Contagion is Good, But is it IMAX Good?

“Contagion,” which comes to theaters everywhere today, including the new IMAX screen at AMC Clifton Commons, is a good, fast-paced, modern American thriller — with attractive female epidemiologists hot on the trail of a deadly, roving infectious disease. I’d call it a nail biter, but you won’t bite your nails after you learn that you’re already touching your face 3,000 times a day. Let me put it this way: You don’t want to go see “Contagion” if you’re the type who buys Purell in bulk at Costco.

It’s a good movie, but does is it IMAX good? 

Without question, the IMAX screen at the new Clifton Commons IMAX is big. It is also IMAX, because the IMAX company gives its name to it. But as film critic Roger Ebert said in a 2009 column, “That not the IMAX I grew up with.” The first time I saw IMAX was at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The experience was thrilling, like getting handed an iPhone before cellphones were even invented. It was hard to believe the world could be that visually vibrant. But more than that: it made you nauseous. The screen was so big, the camera moves so dramatic, that you felt like you were getting rolled in a trick airplane. says that you should see “Contagion” on an IMAX screen because it is “a thousand times more terrifying” than it would be on a conventional screen. I disagree. There’s only one scene — the autopsy scene — that was palpably more terrifying because of the huge screen. Actually, it was really just a lot more gross.

What’s scary about “Contagion” is the story. It’s about germs, sure, but even more it’s about panic — a familiar topic after Hurricane Irene. What’s scary is how the panic starts out with the familiar (runs on grocery stores) and grows into full-scale rioting and martial law. It was even scarier when I came out of the movie and learned that there was a credible, though unconfirmed threat of a terrorist attack on either New York or Washington on the 9/11 anniversary. That news — far scarier than what I’d just seen — came on a tiny screen: my iPhone.

Clifton Commons charges $4 extra for tickets to its IMAX screen. Is it worth it? If you’re willing to pay up to see a first-run movie on a really big screen, I guess it is. But if you’re expecting a vertigo-inducing experience, you may be disappointed.

“Contagion,” which opens today, is playing at Clifton Commons, Essex Green, Clearview’s Caldwell and Clearview’s Allwood. See showtimes here.

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  1. Stephen Whitty, reviewing in today’s Star-Ledger, went on for a bit about the patterned pantyhose Jennifer Ehle wears in the movie. Which says much more about his apparent fetishism than about how good or how “Contagion” may be. Either way, that this simply wasn’t edited out also says quite a bit about how far the Star-Ledger really has fallen. The end there surely is near indeed if this nonsense is allowed to run in “reviews.”

  2. Oh cathar, I’m so happy to have you name another media outlet that has gone downhill. Thanks, you made my night!

  3. I have often pointed out on this very site, Debbie, how badly the Star-Ledger has declined as much (if not more) than Baristanet. (Still, even on its worst days of decline….) Thank you, in turn, for your tacit acknowledgement that your “child” is not chugging along as it once did. And, of course, for your bad stab at sarcasm.

    I actually saw “Contagion” yesterday. It’s not very good. What baffles most is why it’s running in an IMAX format. There isn’t so much as a chase scene or a battle that would work well in IMAX-style projection. . Probably just a way of gouging $5 or more extra per paid admission, thus inflating the boxoffice gross. But it’s sure not worth it.

    The Newark Evening News was a pretty fine paper, PAZ, yes. But the “Evening” part of its name indicates part of the reason it’s no longer around.

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