|Scene from Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk|
For those keeping tallies on reviews for upcoming Oscar movies, one should easily be concerned about director Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. The general consensus is that the director behind such acclaimed hits as Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi is unable to strike gold in the ambitious 120 frames per second (FPS) format that his latest film works within. The story has also received some negative reviews, causing worry for anyone expecting the ambitious director to show up big this Oscar season. However, those wanting to take Lee on benefit of the doubt will likely be unable to see the magic of the 120 FPS format. In a recent report, there will only be two actual theaters currently equipped to hand its ambitious nature.
The idea was simple. Much like Lee's fantastic 3D work on Life of Pi, he had envisioned Billy Lynn as the next level of cinema. Considering that he has run the gamut of genres and technological styles, it was an exciting prospect. When the reviews began pouring in that the results had a flimsy soap opera-like effect, it began to sink its chances of being the wave of the future. The idea of showing a film at a faster frame rate wasn't going to be that innovative compared to something more juvenile like Avatar's 3D world building in 2009. Considering that it has an excellent cast, it's especially sad to see the initial feedback not holding much muster.
To be concise, the exact format that Billy Lynn is supposed to be shown in is: 120 FPS in 3D with 4K resolution. That's pretty much top of the line, and not one that your average theater will possess. In fact, the only theater currently featuring this technology is where the film had its premiere. During the New York Film Festival, it premiered at the AMC Lincoln Square in New York City. There are talks of adapting a second screen, possibly in Hollywood, California's ArcLight theater. There are also plans to show it internationally in the official form in Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai.
While those expecting the entire experience will be disappointed, there are currently talks of adapting screens to fit other versions of Billy Lynn. Among the proposed adaptations are: 120 FPS in 2D, 60 FPS in 3D, and the traditional 24 FPS. Dolby Cinema will release the film in 2D and 3D in 2K resolution at up to 120 fps. This isn't the first film to have a variety of format releases, though it is probably one of the most ambitious since Avatar. Last year saw The Hateful Eight do a special "Roadshow" release that showed the film on 70 MM. Interstellar also was released in a variety of formats, which helped to set a precedent for different forms of big budgeted releases in recent years. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was also released at a special frame rate of 48 FPS. Much like Billy Lynn however, the use was met with negative reviews.
If you're just planning on seeing Billy Lynn, don't fret. It will come out. However, purists will likely have to make a trip to New York to see the intended version. While I'm sure that this will bother some, the fact that other theaters are attempting to adapt to formats that won't destroy their current machinery is admirable. This is after all the future of cinema. Even if Lee's latest may not be looking to be the revolutionary next step in quality, it may set a precedent for films in the future. Maybe 120 FPS films will eventually be more accepted. Who knows. Either way, I hope that Billy Lynn manages to be more than the negative reviews would suggest.