As blockbuster movies go it’s safe to say that there’s nothing bigger out there right now than Spider-Man movies. After the mixed response to Marvel’s last two films in the series, namely Black Widow and Eternals, there is an argument to say that after years of seeing to do no wrong, some MCU fatigue is creeping in. With that in mind, the arrival of the third stand-alone Spider-Man movie in the MCU is just what the franchise needs to pick up the excitement again.
Certainly, the anticipation for Spider-Man: No Way Home has been off the charts, with the trailer officially breaking the record for the most views in 24 hours. The plot involves Spider-Man calling on Doctor Strange to cast a reality-changing spell to make the world forget that he is Peter Parker after this fact was revealed to the world at the end of the previous film by Mysterio. And as we all know, when we try this soft of things, inevitably cracks start to form between universes, bringing Spider-Man’s enemies such as Electro, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus (from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb versions) to appear in the MCU universe, with the trailer showing Jamie Foxx, William Defoe and Alfred Molena all reprising their roles.
However, the hype is real for this one as not only does it feature Tom Holland as the MCU Spider-Man, but in what is pretty much one of the worst kept secrets (like, ever), it’s assumed that the multi-verse-crossing plot will allow the return of both Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire to reprise their versions of the web-swinging superhero.
All pretty exciting right? So, assuming you haven’t already booked tickets, the question is – which film format should you choose for Spider-Man: No Way Home, opening 17 December 2021 in the USA and two days earlier on 15 December 2021 in the UK.
Well, hang on to your masks because, as befits a blockbuster of this magnitude, there are seven distinct formats to choose from.
The new film is helmed by Jon Watts, who returns to the franchise after directing the first of the MCU trilogy in the form of Spider-Man: Homecoming, and is lensed by cinematographer Mauro Fioren, who won an Oscar for the CGI-flavored work on 2009’s Avatar. Perhaps that is why No Way Home marks a welcome return for the IMAX 3D format, the absence of which as a regular format I lamented a few months ago. Not only is that exciting for 3D fans, but all IMAX fans will love the fact that No Way Home will be presenting in the IMAX 1.90:1 aspect ratio, which delivers 26% more screen area than all other formats compared to the standard 2.35:1 aspect ratio. In simple terms, you get more picture above and below the central area. Of course, IMAX purists will lament that lack of a full-frame 1.43 aspect ratio, it’s still good news. The movie is still ultimately framed for 2.35:1, so you won’t miss anything vital if you don’t see it in IMAX, but IMAX theatres offer bigger screens and bigger sound than standard screening rooms, and the fuller picture delivers a wow factor that a great fit for a spectacle-fest such as Spider-Man.
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The expanded aspect ratio doesn’t mean quality will be compromised – the film has been shot using the ARRI Alexa Mini LF camera with Zeiss Supreme Prime Radiance Lenses, which packs the large sensors of the classic ARRI Alexa in a smaller body, making it easier to work with, which is presumably why the whole film can be presented in 1.90:1. The digital intermediate has also been finished at 4K, so picture quality will be high on larger screens, and the IMAX DMR process will be employed took presumably to upscale any footage that might not be shot on the ARRI Alexa LF.
While IMAX 3D is making a welcome return, you’ll have to search to find a screening, in a reversal of the norm from a few years ago as the vast majority will be in IMAX 2D. With the whole movie in 1.90:1, either of these formats will technically be the best format to see it in.
For the ultimate experience, you’ll want to track down an IMAX theater with its IMAX GT dual-laser system – which offers the brightness to project onto the very largest screens, especially important for 3D. Another benefit is that the dual-laser screens are matched with IMAX 12-channel sound, which is appreciably superior to the regular IMAX 6-channel. Failing that, a single laser screen will deliver noticeably better brightness and color than the regular IMAX projectors that use Xenon bulbs.
If reaching an IMAX laser isn’t possible, then next is to check whether there is a Dolby Cinema near you. While you lose the larger aspect ratio, you gain in terms of picture and sound quality. Dolby Cinema offers the best dynamic range, with the strongest colors and highest contrast – it genuinely is the best picture quality you can find in the cinema. Equally, the accompanying Dolby Atmos audio is always outstanding, and, it’s also worth considering that Dolby screens have super comfortable seats. At nearly two and a half hour running time, will be appreciated.
While there are not many Dolby Cinema’s around, you can always look for a large-format screen, known (at least in the UK) as either as Superscreen, iSense or IMPACT, which combines a larger than average screen with 4K projection and Atmos – a step-down Dolby Cinema if you will, but still very high quality.
Next on the list of formats are the other two alternatives – ScreenX – which offers extra image to the sides of the screen, for a 270° viewing experience – widening your field of view horizontally rather than vertically. How much of the movie will be offered with this extra field of view is unknown and from my experience, it’s very much a gimmick that doesn’t add much to the experience.
More satisfying will be 4DX 3D. This offers a theme-park ride element to the movie-going experience with moving seats, back of chair pummelling for impacts, blasts of air and water, and flashing lights, which – depending on the movie, either enhances or detracts from the experience. I loved it for Ant-Man and Jumanji, but with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story I found it distracting, and for Fast and Furious 9, it didn’t make up for a bad movie. I guess that for web-swinging action, No Way Home should be a good fit for 4DX. Not every 4DX movie is in 3D, but if you’re a 3D fan it’s great that there’s another way to see.
Alternatively, No Way Home will also be shown in 3D in standard cinemas. However, in conventional screens, the projectors don’t have the brightness to do 3D justice so, in my view, I wouldn’t recommend it.
This leaves the final format – good old, standard 2D. Which is fine an all, but -people – were’ talking Spider-Man! With all these other formats available surely you should make the effort to see in as high-quality a format as possible?