So I went and saw Disney’s Beauty and the Beast IMAX Special Edition last night at the Minnesota Zoo last night. Mostly it was as good as I remember it. There were several things that translated really well to the really-big screen, and a few that didn’t enough to almost be distracting.
For example, there are some wonderful scenes when the father wanders into the the Beast’s castle that are these zooming pans of the enormous gothic architecture. I remember thinking it looked huge on a normal movie screen when I saw it the first time as a kid, but putting it on an IMAX screen made the scale really blow your mind. Many of the lovely impressionistic landscapes also showed well for much the same reason.
On the other hand, we have the character close-ups and the ballroom CGI. For some reason we spend a lot of time looking very closely at Belle’s face. There wouldn’t be so much of a problem with this except that it seems to have been drawn with really large lines. When her eyebrows move around, they loose all sense of grace that they might once have had, and instead look like largish blocky lines flailing about. Possibly this effect was intentional, possibly to highlight the characters simplicity by drawing her with as few lines, and as simple lines as possible, but somehow I think it’s just the effect of the enormous magnification that is happening.
For much the same reason, the ballroom scenes are similarly, well, bad on the really big screen. When the movie was originally released 10 years ago these scenes were held up as the epitome of state of the art with reflective surfaces, intricate architecture, and pretty amazing detail. The problem is that 10 years ago, those scenes were rendered to be displayed on a screen that had a lot lower resolution. Someone obviously saw the problem, but instead of re-rendering the entire scene (which admittedly probably would have cost a fair amount of money just to get transfered to new film, though I’m pretty sure they still have the render models and processor time is a heck of a lot cheaper these days) just threw on a digital masking effect that made the whole mess blurry to get rid of what were probably fairly atrocious “jaggies”. What used to be crisp and clean now looks like someone put too much vasaline on the lens for a close-up and then accidentally put more on for the panorama shot instead of getting a new lens. Ick.
For those of you who don’t know much about this re-release, they have done a bit to the actual movie besides put it on really big film to make it salable when it gets to regular movie theaters later this year. They added in an entire scene and musical number right in the middle of the movie. “featuring an all-new musical sequence with the original song, ‘Human Again.'” is how the press materials read, and it was quite a bit of fun. If you liked the “Be Our Guest” sequence in the original, you’ll be a big fan of the new sequence. My only real problem with it was that it came hot on the heels of that already really large scene. So we see the end of the dinner and there’s a little bit of camera play, we get the snowball fight between Belle and the Beast, and then it’s action time once again after barely 5 minutes. It was almost too much.
Anyway, I did have a very good time, and it was good company to boot. If you have a chance to see it in this format, don’t miss it. It’s well worth the ticket price.