ScreenX Review: “Aquaman” and “Crimes of Grindelwald” in 270 Degrees of All-Immersive Cinema
ScreenX is a new movie format that shows parts of the film you are watching all around you instead of just in front of you, immersing you into the environment and into the action. When the ScreenX technology is implemented, the picture is projected onto the left and right walls of the auditorium as well as the main screen in order to create a 270-degree panoramic picture.
The auditorium itself looks exactly like a regular movie theater, even maybe a little bit smaller. Before the movie begins, you are treated to a demonstration of the technology, zooming around a freeze-frame of various action shots in a cityscape. As the picture comes up on the walls on either side of you, the “exit” signs are still visible, though they weren’t difficult to ignore after a while. ScreenX is certainly a neat idea, but the question is, does it add to the story or does it detract from the filmmakers’ vision of how it is supposed to be experienced? Some of us found the effects overwhelming and even dizzying at times, especially the opening demonstration, but we all agree that they were impressive and visually stunning.
The opening scene of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald depicts Grindelwald’s escape from MACUSA. In ScreenX, this is expanded, and the worsening storm starts to engulf you as Grindelwald magics his way out of captivity, making for an exciting and immersive chase through the skies surrounded by rain and lightning. Another phenomenal use of the technology is the scene where Leta is discussing her family tree, on which the women are represented by orchids. As she speaks, flowers start to blossom all around the audience and you can feel the pain that Leta felt in that moment, knowing that she had sealed her brother’s fate as the orchid on Corvus’s branch constricts and the other flowers on the walls turn toward the audience. On the other hand, some scenes that took place in the street simply added more buildings around you as the camera zoomed between them. Sometimes you were surrounded by open, grassy fields or Grindelwald’s followers in the underground auditorium, expanding your view but not necessarily enhancing your experience.
The opening scene of Aquaman is a flashback to Arthur Curry’s parents meeting, falling in love, and having a child, all of which takes place on the surface. But as soon as his mother dives into the sea for the first time, the projection expands and we can truly see how vast and endless this underwater world is. Later, we use ScreenX technology to swim through Atlantis and look out at the sunset shining over the sea. It seems that this format was used to separate the surface world from the underwater world, with the 270-degree immersive experience reserved for the water, though more often for shots of the magnificent CGI-created scenery than during the dialogue and action scenes. One exception to this pattern is the montage of Black Manta modifying Atlantean technology, which takes place on the surface and is an interesting alternative way to use the technology, showing three different angles of the same scene rather than expanding a single shot. Sometimes, though, the projections on the walls are blurry, taking away from the otherwise beautiful visual experience of being able to see every fish, rock, seaweed, and air bubble as surrounding you.
Even among those of us who were aware that the ScreenX format would not be used for the entire movie, it was still a surprise that so few scenes were actually in 270 degrees, especially considering the price of the ticket ($19.15). Unless more of the film is translated to ScreenX, it is not a fully immersive experience and not necessary to enjoy the film, although it does enhance certain scenes. If you’re looking for an immersive experience but don’t like the extra hardware that comes with 3D or 4D, ScreenX is a great option, and some of us think it’s definitely worth it!
Check it out for yourself at a movie theater near you! The ScreenX format is currently available in Dublin, California; Irvine, California; Atlanta, Georgia; New York, New York; Knoxville, Tennessee; Richmond, Texas; Lacey, Washington; and Seattle, Washington.