on each frame that is much, much larger than 35mm film.  This is why  IMAX film can be projected on such a massive screen-- the film frame is so large to begin with--that it still looks great when blown up to gigantic proportions.


But because the larger film is so expensive, IMAX films tend to be short—usually 30 minutes or so instead of feature length.


Regular 35mm feature movies can be projected on an IMAX screen.  But the problem is that projecting the relatively small 35mm film frame on such a huge and massive screen washes out the image and gives a very grainy, blurred and washed-out picture.  So IMAX theatres tended to only show IMAX films. Think of how neat it might be, Hollywood people mused, to see to see the right Hollywood epic live-action feature film on the impressive IMAX screen in true IMAX. 


This is where Apollo 13 enters the picture.  IMAX has just developed a revolutionary and expensive new transfer process—a special process called DMR or digital re-mastering.  The DMR process allows the IMAX corporation to take a Hollywood film, like Apollo 13, and carefully transfer it frame by frame onto IMAX film while removing film grain and enhancing and sharpening the image, the color, and the sound.  This amazing new transfer process has now been applied to Apollo 13.


Does Apollo 13 work in IMAX?  I am happy to say that it does—and I went into the theatre skeptically expecting just another gimmick.  To be sure, Apollo 13 is a bit larger than life on that huge screen.  I needed to sit near the back of the theatre.  But the picture is indeed sharp and crisp; the color is gorgeous and the sound is terrific.  When the camera swoops over a large building where the Apollo spacecraft is being assembled, you get that dizzying and thrilling IMAX effect which is so familiar from the shorter IMAX films.  But the drama of Apollo 13 works as well and the emotional wallop of this exciting and tense story comes through fully.  The word is: go see Apollo 13 in IMAX.  It is a dramatic and exciting experience of an extremely fine film.



2002 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams



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