The Great ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Debate: Is IMAX, or 3-D, Cinema’s Future?

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Scene from 'The Dark Knight'

Director Christopher Nolan, renowned by fanboys after the dark mystery of The Prestige, the stark realism of The Dark Knight and the mindbending philosophy of Inception, has thrown the movie world yet another curveball: He’ll have nothing to do with a 3-D blockbuster. (via LA Times)

The web was abuzz with the news last week that Nolan’s third Batman entry would be titled The Dark Knight Rises. But contained within the naming announcement was also key news on the 3-D front: Nolan, who has widely criticized 3-D filmmaking, is turning his back on the process yet again. Both The Dark Knight and Inception were 2-D films in a 3-D era, and he has no intentions of changing his approach now. (Photos: Batman battles the bad guys!)

Instead, he says he will be putting his focus on utilizing high-definition and IMAX cameras. Meaning that where the filmmakers behind Avatar and TRON: Legacy have been emphasizing immersion and depth of vision, Nolan will be focusing on the sheer scope of his IMAX-oriented spectacle – emphasizing big images, detailed images, and packing the most amount of data possible onto each and every frame.

Which now, of course, sparks yet another debate: With both 3-D films and IMAX presentations charging ticket holders a premium, which screening experience is more awe-inspiring? Worth the extra money? Anyone who has seen Avatar knows the full potential of 3-D which is used artfully and creatively, in molding an entirely new universe. But anyone who saw The Dark Knight on an IMAX screen knows that that was equally impressive, as Nolan’s handful of sequences filmed with IMAX cameras (notably the Hong Kong skyscraper attack and the opening bank heist) blasted out the borders of the frame. These towering images and supersized sequences recalled the days of 70mm cinema – stoking the same kind of visceral awe that David Lean went for with Lawrence of Arabia.

See photos: The Man Behind the Batman Oscar – Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

Also worth remembering: Nolan’s decision to ignore 3-D isn’t exactly an isolated note of dissent.

Audiences have increasingly expressed frustrating with shoddy 3-D conversions like Clash of the Titans, and just last month a whole lot of Harry Potter fans cheered the fact that Warner Bros. was giving up on a 3-D conversion of The Deathly Hallows, Part One.

Given the popularity of Nolan’s Batman reboots, as well as Inception - which is being banded about as a serious Oscar contender – it’s a safe bet that millions of people will turn out to see The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, regardless of its production techniques. But for many Hollywood execs, the bigger question now might be: After two more years of 3-D blockbusters, will Nolan’s 2-D adventure seem antiquated and archaic, or will his IMAX spectacle prove once and for all that 3-D ultimately has nothing on big, bold widescreen?

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