BFI IMAX cinema review
Do you remember all the toys and little stickers we used to get in cereal boxes every time a big movie came out. I used to pick my cereal by which one had the better stickers in it. As soon as my parents got the shopping out of the car boot and into the kitchen I'd rummage my hand around the inner bag to fish it out and then I'd pour out big bowls every morning so they'd have to buy another box quicker. My bedroom door ended up covered in luminous pictures of ET riding his bike across the moon. We had coloured comics as well, bubblegum trading cards (my mum would never let me eat the bubblegum), and then twelve months later they might finally rent the video out from Blockbusters so I could actually watch it. There was none of this 'watch it on satellite' a week after the release date -- if you missed it at the cinema then you'd have to rent it down the shop for 3 quid 50 or hope they showed it on Christmas Day TV.
Alas, they don't put toys in cereal boxes anymore in case a dopey kid swallows it and sues them. And they've stopped making glow-in-the-dark stickers in case they're faintly radioactive. So how can we recapture a bit of that old magic we remember from our youth? Well you could try watching a 3D movie. That's probably the closest we can get to feeling like a kid again.
The biggest cinemas are in Leicester Square, but if you want to watch a 3D movie then try the BFI IMAX by Waterloo. They show all the usual movies that you get everywhere else but they also do a few daytime documentaries that take you to places like the bottom of the ocean and up into space. That's where I'm headed today -- to the International Space Station.
I've got ten minutes till launch-time so I'm trying to decide which sweets to buy (you can't go to the space station without a bag of sweets). The foyer has that warm buttery popcorn smell and racks full of pick & mix, big bags of Butterkist, drinks that come in buckets the same size as your head, little tubs of Ice cream with spoons that give you splinters, and a bar selling plastic pints of beer that you know you'll kick over as soon as you put it on the floor. Everyone always ends up plumping for the popcorn because it's like having Brussel sprouts at Christmas -- no one likes it but it's the cinema so you have to.
When I watch these daytime documentaries I usually end up sitting in an empty row in an empty auditorium. The closest bloke to me today is way over there, about ten levels down and fifty feet over. One of the ushers is bashing his flashlight against the palm of his hand like his batteries are on the blink, making his beam bounce around all over the place. I've paid an extra few quid for a premier seat today but it doesn't seem much different to the normal ones. It's just a double sofa seat at the back with six more inches for your feet. They have pretty steep seating at the BFI anyway, and the screen's about the same size as the Eiger, so you won't get anyone in your way wherever you sit. The person in front would have to have a head the same size as a zeppelin air balloon to block your view.
These 3D glasses have changed a bit since I was a kid. I still remember those red and green lenses that you could make out of Quality Street wrappers but they look more like Ronnie Corbett's now -- those thick-rimmed ones that Roy Orbison wore. They even let you take them home afterwards which might come in handy I suppose. I wonder what happens if you wear a pair of 3D glasses whilst walking down the street? It might be like walking through one of those kaleidoscopic tunnels at the funfair.
The 3D effect is always a lot better than I'm expecting it to be. When you put on the glasses the whole screen falls back like it's retreating out the back of the building. In this space movie I really do feel as if I'm looking out of the porthole at the cloudy continents below. But here's a tip: now that the film has started I think it would probably have been better if I sat in the middle rather than right at the back because you want these 3D films to stretch across your entire field of view, so you can get lost in it.
The sound is incredible. When the rocket took off a cloud of fiery smoke barrelled across the ground towards me and a split-second later the sound came rushing up behind: it was like a mountain falling down. It was so loud that it felt as if I was getting physically hit by a wall of noise.
I’ve been here before…
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