Don’t see The Batman in theaters unless you’re going to see it in IMAX. After attending an early screening of Matt Reeves’s take on Gotham City’s vigilante ahead of the official theatrical release on March 4, I’m convinced the IMAX experience is the only way to endure three hours of Robert Pattinson with eyeliner (and we're to expect more, if all The Batman 2 talk is true).
If I had watched The Batman at home (which isn’t an option until The Batman's HBO Max release date of April 18, anyway) I would’ve fallen asleep before the first Bat-Signal. Much of what made the film interesting relied on the masterful shadows of a high-resolution picture and seat-shaking surround sound.
In case you’ll actually take my advice and go see The Batman on the big screen, I’ll avoid plot spoilers. Not that I think any part of the film is worth spoiling. The Batman delivers what you'd expect from any Batman movie — snazzy vehicles, skin-tight costumes and a somber urban setting with simply too much wet weather.
IMAX makes The Batman's Gotham look and sound fantastic
Compared to the standard cinema, IMAX screens can be several times bigger to cater to stadium-sized audiences. Some movies are even filmed specifically with 240-pound IMAX cameras that are optimized for as large a theater projection as possible. Though The Batman wasn’t shot on IMAX, both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises remain popular examples of IMAX camera blockbusters.
While I could leave my stance on seeing The Batman in IMAX as tribute to the Christopher Nolan trilogy, there’s still plenty of benefits to watching movies in IMAX theaters even if they’re not shot with IMAX cameras. Take clarity and motion handling, for example: It rained in Gotham almost the entire duration of The Batman. As someone who reviews TVs, I’m sensitive to how rain might blur action or appear unintentional in lower-resolution formats. A regular-sized theater alone could be responsible for making all of Gotham's crisp droplets look crummy.
Then there’s contrast, particularly in shadowy scenes. While the best OLED TVs handle dark scenes with grace, often the nature of traditional theater projection eliminates the nuances of the color black. Had I watched The Batman in my hometown’s 15-year-old cinema, I’m certain the details of the vigilante’s inky getup would be lost.
But in IMAX I could see the Bat-suit's concealed weaponry, armor crevices that create a not-so-subtle 6-pack and the amassed abrasions from altercation after altercation. Details like this kept my eyes glued to the screen, searching for the filmmaker’s true intentions in every scene.
Sound is the complementing benefit to IMAX. Most theaters in general are outfitted with large surround-sound systems lining the walls, not only to drown out the popcorn-munching of fellow movie-goers but to enhance immersion. Modern IMAX theaters take immersion one step further with 12-channel surround-sound coming from the walls as well as overhead. When Batman raced on a motorbike or set off high-speed car chases, the audio effects dragged me into the action, even if the scene itself wasn’t all that interesting.
The film’s recurring theme song, Something In The Way by Nirvana, also resonated well in the IMAX theater. Kurt Cobain’s haunting vocals flooded my ears, effectively capturing Batman’s tendencies for self-torment that made me uncomfortable in a way I struggled to turn away from.
IMAX saves The Batman
Where this film might falter in plot substance it makes up for in IMAX. Now, I saw The Batman in one of the largest IMAX theaters in the world. It’s fair to say I felt more compelled by the picture and sound quality of the TCL Chinese Theater than the movie itself.
So if you want to see The Batman and enjoy it, splurge on IMAX tickets. The exhaustive three-hour runtime ensures you’ll get your money’s worth.