When one praises a film, one of the many positives that one would say is that the storytelling is incredibly immersive from a visual perspective. Films with such praise would include Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, J.J Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness and Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. But what all those films mentioned have in common is that they all have sequences, or indeed the majority of the film, shot with IMAX 70mm cameras, which capture the settings and environments of the world of the story in a larger-than-life, vibrant and sprawling fashion that draws in the audience.
In the case of Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the implementation of IMAX 70mm cameras for the lunar sequences is an incredibly inspired choice. In terms of filmmaking, Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren (collaborating once again after the visually splendorous La La Land) foreshadow the Moon landing with the sound of a space vacuum as the camera tracks out of the probe to the Moon setting, immediately drawing the audience in, with barely any noticeable effect in the change of the aspect ratio (from 2.39:1 to 1.90:1, providing 26% more picture on screen). The scene is also complimented by Justin Hurwitz’s stirring score, which conveys the sense of wonder and calm that Armstrong goes through.
The IMAX scenes also compliment the film in dramatic terms, relating to the completion of its character arcs. Without dwelling into spoilers, Ryan Gosling’s performance as well as Armstrong’s arc becomes touchingly well-realized, with the use of an important prop that subtly and satisfyingly closes concludes the trauma and unease Armstrong goes through.
Finally, the IMAX scenes also brings forth a sense of wish fulfillment that the audience would get in what it is like to travel in space. The true story of Neil Armstrong being the first man to walk on the Moon is an amazing feat in history and for a young audience that may not be familiar with that event or for those who can fondly remember, it brings a sense of poignancy that if humanity can achieve such a feat, one can be inspired to do anything. And with the IMAX lens, it’s done at a size that makes it truly all encompassing. For pretty much any of us, this is the closest we’ll ever get to being on the moon. And the skill of the filmmakers, and the quality provided by the cameras, ensures it’s as close to the real thing as you could imagine it to be.
First Man is in IMAX cinemas, including Australia’s only dedicated IMAX screen in Melbourne (where it will screen in IMAX 4K LASER DIGITAL), and at the Hoyts Entertainment Quarter in Sydney, this Thursday, 11th October 2018.