BFI IMAX cinema review
I've never seen a 3D movie before. They've been going for quite a while now, but this is my very first one. I've come to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, so the foyer is full of grungy kids in spectacles. Lots of teenage hoodies about too. And lots of people who would feel right at home at a Star Trek convention. (Christ almighty, am I talking about myself?) I can see one young couple who are obviously out on a date. His missus has slapped on the short skirt and lipstick, so she was obviously hoping for something nice and romantic, but he's dragged her along to this instead, ha ha. An afternoon in Middle Earth, watching dwarves and orcs on the big screen.
Once you've got your ticket from downstairs you can head up to the next level where the screen is. That's where they've got a big popcorn, drinks and sweet stand, and some seats and tables too. They've got a coffee shop downstairs too, but that's about it -- it's not the biggest place in the world.
It's been a while since I've been to the movies and I'd forgotten what it smells like. As soon as you enter the foyer you get that warm popcorny smell and space-opera music coming out of the speakers, and it's like rolling back time to when you were a kid. I'm not a big fan of popcorn, myself. It's like having turkey and Brussel sprouts at Christmas, isn't it? No one likes them but what the hell — it's Christmas! And this is the movies -- it's obligatory to stump up a big tub of hot popcorn and one of those two-feet tall cardboard cups of coke that has got about half a tonne of ice in it. And don't forget the £5 bag of M&Ms too.
The screen is absolutely huge -- it looks about three or four storeys tall. It's supposed to be the largest screen in the UK. It's not very curved though... maybe it's a little tiny bit curved (it's too dark to see). The big 3D screen that I remember from Thorpe Park was a massive 180-degree affair that wrapped right around your field of view, and then you'd stand there swaying about as it took you up and down and round and round a roller-coaster track. That 3D screen was so lifelike that it actually made my stomach heave. Well, this one is nothing like that. It's just a massive, flat cinema screen about three storeys tall. It will be interesting to see how 3D they can make it.
The last time I tried on a pair of 3D glasses they still had one red eye and one green eye, and the whole picture was a deep red crimson colour (I'm showing my age now). But it's not like that now. They look like a Dame Edna-sized plastic pair of shades, and are nice and easy to wear, and quite light too.
When you are a little midget like me, the worse thing that can happen at a cinema is being stuck behind a basketball player. But you don't have to worry about that here. Each row is a long way above the next, so they would have to be about seven feet tall to block your view. My seat is roughly at the head level of the seat in front -- so that is how much space you've got.
Five minutes in and they have finally told us to put our glasses on, just as the credits start to roll. (I had mine on already, so I must have been looking at the 2D stuff -- that will explain why it wasn't 3D!) And Jesus Christ, this thing really pops out at you. It's like the screen is five feet from your face all of a sudden! Honest to god, it pops out that much. The screen seems to be sitting above the heads of the audience in front, and it feels like I'm sitting inside the movie. The effect is really impressive and it looks very deep indeed. I can see landscapes stretching all the way to the horizon and people lumbering and jumping towards the screen (this film is full of fights!). The weather effects look quite good as well, sitting over the scene in a haze. You can peer through the clouds at the forests and towns down below. And see wheeling birds and crows and snowflakes flying towards your face.
I've just had a quick look at the movie without the glasses, and it looks totally rubbish (unsurprisingly). If you take the glasses off then everything looks out of focus and blurred. It is still just about watchable, but it wouldn't be very enjoyable -- it would be like watching the film through half-closed eyes. It would probably give you a major headache as well. But the glasses aren't as bothersome as I thought anyway. I can feel them pinching the bridge of my nose a bit, but you soon forget all about that as the movie starts playing.
One little thing that I have noticed, though, is that the action sometimes seems to be too fast for the focus. The area of the screen that stays pin sharp is quite limited, and you'll often find yourself staring at a bit of screen that is slightly blurred. If it's a quick moving run or a thunderous battle, then the focus seems to lag behind the action. It's a difficult effect to explain in writing, but I'm guessing it must be a limitation of all 3D movies.
Okay, that's it... I'm going to stop writing now so I can enjoy the movie...
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