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The IMAX Effect: Ant-Man 3 Vs. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

3 min read

With over 65 films released in in 2022 and over 35 set to debut this year so far, it's clear that IMAX is beginning to raise the bar for films no matter the genre. From blockbuster adventures to immersive concert films, while the black letterboxed bars may not be a thing of the past yet, it's clear that the company is stepping up in a big way. But why does it matter if a film is Filmed for IMAX, and why should you care? Filmhounds is here to answer that question, as we look at 's latest entries, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

IMAX is not a concept new to the MCU – since Captain America: Civil War, Marvel directors have been turning to IMAX-certified digital cameras. Why? Well, for one thing – it just looks better. Both and both benefit from an additional 26% more picture, allowing for a greater sense of immersion and a much greater depth-of-field – this is something that especially appeals to practical sets, a central feature of Guardians 3 including the City of Knowhere and the entirely organic space station. IMAX is often best deployed when a camera can breathe through an actual set, giving a sense of exploration – cinematographer Henry Braham shot on a RED Ranger Monstro, an official IMAX-certified camera, and one of its greatest advantages is its compatibility with a wide range of lenses including Super 35mm, allowing even the most digital film to have a certain vignette to it.

Whereas Guardians 3 shot with a RED Ranger Monstro, Ant-Man 3's cinematographer Bill Pope shot significantly on an Arri Alexa Mini LF Imax. There's much debate over which is superior, with minute differences – however, it's not just about the camera you're shooting with, but the environment. While the Arri Alexa has a slightly greater reputation, due to Ant-Man 3's emphasis on shooting virtually via Industrial Light & Magic's StageCraft (known colloquially as ‘The Volume'), having Filmed for IMAX actually has a negative effect on the final visual image. Backgrounds appear clearly computer-generated, with some scenes distractingly so – despite Pope being a veteran cinematographer with the likes of the Spider-Man trilogy and The Matrix, shooting in a physical, practical set is second to none.

©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

What's intriguing about where Ant-Man 3 falters where Guardians 3 succeeds with their incorporation of IMAX filming is that it appears Peyton Reed specifically directed moments with the process in mind, as mentioned in Covered Geekly. It can't help but feel as though this is a cart-before-the-horse situation, in which Reed prioritized how IMAX can influence the film's style, whereas James Gunn instead understood how the film's style will fit IMAX already. Guardians 3 does after all have the rare lapel of being filmed entirely by IMAX cameras, making it one of only a handful of Hollywood movies to do so alongside Avengers: Endgame. It's undeniable that there's a clear visual and sonic flair to Gunn's work that perhaps isn't as strongly present in Reed's, and thus the comparison in how they both adopted and adapted to the IMAX format may be trickier to puzzle out.

What's clear is that when it comes to films that decide to tackle the IMAX format, it's never one-size-fits-all. There are massive contextual differences, from directorial styles to the comparisons between virtual and physical sets, not to mention shifting aspect ratios (IMAX film shoots on 1.43:1 whereas digital is 1.90:1). However, oftentimes style is one of the most fundamental pieces of the IMAX puzzle when it comes to taking full advantage of the expanded screen and the immersive sound – while Ant-Man 3 didn't quite hit the mark, it's undeniable that Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is a must-see IMAX experience while you can.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is now available on Disney+.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is currently available to watch in IMAX cinemas nationwide.