While it’s a little late to review the new Bond movie, Casino Royale, I have some interesting factoids about how I just saw it projected. The Entertainment Technology Center, affiliated with the University of Southern California and some deep-pocketed industry groups, presents regular screenings of films using state-of-the-art projection and sound systems. Tonight’s screening of Casino Royale came courtesy a Christie CP2000 using a Texas Instruments DLP Cinema (TM) 2K (2048×1080) chip. It was a gorgeous digital print, with poppin’ Technicolor-like colors personally created through Digital Intermediate by cinematographer Phil Meheux.
If that all sounds like gibberish, let me break it down. Christie and Texas Instruments are industry leaders in digital projectors, of which the 2K is standard resolution (some are pushing 4K as a new standard). Sitting in the 2nd row, it is easy to see why this is considered state of the art. The picture looked poppin’ crisp, even though the true resolution was listed as 858×2048, not the full 1080 that the chip allows. (People who have recently shopped for HD televisions will recognize the 1080 number as the high standard for lines of resolution, compared to the low standard of 720, which is still nothing to sneeze at, since we’ve all been watching 480 most of our lives.) The only problems I noticed were some posterization on Judy Dench’s face (which turned out to be an intentional attempt to cover her wrinkles), some pixelization or ‘jaggies’ in the letters of location-setting titles and not enough motion blur on the end credits. (Some horizontal pans also looked strobey, but this is a common problem with film in general.)
The transfer artist spoke after the screening and said that directors and cinematographers are increasingly coming to expect such high-quality screenings of their films. After seeing the normal jitter and weave, the compressed colors of an average 35mm print, Steve Zaillian, for example, insisted that the premiere of All the King’s Men be on digital.
The other ETC screening I attended, of Casanova, looked like it had better resolution and color depth (although the specs were similar, I think). Nonetheless, the file for Casino Royale was the largest they had yet worked with, topping out at over 235GB. Would that Bond himself were so impressive. Much fuss has been made over how “realistic” this Bond was. Scare quotes definitely not optional with that assertion. The movie opens with an incredible Tony Jaa-like acrobatic chase and disbelief remains suspended from there on out. Bond is certainly more pugnacious and pugilistic than his predecessors, to drop some p-bombs. His blue-eyed, blonde incarnation in the form of Daniel Craig is brutish but effective. For all the changes, he is still immediately recognizable as Bond.
The script, by team Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and the seemingly ubiquitous Paul Haggis, is accomplished on the action side and middling on the witty side. They would like their Bond to be heartless and literally ball-less, but the plot hinges on his romance with Vesper Lynd (the always foxy Eva Green). We know she has ulterior motives well before Bond does, which rings false after seeing him best the world’s eight best poker players. But we’ll chalk it up to blindness of the heart and give this new Bond a pass.
I look forward to the next Craig Bond, one where Jeffrey Wright (as CIA agent Felix Leiter) will be fully utilized, and one where the Bond girls are more disposable to Bond but less so to the consistency of the plot.