No matter what the dizzying array of raves (and commercials) imply, you can't hold the whole world in your IPad: that's the main message I took away from watching parts of "The Lord of the Ring: The Fellowship of the Rings" and "Star Trek" on the one my boss lent me.
The IPad is so gorgeously efficient that when he handed it over loaded with digital copies of Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy and J.J. Abrams' "Trek" reboot, I wanted to love watching movies on it. After all, then I could argue that I needed one for my job.
But from the moment I put the IPad between my hands, it felt awkward as a vehicle for movies. A smaller device, you set into your palm. You can place a heftier one, like a standard portable-DVD player, on any flat surface, then flip the screen to the right position.
This IPad I held with both hands, first on my lap and then in front of me, only to have the reflections of everything on my desk distract me from the movies. I moved into a dark office, reducing the mirror effect and glare, set the IPad against a pile of books, and settled in for "Star Trek." That film proved to be a bad choice to test the IPad.
I had thoroughly enjoyed "Star Trek" in the theaters, but I didn't like its visual style (or lack of it): I thought it was done in the dash-and-grab manner that grows wearying unless practiced by an artist (like Paul Greengrass). You might think its lack of form would make it ideal for a portable-TV size device, but it didn't for me. My eyes kept racing all around the screen; the lack of design made me weary.
When I switched from wide-screen to full-screen with a tap (this thing is really ridiculously responsivel), the effect was the same, only worse, because the image grew softer-edged and lighter.
So I put up "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." Ahhh. Jackson's brilliant visual design and storytelling pulled me right into the quest for the Ring of Power, and I was so relieved I forgot about the still too-reflective surface.
But I needed another push to feel as if I were getting a major portion of the Tolkien experience. The IPad speaker sound was thin. So I plugged in some headphones and turned the volume up. At last, I was there in Middle Earth.
Once past the prologue and into the Shire, I knew I'd be tempted to watch the film (or films) to the end. So I decided to give "Star Trek" another chance, at least through its prologue and introductory sequence. It was simple to slide the action back to the beginning (the chapters are also easy to access), and I was acclimated enough by then to get into the story.
So I warmed up to the IPad, but I don't think it will be my tool of choice for portable viewing. It provides a convenient and fun but not particularly elegant way of seeing movies.
(Have any of you had a chance to try it yet?)