I'm just about to head down for the madness of Comic-Con in San Diego, but I managed to sneak in a morning screening of Inception: The IMAX Experience at one of L.A.'s best IMAX theaters - the Rave 18 (formerly known as The Bridge). I was supposed to catch Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border, but thanks to yet another scheduling glitch (ie - one showing only of Stone's film at 9:40pm, at which point, hopefully, I'll have finally crept through the evening/opening day Comic-Con rush hour down in San Diego).
Actually, I'm quite glad Inception in IMAX was the only movie that fit my itineray, as I haven't quite been able to get my screening of the 35mm version out of my head since I saw it on opening night at midnight. Watching it a second time, with batteries fully charged, and in the splendor of true IMAX dimensions (not those retrofitted audtioriums), I got a lot more out of it on every level.
First, on the technical front, the already exemplary filmmaking credits shine through even more on the bigger, brighter, widescreen IMAX platform. Most impressively, the sound is taken to a whole new level. When Hans Zimmer's bass pounds along with the explosions and avalanche and hotel fight sequence, you feel it through to your very core (for more explanation from Nolan himself on the difference, see this video clip).
Second, enhanced by this immersive moviewatching experience, I was able to fully digest the story's details on subsequent viewing. The plot, and the dreams, and the dreams within dreams, all still made total sense, but I'm sure now - spoiler alert for those who haven't seen it - that this is at heart a straightforward narrative that does end in reality. Leonardo DiCaprio's Dom character does wake up at the end, and what you see is "real." The only illusion is that the whole movie is a conception of filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and none of it is really real. As with all true art, that doesn't mean you can't have a valid, opposite opinion. But I do think Nolan himself intended the story's end reality to be just that - reality.
Anyways, if you're a fan of Inception, it is worthy of multiple viewings to take in all of the elements, and I think you'll find the IMAX experience quite an improvement over the already outstanding 35mm experience (no cheap, added-on 3D effects here, just a bigger screen to play with and that enveloping sound field). I asked in my original post what others thought of the whole movie, but I'd love to find out now what users think about the reality at the end - was it "real" to you, too, or do you have another theory?
Also, in deference to Nolan's praise for IMAX's sound, and as a nod to my blog sponsor (the new Dolby Digital 7.1 in theaters), here is a quick list of my 10 ultimate summer movie experiences of "sound" so far...from the 3/4 mark of 100 days...
10) Say Anything at McCarran Park - Call me crazy, since it was just a projected DVD in a Brooklyn park, but the soundtrack of Say Anything and Nancy Wilson's score sounded amazing in this outdoor setting.
9) Robin Hood at L.A. Regal Live - The main auditorium at Regal Live in downtown is fantastic for screen size, seating (with multiple balconies) and sound. The movie may not have been entirely memorable, but you could literally hear the arrows whistling through the air.
8) Lawrence of Arabia at the Aero Theater - Maurice Jarre's classic score sounded amazing during the film, prelude and intermission.
7) Predators at the Cinemark Egyptian 24 - This Maryland theater is over-the-top in its Egyptian decor, and its sound system is just as outrageous - which is a good thing.
6) Knight and Day at the Fox Lot - Well, it is a studio lot, so of course the sound system should rule...I haven't seen movies on these other lots for 100 days, but props to the amazing sound systems installed at the theaters on the lot at Warner Bros. and Paramount as well.
5) Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Aero Theater - Thank goodness someone was playing Raiders during my trek. The John Williams music sounded stellar at the Aero.
4) MacGruber at AMC Downtown Disney - This movie was pretty juvenile, but darned if the sound wasn't crystal clear, well-spaced and defined, and booming in Downtown Disney's auditorium.
3) Iron Man 2: The Non IMAX Experience at Regal Live - Again, it's hard to beat an A-list soundtrack and sound effects at this downtown venue.
2) Grease Sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl - I'll never see or hear Grease again quite like I did on Day 50. Kudos to the Bowl and Paramount for setting up a near perfect aural and visual experience.
1) Inception: The IMAX Experience at Rave 18 - One of the few true IMAX theaters in L.A., this is definitely the utimate combination of sound, visual and venue.