July 2nd, 2004

krazy koati

Somewhere beyond the sea

It's probably a normal guy fantasy to imagine having your own private Imax theater. Today I lived a taste of that: I noticed a tiny item in the Straits Times about Apollo 13 playing at Great World City. Despite short notice and a frustrating wait for the 195 bus (you should not have to wait 15 minutes for a bus scheduled to run every seven!) that made me give up and get a taxi, I made it with minutes to spare. And I was alone; I had the whole theater to myself. Yes, they assigned me a seat. Though my ticket said the movie was about to start, the usher told me I couldn't enter for a couple minutes; they had to get something ready. Beats me. I think they wanted me to go back and buy popcorn.

I suspect they might draw more audience if the advertisement consisted of more than two column-inches buried in the Life section (I saw it by accident), and if their horribly ugly and over-designed web site weren't designed to obscure any hint of what they play, when, and where the theater is. Singapore web sites tend to be horribly over-designed, with way too many frames, Java trinkets, Flash nonsense, and miscellaneous garbage making them unnavigable. I don't know why they do this.

Well. The Imax edition of Apollo 13 makes a couple cuts to get the running time short enough for standard Imax projectors. Most of these I didn't mind, though they jump right from 13 reaching orbit to completing trans-lunar injection, distracting to my eye. They did lose the melodramatic -- but actual -- event of Marilyn Lovell losing her wedding ring in the shower. They also have an odd attitude about the handful of cuss words, in a few spots replacing the original with made-for-TV (I assume) scenes (``this piece of junk's gonna get us home!''). They ran the closing credits in two (or four, I suppose) columns, a neat way to cut their runtime. (The Imax theater added a voice-over to the credits, reminding patrons to not leave stuff behind, which annoyed me beyond all reason.)

Amusingly, they tinkered with the Saturn V launch, which was entirely computer animation and no stock footage. In the original they made a common mistake -- every model-builder does it with their first Saturn V kit -- of painting the black ``roll'' stripes as the model instruction sheet says, matching roughly the SA-500F structural test article scheme. The paint scheme of the actual rockets is different, and the Imax Edition fixes some but not all of the mistake. I can't guess what the motive of a partial fix was, except maybe ``we ran out of money.''

Apollo 13 thus becomes the second movie that I've seen in the theaters both in North America and in Asia. The first was Star Trek: Nemesis, which over here played with the words Star Trek stripped from the title and all advertising materials. It also becomes the first movie I've seen three times in the theater, if you accept the RPI screenings by UPAC in DCC 308 as a theater. I'm inclined to count it since they do have a 35 mm projector there, and it's really a pretty comfortable place if you don't mind the hard plastic seats. The fold-out desks are very handy for snacks, too. And I saw Gene Kranz speaking there a few months before the movie originally opened, describing his life at Mission Control and how outstanding a movie they were making. Of course, the RPI showing was thrown off by a very stupid chemistry student who wasn't ready for his test, but that's another story --

Outside the Imax theater they had a cute statue, called ``Future of Film'' or something like that; it's a chrome statue of an attractively androgynous human figure (with an odd flight helmet-like head). The pose was too formal, like Chrome Mannish was about to do a high dive, but I'd have taken a picture if I thought I could sneak a camera in. As if it weren't shiny enough they mounted it on a mirror-like base. It also looks approximately 6,228 times better than the stuff for the Not I, Robot movie.

The bathrooms, I found on the way in and out again, are painted to depict various scenes: one a Vaguely Wild (American) West theme; another a Vaguely Ancient Egyptian model. I assume the other floors represent other arbitrarily chosen scenes from history, and now know what the guy who designs Fry's Electronics stores does when they're not opening up a new place.

Trivia: The Apollo 14 docking collar -- the only Apollo docking collar to fail in flight -- was refurbished and used for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program, the primary objective of which was a docking. On Apollo-Soyuz it malfunctioned in a different manner. Source: The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Edward Clinton Ezell and Linda Neuman Ezell. NASA SP-4209.

Currently Reading: The Space Shuttle Decision, 1965-1972, T. A. Heppenheimer.