Orson Scott Card is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi authors—heck, he's one of my all-time favorite authors, period. So I was very excited when I started seeing trailers for the movie version of Ender's Game, a classic Card novel from 1985 that led to a long line of sequels and now prequels. I was even more excited when I found out that I could attend the premier of the movie on October 28, 2013, four days before it opened to the general public on November 1.
This most excellent opportunity was offered to me by TCL, the huge Chinese consumer-electronics company that recently bought the naming rights to the famous (originally Grauman's, then Mann's) Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA, where the premier was held. It was supposed to be a full-blown red-carpet affair, but the carpet was black and a light rain dampened the festivities. Still, the 932 seats were filled by the time the movie started.
Our seats were in a special "skybox" reserved for TCL—near the upper-left, back corner of the entire auditorium, so not the best seats in the house for experiencing a movie. To the theater's credit, some small surround speakers were installed in the walls of the box, yielding a somewhat reasonable surround effect.
The premier was in the main theater, which was recently converted into an Imax room with stadium seating and a screen measuring 94x46 feet—the third largest in North America. Two 2K Imax projectors (based on a Barco chassis) were used, even though the movie was in 2D. The projectionist—and AVS member—Thomas Larsen told me that he was getting 22 footlamberts of peak light off the screen.
As in all digital Imax theaters, two Imax 2K DLP projectors were used for the premier of Ender's Game.
I can't say much about the presentation because I was sitting in such a compromised location, which I knew ahead of time, so I didn't bring my sound-level meter; I'll take it when I see it again (which I will—it's really good, as I'll share shortly). It was too loud only a few times, and dialog intelligibility was pretty poor, probably because of my location. Also, the black level seemed pretty high, and dark scenes looked a bit washed out, probably because of the dual projectors and silver, presumably high-gain 3D screen. But most of the time, the image looked quite good.
The CGI effects are marvelous, really beautiful. In fact, many scenes seem made for 3D, though director Gavin Hood decided to keep it 2D because of his concerns about the deep-space battle scenes and the extensive use of long lenses. I wasn't all that impressed with the simulation of weightlessness—it looked pretty clear that the actors were hanging from wire harnesses that had been digitally removed in post production. The soundtrack has a Dolby Atmos version, which I will certainly seek out next time.
Movies are now delivered to theaters as a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) on a hard drive, though it's still called a "reel." This one is for Thor: The Dark World, which opens November 8.
Because I saw the movie before the public, I'm not going to give any spoilers here. Those who have read the book already know the plot and the twist at the end, which are fairly faithfully represented. (Of course, there are many expediencies and condensations to compress a 300-page novel into a 2-hour movie, a concept that Peter Jackson must have forgotten when making the Hobbit movies.) I've read the book, but I tried to imagine what the movie would be like for those who haven't, and I think it fills in enough of the backstory with voiceovers to make sense to them.
Even better, some of Card's wonderful characterizations are retained—it's not just another mindless shoot-'em-up. Yes, there is plenty of action, from battle scenes to personal conflicts, but there is also some depth and complexity to the characters and relationships, which is conveyed quite nicely. It's definitely a thinking person's movie, which is why it could possibly fail at the box office. I really hope it succeeds, but it might be too thoughtful for a mass audience.
My deepest thanks to TCL for allowing me to attend the premier. The company is planning some big news at CES, so stay tuned for that.