Should You See "Gemini Man" in 3D+ (And Why Isn't IMAX Projecting it for Most of their Theaters)?

Labels: , , ,

Despite being VERY bad at updating this blog recently, I still get e-mails from readers asking me to comment on 3D news in the world (despite the fact there isn't much to discuss sometimes)!  My thanks to all of you who are still here and still send me news tips.  As you know, I do more YouTube then blogging these days, but I do like to dust off the keyboard once in awhile and type out some thoughts, and this topic seemed like the perfect one to do with: Why isn't IMAX showing "Gemini Man" in 3D+ in most of their theaters?  And what is 3D+ anyway?  And is it worth seeing even if the reviews have been pretty bad?  Well, let's answer these almost completely out of order by starting with the question of...

What is 3D+ HFR?

3D+ HFR is a marketing term coined to describe a movie that was filmed in 3D, in High Frame Rate.  Movies are typically filmed in 24 fps.  That means that for every second you are watching a movie, there are 24 frames being displayed in that second to give the illusion of movement.  When you film with more frame rates, usually it isn't talked about much.  Many movies are shown in 30 frames per second (particularly animated films), but to go much higher creates a different, how should we say...look to a movie.  It can be quite jarring if you aren't used to see HFR (which most people aren't).  The HFR is not commonly used by most film makers (Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Christopher Nolan all prefer to film in 24 fps), however we have been seeing more and more film makers give it a shot.

Peter Jackson famously filmed 'The Hobbit Trilogy' in 3D with 48 fps, giving the film a look that was a lot smoother and moved a bit more like real life.  I personally didn't like it much.  I felt those movies didn't look very much like movies so much as they looked like home videos, and the disconnect between the special effects and actors were pretty clear watching it in that format.  That said, the 3D had noticeably less strain on the eyes and many people who typically get headaches from 3D (like my aunt) commented how pleasant the overall experience was, so there were pros.  60 fps have also been a God send for video games, so just because it didn't work once didn't mean it wasn't worth trying again.

Enter Ang Lee

This is the part of the blog post where we take a side story by discussing our director, Ang Lee, one of the most acclaimed film makers of our time.  He has directed multiple movies include the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."  He has personally won two Best Director Oscars for the films "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pi" (neither of which won Best Picture if you can believe it).  Although he has directed some underwhelming films, Lee is a great director who likes to challenge not only the audience, but himself as a film maker.  His "Hulk" movie may not have been well loved by many, but if you rewatch it again and pay attention to the style, the visuals, and the angle of which the film was conceived to be about, you'll find an auteur challenging the status quo on what a super hero film is, even if the end results aren't entirely successful.

After filming "Life of Pi," Lee was so impressed with the what the 3D brought to the film that he decided to make most of his future films in the format.  His follow-up project was "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk..." Iraq war drama that didn't seem like it would make for a compelling 3D experience, but is actually one of the best uses of the 3D format I've seen.  Lee wanted to take 3D to a new level though and bring the frame rate not up to 30, not 48, not even 60, but a whopping 120fps.  When you think  of what I just described and that new number, you are talking about frame rate overload.  It was so ambitious, only two theaters in America were able to show it, and that was after extensive renovations to the theaters themselves.  It seemed to be a waste when the film was barely marketed in one of the worst releases I had ever seen, but the few people who HAD seen the 120 fps version were intrigued by what the future could bring!  Ultimately, maybe it was just the wrong type of movie to be going all experimental on.

'Billy Lynn' was never going to draw a lot of people to the theater.  It was not a movie that was going to specifically sell 3D tickets when "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" was also playing.  Most theaters near me were only showing the film once a day.  Usually at 10:00pm at night (without 3D).  The reviews were lukewarm.  It was a movie that probably should have been made for $10-$20 million, but because of the expensive 3D and experimental frame rate, ended up costing $40 million to produce (though, from what my Hollywood friends tell me, Lee should be lucky that's ALL it cost).  Either way, the film was a bomb, raking in just over $30 worldwide.  Still, the format showed promise, and Lee still wanted to experiment with making great 3D movies a little bit more, so he would need another movie to make.

His last film had bombed, but not so much that another studio wouldn't take a chance on him.  He would need something a little more profitable though.  Preferably with an actor who can be a draw.  An action movie would be ideal because it would justify the expensive use of 3D cameras and HFR he wanted to film with.  That's when Jerry Bruckheimer - a well known producer of blockbusters - came to Lee with "Gemini Man," a script that had been in development hell for some 20 years.  Bruckheimer wanted it to be made, envisioned it as a great 3D vehicle for Smith, which would also test groundbreaking 'de-aging' special effects that would give Lee a lot to experiment with as a director, and stretch Smith as an actor.  Regardless how the movie turned out (apparently not that good) it made sense.  Lee finally had his mainstream movie to give his new experiment (which is now officially dubbed 3D+) a second chance with a MUCH wider release!

Why isn't IMAX showing the 3D+ HFR version in most of their theaters?

I hate having to bring this up every time, but I want to be transparent for new readers: I am an investor in IMAX Corporation.  It's more of what I like to call a 'vanity stock' than anything, but I still have a vested interest in the company doing well.  That said, long time readers of my site know that I have been openly critical of their choice to not screen many movies in 3D (even when the 3D version is CLEARLY better than the 2D version).  With that out of the way, what is my opinion of IMAX's decision to screen "Gemini Man" mostly in the 2D format?  While there are a FEW places that will have the film in 3D+, the vast majority will be in 2D, which seems to run counter to what Lee envisioned when he made this film!  Truthfully, while I am frustrated that this is the direction they are going, I'm going to cut them some slack because they might not have much of a choice in the matter.

See, projecting a movie in 3D+ isn't as simple as flicking a switch.  It requires a special projector, a certain type of lens, and in some cases seats have to be removed because sitting too close will cause the image to be ugly.  Looking through the list of IMAX's in my area I noticed a reoccurring theme: Theaters that have laser projection in their IMAX's had the film in 3D.  Those that didn't were showing it in 2D.  Recently, me and my wife (yes, it HAS been awhile since I've posted) went to see a Chinese film in IMAX 3D called "Ne Zha," which was only showing at an IMAX with laser projection.  It was one of the smoothest and cleanest 3D presentations I had ever seen.  The fact that it was only at this IMAX probably spoke volumes about how difficult this new type of 3D is to project.  The Irvine Spectrum IMAX is being closed for a few months for renovations.

"Alita: Battle Angel" was shown exclusively in IMAX 3D, so the company is ok with skipping a 2D release if the visuals justify it.  "Gemini Man" would clearly benefit from being in 3D, but what if the theater can't project the 120 fps?  Does a 24 fps 3D version of this movie even exist?  I'm starting to think no.  I do believe that laser projection is IMAX's future.  It presents a cleaner image, it makes the 3D better, and slowly but surely the IMAX's in my area are being closed to get the upgrades (some are also changing out the seats while they're at it, which is another topic for another day since while it does result in more comfortable seats it also results in a 40% average reduction of capacity).  I think this is a case where IMAX clearly believes the 3D+ version is THE way to see it, or else they wouldn't advertise it as such, but...well, most of their theaters can't show it, so they have to go with the 2D version!  In that case, I'd probably just show "Joker" for a second week in a row, but that's just me.  This is all fine and dandy, but...

Should I see "Gemini Man" in 3D+ if the movies sucks?

Honestly, that one's up to you.  I've found that trying out a new experience is usually enough of a reason to get me to see a movie I otherwise would have no interest in seeing ("Suicide Squad" in 4DX for example), but I know tickets aren't cheap.  That said, if you have an AMC Stubs A-List subscription, maybe one of your local AMC's will have a 3D+ version playing (even if it's not in IMAX).  Considering that's pretty much a free ticket anyway, there is little reason to not give it a chance other than you don't have time to.  If money is on the line I leave that one up to you.  I'm seeing it in IMAX 3D+ tonight, so I'll let you know what I think about it either in a VLOG or with another blog post.  For those who are uninterested in "Gemini Man" altogether, "The Adams Family" is also opening, which has a select number of 3D screenings as well (and - so far - has slightly better reviews overall).


  1. davidbe said...:

    The title of your blog is "Save BluRay 3D" but you seldom talk about Blu-rays. Unfortunately Gemini Man is not going to be released in 3D on Blu-ray.

  1. A title change for the site is coming.

  1. davidbe said...:

    I'm sorry to hear that. Saving BluRay 3D is exactly what I am interested in.

  1. Unknown said...:

    Small correction: ALL standard theatrical films, including animated ones are in 24p. 30p only exists on TV, and even then a lot of it is 24p now.

  1. Unknown said...:

    4K HDR 3D 60p HFR films should be released on Blu-ray. It can easily be done by encoding it in half-height over under format. Even though losing half the pixels, you'd still get twice the resolution, as well as HDR and HFR, along with the 3D.

  1. davidbe said...:

    Gemini Man is listed for pre-order in 3D for a February 13 release on Amazon Germany (although that is not a guarantee that it will actually get released).

  1. Yasser said...:

    HDR + 3D on Blu-ray? That would be pretty sweet. Those have a much bigger impact on the experience than 4K IMO.

Post a Comment