Akira, one of the most beloved films of all time, has received a 4K IMAX re-release which South Africans will be able to catch for a limited time this year.

Thanks to Ster-Kinekor – which will be showing the movie between 4th and 10th December – I’ve been able to catch an early screening of this version of the 1988 classic.

I’ve seen Akira multiple times over the years, like many fans of the movie, and this IMAX one is unsurprisingly the pinnacle of the experience.

The 18.8 metre screen in the Mall of Africa theatre was an absolute treat here for Akira’s famous visuals. Nothing looked stretched out or low fidelity and it’s a real trip to see this old friend of a movie in such a way.

That being said it is worth remembering that this is not a remake, but simply a re-release that has been dolled up for IMAX. That isn’t to say things look bad – very far from it – but it’s simply to temper the expectations of those who may be seeing Akira for the first time and are more used to more modern animation. You can tell that this is still a film from the eighties.

Akira’s visuals are timeless, though, so the above feels a lot like nit-picking. This is, at the end of the day, the ultimate way to watch this movie.

Strangely the real star of the show here is the audio. Again, Akira is known for this, but the sound design and music in the IMAX version is truly astounding.

When this is brought up people usually talk about action, gunshots and explosions feeling more visceral thanks to the booming surround sound of IMAX theatres, but here it’s much more subtle. I point to the toy scene (embedded below) which is my favourite part of the IMAX version.

The repeating ‘brum brum brum” is properly unsettling in the theatre. This, and a few other surreal scenes, have always evoked feelings of unease and dread, but things are dialled up to 11 for this version.

Many have experienced this to some degree, with home surround sound and other releases of this movie, but the IMAX one is again the top dog.

The visuals and audio are unparalleled and make for one of the best movie going outings available in the last few years.

It would be disingenuous – both as a journalist and a decent human being – to espouse how great this version of the movie is without acknowledging the coronavirus. It’s a simple fact that leaving the house right now is a matter of life and death.

All I can offer in this regard is that I have already – through the actions of a careless family member – contracted and recovered from COVID-19, and have since tested negative. While antibodies are a murky topic and re-infection has been known to occur, this has given me at least some confidence to attend these kinds of events.

That is my personal experience and you will have to use your own when deciding on this movie come December.

I can also point you in the direction of Ster-Kinekor’s COVID-19 operating procedures, so you can read for yourself how the theatres are being operated to make things as safe as possible.