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Gravity: An IMAX 3D Experience

Blowing up Space Stations; Blowing My Mind

Glenn Oyoung

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Scott Hettrick to a special screening of “Gravity” in the IMAX 3D format last week at the AMC Westfield Santa Anita 16. I have a pretty non-existent resume when it comes to 3D or IMAX. The last 3D movie I saw was Avatar and the one before that was “Captain Eo.” The only IMAX movie I have ever seen in my life was “Soaring Over California,” the movie that plays at Disney’s California Adventure’s Condor Flats ride.

The common thread in my lack of experience with 3D movies or with IMAX is that I just never really felt like it was worth it before (in other words, I’m frugal). I was pretty happy with good old-fashioned 2D and to me the size of modern screens was big enough. “Gravity” changed all of that. This is the first film in a very long time that demands to be viewed in IMAX 3D to be appreciated for its full potential.

A week after watching “Gravity” I am still incredibly impressed with the movie and I feel like it truly lived up to its “IMAX 3D Experience” moniker. In fact, even before the movie started I was left slack-jawed by the IMAX 3D countdown sequence. I believe at that point I turned to Scott and said something to the effect of “That was awesome!” More exclamations would follow throughout the movie.

As a story, “Gravity” delivers exactly what you would expect given the previews and its stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Clooney is in his element as the confident-flirty-understated hero, veteran mission commander Matt Kowalski. Bullock stars as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first mission. She’s not just a one-dimensional rookie astronaut/science whiz though.

As the mission goes from A-OK to SNAFU Bullock sells her character’s emotions and motivation with aplomb. The movie fills us in on her sad backstory. We learn that she lost her young daughter in a car accident and that begins to color her mindset as she vacillates between fighting to live and being resigned to what seems like inevitable death. Her performance reminded me of Tom Hank’s in “Cast Away” as she fully sold me on her sense of sadness, frustration, despair, and ultimately resolve to start living again.

I’m pretty sure that on a standard-sized 2D screen “Gravity” would still be a great movie. But what made it a phenomenal experience for me was the third star of the show, the 3D IMAX format. From the first moment when you literally feel like you are enveloped in space – to the end of the movie when you can almost reach out and give Sandra Bullock a helping hand, this movie really shines. The backdrop of space demands an IMAX screen and even “inside” shots from within the various space stations and capsules benefit from being on the larger format so the audience can really make out what’s happening in the foreground and background as Bullock fights to live. There is one scene in which Bullock floats weightless from compartment to compartment in the International Space Station in which I thought to myself that we are so lucky to be living in a time in cinema where the technology exists for people to realistically bring their vision to life in a way that isn’t gimmicky or “trying too hard.”

I call “Gravity’s” 3D effects a co-star because co-writer, co-producer, co-editor, and director Alfonso Cuarón employs them very strategically throughout the movie to support the story. In other films I feel like 3D is an afterthought (“Look a frond in the foreground!”) but in “Gravity” the 3D is truly part of the story.

The Russian satellite debris that kicks off this wild ride makes several appearances throughout the film, and each time it brings a chain reaction of absolute chaos and destruction. The thousands of bits and particles flying around and out at the audience certainly helped to pull me into the story and had me making very hard fists with all the tension. On the flip side a scene where a tear shed by Bullock at perhaps her lowest point becomes a water drop and floats serenely towards to audience. You go from feeling sorry for her to being reminded of the nature of space – the cold hard physics that dictate everything and yet the unspeakable beauty of it.

I’m not going to run out and watch every movie in IMAX 3D, but “Gravity” is definitely a game-changer for many folks like me. This is definitely one you want to skip a latte or two for. It’s worth it, I promise.

— By Glenn Oyoung

Glenn Oyoung, a founder of Turn 3 Creative marketing and merchandising services, lives in Arcadia with his wife, kids, and three dogs. He gets into Disneyland for free thanks to his brother who is a Jedi at Tomorrowland – and now will apply those savings to watch action movies exclusively in IMAX 3D.

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