Kim Jee-woon’s ‘The X’ has wall-to-wall-to-wall actionThere were some confused looks at the press screening of Kim Jee-woon’s latest project, “The X,” unveiled last week at the Busan International Film Festival.
Heads were twisting furiously to the left and right throughout the 30-minute, action-filled romp, which featured top actors Kang Dong-won and Shin Min-a.
The reason for the craning and confusion was that this was no ordinary movie - it was the screening of the first movie made specifically for the new “ScreenX” projection system, a theater system that puts the movie, not only on the screen in front of the seats, but also on the walls, wrapping the film completely around the audience.
The system was developed by the science and engineering university Kaist and funded by owner of the CGV theater chain and CJ E&M, Korea’s largest media conglomerate.
As for the plot, well, there’s not much of one in the 1 billion won ($932,000) short. There are explosions, betrayal and suspense aplenty, as a spy is foiled by his girlfriend, but there’s no originality to the plot. However, that’s exactly how Kim wanted it.
“Normally filmmakers use technology to tell a story,” said Kim. “But I was capitalizing on the technology, and the plot had to be subdued.”
Even with the linear narrative, it’s clear that there would be some adjustment issues for the audience, dealing with the 270-degree viewing range.
Following the screening, most of the questions directed at Kim by reporters had to do with whether this “experience” would catch on.
But even Kim admitted that he didn’t know what to make of it at first.
Kim was working on post-production for “The Last Stand” in Hollywood when CGV approached him. As an artist, Kim said he was intrigued about charting new territory in cinema technology.
“I thought of it as a horizontal IMAX rather than a panorama,” said Kim.
But soon enough he learned that to fully capitalize on the technology meant that he had to think outside the IMAX box.
“It’s actually different. … This technology makes the frame feel a lot fuller,” said Kim, adding that viewers would be best served by looking forward and not worrying about the distractions on the sides.
“Side projections are more like extras that enhance the visual experience,” he said.
He also recommended sitting at the back of the theater, if possible.
“The further back you sit, the more like a panorama it is,” he said.
For people at the front of the theater, the side projection is totally lost unless you turn your head around constantly.
Despite this, Noh Jun-hyung, the associate professor at Kaist who has been heavily involved in developing ScreenX, said he was confident that the “X” experience would trump both 3-D and 4-D in time.
“Some viewers don’t like wearing glasses, and ScreenX does away with them completely,” he said. “At first, of course, it takes time for people to get used to it, but we have no doubt it’ll catch on.”
CGV officials also said they think ScreenX will win out with viewers.
“We expect that, over time, we will figure out how to work it efficiently,” said An Goo-choul, CGV’s chief strategy officer. “We’ve had visits from movie personnel from overseas, and it won’t be long before we are exporting the technology.”
A full-length feature film made for ScreenX is still about two years away, as developers continue to work out the kinks.
In the meantime, CGV said it would utilize the screen for other things, like music videos and ads. Already, the theater chain has 40 screens in Korea set up for ScreenX.
“So far, most movie technology advances have come from Hollywood,” said Noh. “But this time, it’s a Korean-made technology, and it could go global.”
For the director, he said it was an exciting new way to tell stories.
“I paved the way,” Kim said. “I hope that other storytellers will follow suit.”
By CARLA SUNWOO [email@example.com]