Director J.J. Abrams made waves when he decided to shoot Star Wars: The Force Awakens using 35mm film instead of in a more ubiquitous format, and now it appears that the new trilogy which began with that film will conclude with something of a change, as Episode IX will delve into yet another physical format.
Most blockbuster movies are filmed digitally these days, as Collider points out, so Abrams’ choice to use 35mm film was something of an anachronism. This decision was carried forward by director Rian Johnson, who chose also to film next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII in 35mm, in order to continue the same esthetic that Abrams began the new trilogy with.
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It appears, however, that Colin Trevorrow’s as-yet-untitled Episode IX will break from the other two movies in the trilogy, as the director will use a different format to bring the new saga’s conclusion to the screen. Earlier this week, Kodak announced that their film processing facility in the U.K. can now handle 65mm. Excitingly, among the many projects listed as using the format, Star Wars: Episode IX conspicuously stands out.
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For those unfamiliar with this aspect of movie-making, 65mm describes the actual width of the physical film cells used. When compared to 35mm film, 65mm allows a filmmaker to capture a much larger frame, which in turn exhibits much higher image quality. A scene that may look slightly grainy on 35mm, for example, will look noticeably more pristine if recorded on 65mm.
The larger format is also akin to IMAX, and has been utilized by directors who wish to shoot on film but distribute their work in IMAX. Notably, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar was largely shot in 65mm, as was Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.
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So why would any director work in 35mm instead of 65mm, given its sharper image quality? The most likely answer is simply logistics. In the case of Star Wars, the new trilogy is largely being produced in the U.K., where a dearth of processing facilities for the larger format have previously existed. For example, although Star Wars: Episode VIII has already been shot and produced using 35mm film, Johnson reportedly considered choosing the larger format. Only logistical concerns apparently held him back.
For a production with the size and scope of Star Wars to utilize film instead of digital represents a major step in keeping the format alive, as MovieWeb notes. Though casual movie fans may wonder if digital is arguably of better quality than any physical format, Steven Overman, Chief Marketing Officer and President of the Consumer and Film Division at Kodak, noted that the opposite is true.
“The film comeback is accelerating and the epic, big screen experience is well and truly back. The creative and aesthetic distinctiveness of 65mm film is still well beyond the capability of digital capture, so when discerning filmmakers want to a create work of memorable grandeur and lasting visual quality, they know that only real film delivers.”
— Cultjer (@cultjer) September 5, 2016
Of course, it will be some time before Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters. Between now and the film’s release date, tentatively scheduled for May 23, 2019, Disney has no less than three Star Wars films set for distribution. The first of those, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, hits theaters in just over a month, continuing the unprecedented renaissance of the saga.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]