When tickets went on sale to see the two last episode of season 4 of ‘Game of Thrones’ in IMAX, I couldn’t help myself. I had to attend. I was more excited to see the cinematic quality of the show translate to the huge screen than the season 5 preview trailer. (It’s embedded below for your viewing pleasure.) FYI: SPOILERS
Boy was I right! I haven’t seen these episodes since they originally aired last year and I’m glad for that because revisiting them in IMAX was quite the experience. It began with the usual HBO static, a “previously on” segment, and the opening credits, which were pretty powerful on the big screen with the bass booming. The sound and picture quality held up, while not as crystal clear as something that was designed for a theatre of that size. What surprised me the most was how well the special effects came off on an IMAX screen. The giants, green screened backgrounds, and mastodons looked incredibly authentic.
Episode 9, ‘The Watchers on the Wall’, is pretty straight forward, as are most of the penultimate episodes of each season. It only focuses on the Wilding attack on The Wall and Castle Black, so the single narrative episode was the perfect hour to start the IMAX experience. It felt like a mini film and I appreciated it more on a second viewing. It’s not my favorite episode of the season, but it read and played incredibly well on the massive 42nd street IMAX screen. All of the fight scenes, especially the lowering of the scythe, were pretty excellent to watch in a large group. The epic cheers of the crowd made me want this to be a reoccurring Sunday night event once season 5 starts in April.
My major issue with the episode still stayed the same: we didn’t spend enough time with all of these characters throughout the season to truly be affected by their deaths, but it’s all relative because how great the show is overall. The spectacle of the IMAX battles helped too. The Ygritte/Jon Scene was still pretty moving, if only slightly, due to the palpable decision making moments before her death. (Surprisingly, it actually received a few laughs from the crowd when her pre-pubescent murderer gave Jon a head nod.) Rose Leslie isn’t given enough credit for her portrayal of Ygritte because her early scenes, as well as her death scene, in this episode are really well done and full of subtext and agony.
The season finale is all over the map (literally), tying up loose ends here and there, while setting up season five starting points for our characters. Tyrion takes his revenge, The Hound and Aria run into Brienne and Podrick, Stannis shows up to impose his will in the North, Bran and company reach their final destination, and Daenerys is faced with leadership issues.
The Hound and Brienne fight scene was a pleasure to watch (and the highlight from the episode in general) in the IMAX format with its intensity juxtaposed with the gorgeous craggy hill scenery. This theatre experience re-proved just how good all of the actors are because the intimate moments (ie: Tyrion’s murder rampage on Shea and Tywin/Arya’s “goodbye” to the The Hound) translated beautifully in giant detail. There were no false notes. Here, again, the special effects were fantastic. Daenerys’ dragons were better than some effects designed for actual theatrical releases. (Their screeching was horrifying in IMAX.)
We’re lucky that Emilia Clarke is so engaging as Dany because her storyline feels like one big stall until she starts making her big moves. While I appreciate her slow, gradual rise to power and understanding of leadership, it feels overly redundant. On the other hand (on the other side of Westeros), the Bran story, while interesting narrative-wise, evokes no sense of feeling. Except to maybe Hodor, there is absolutely no loyalty or empathy for those characters. It’s a good thing that their ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ skeleton fight scene was really exciting (and extremely loud) on the big screen because they are the weakest link in the final hour.
We were then treated to the season 5 trailer (all the way above), which after the two episodes directly before were welcomed with a tremendous fanfare from the crowd. Even though most of us in the audience had probably seen it online already, we were over the moon with excitement for what’s to come in April. I wasn’t blown away by the footage, but it did what a trailer is supposed to do, get us excited. (It was also a perfect follow up to what we had just seen.) What a fantastic experience that I would suggest it to any ‘Game of Thrones’ fan. I really could have sat in that theatre all day watching the entire fourth season, not just these two hours. I wanted to see ‘The Mountain vs The Viper’ on the big screen, all of Tyrion’s trial, the Purple Wedding, and more.
Before I sign off, here are some official season 5 photos from HBO.
Season five of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins on Sunday, April 12th 2015, but you can catch all four season on HBOGO or the last two episodes of season four at an IMAX near you.
Keep on Watchin’!