We take a trip to London to see Avatar: The Way of Water again, this time on the biggest screen in the country at the BFI IMAX, in high frame rate and 3D. We discuss the difference in experience between seeing it here and at the IMAX Digital cinema at Cineworld Broad Street, where we saw it previously. Mike questions why the film switches between 24fps and 48fps, rather than sticking with the high frame rate throughout – director James Cameron describes how HFR assists in making 3D imagery less difficult to resolve, and implies that he limits its use to avoid the so-called “soap opera effect” that made the Hobbit films and Gemini Man look so cheap, but Mike doesn’t buy that it’s necessary to keep returning to 24fps, and thinks Cameron’s a big scaredy-cat. José, on the other hand, can’t seem to tell the difference between the frame rates at all.
We also discuss what a second viewing of the film brings into focus that we hadn’t put our finger on before, Mike comparing it to the nature documentaries that IMAX have produced for years, and José implores the film community to drop its snootiness and embrace the opportunity to see such a marvellous spectacle while it’s still in cinemas. It’s really special.
A mere thirteen years after the release of the highest-grossing film of all time, its sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, arrives to a cinematic landscape that has changed significantly. James Cameron’s epic sci-fi franchise Avatar began life in 2009, when Marvel had released only two of its (at present) 30 films which would make universes, crossovers, and interconnected stories de rigueur for blockbuster cinema – and one of which would, briefly, overtake Avatar‘s record for worldwide gross. That’s how long it’s taken to create just one sequel to Avatar, with no indication that anything more complex than a linear progression of further sequels is planned. And there was no question that this sequel would, like its predecessor, make use of stereoscopic 3D – but while the 2009 film catalysed a new wave of interest in the technology, it has since fallen out of favour, as it always has over the years. As 2023 approaches, is The Way of Water out of date?
It’s Eavesdropping’s first anniversary and we celebrate with a film Mike’s been looking forward to seeing for almost a decade. Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder was released at the tail end of the short-lived Fifties 3D craze, and has rarely been seen in that format (even at the time). But it rolls around every so often and this week came to the Electric, so we jumped at the chance to see it.
A dialogue-heavy chamber piece, Dial M for Murder might not seem the obvious choice for the spectacle of 3D, but it’s for this reason that we find it interesting. José, who has seen it before in 3D, recalls his previous impressions of the importance of items – the keys, the handbag, the scissors – and how the stereoscopy relates to it. Mike, who wrote on 3D film at university and has defended it ever since, places Dial M for Murder in context, comparing it to both 3D of the time and today, suggesting how it was ahead of its time.
Away from the 3D, we find the film slight, a trifle, though enjoyable throughout and respectful of the audience – the film’s methodical nature is lovely. We find some of the performances disappointing, and one in particular delightful. We’re glad we saw it, even though José’s spectacles were broken.