Why the story must come first

A little while back, I had the chance to listen to Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent talk. My overriding memory of that talk however was not of the insightful comments he made or the question I asked him though. No, my overriding memory of the event was that he was trialing Google Glass and he had this ugly white plastic lump on his face.

In a way, somebody wearing a Google Glass is like someone who willingly has an unfortunate facial tattoo. You know you shouldn’t stare, but you find yourself somehow unable to, and what the person was trying to tell you somehow gets lost in the process. This isn’t to say that I don’t like Google Glass. I think it’s a very interesting piece of technology with hundreds of valuable use cases. But at the moment the story is coming second to the technology.

Skip forward to Wednesday night when I found myself at the BFI IMAX at Waterloo. My friend had secured a couple of tickets to a premiere of the new Transformers movie. Since I’d never been to an IMAX before, how could I refuse such an offer?

Right, the movie. Not bad. It’s your typical big-budget CGI comic adaptation, so lots of explosions, car chases and a frankly distracting lovey-dovey emotional crap subplot. Like I said, par for the course. Onto the IMAX itself, in a word it’s awesome, but I wouldn’t pay much of a premium for it over going to the multiplex. Everybody needs to hear what a 12KW sound system actually feels like. Yes, feels like. This thing is so loud that you can feel the noise as much as hear it. The quality is spot on too. One bit of advice though, sit as far back as possible. Even in the middle of the auditorium we was a little too far forward for comfort.

The biggest problem though is the technology being given a greater priority than the story. It didn’t actually add anything at at times I found myself taking off my glasses to check the movie was still actually in 3D. Then there’s the sheer amount of stuff happening on-screen. Do I look left or right, up or down? Two important things are happening at once and yet I find myself with sensory overload, only able to focus on one of them.
In my opinion, the movie would be improved by losing the 3D, toning back some of the effects and leaving what is a pretty reasonable story to shine through. I think that one of the best examples of this I saw was the first of the Iron Man movies. Eventually the storylines will catch up with the technology and we’ll be in for a real treat. Until then, my message to film makers would be that it’s ok to hold back.

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