Today was devoted to exploring the Universal Studios theme park. Located just outside the city center of L.A., the park is nestled between Universal City (where all sorts of merchandise and food can be found) and the actual sets themselves.
What then would be more fittingly than to take a tour "behind the scenes" in Hollywood. The first ride we went on was a mix between a ride (with collapsing bridges and subway stations, and an immersion of the train into water), a sneak peek of active sets (Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives) and a tour of old sets. Here's a shot of Bates' Motel from Hitchcock's Pshyco :)
They had a Norman sneaking around, putting a body in the trunk of the car and threatening the crowd with a knife. Below is a part of the set of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds:
As you can see, they destroyed an entire jumbo jet (not to mention many, many cars...) to make things extra realistic.
The park was just the right size and level of excitement for us. Less kids than at Disney, of course, and the rides were a bit scarier and more fun. We took the Jurassic Park flume ride and somehow managed to sit in the seats that took the entire splash of the 84ft (25m) plunge at the end. We weren't dry until hours afterwards!
The Mummy rollercoaster was an extremely thrilling and fast ride that left us breathless. Onward then to the less dramatic but still cool shows of pyrotechnics from the firefighter movie Backdraft, and a slightly silly tour of the special effects set.
After a surprisingly healthy and good meal, we queued up to watch the live show Waterworld, inspired by the movie. The film may not be Oscar material, but the show was certainly nothing short of awesome with a mix of big water splashes and explosions. The guy who was playing the part of Kevin Costner actually looked a lot like him too! Here's the bad guy falling burning off a tower:
Big bada boom at the grand finale:
We rounded off our 7 hour visit with Terminator 2: 3D and Shrek 4D (including moving seats, more water splashing and an uncanny illusion of spiders running over your feet!). While these shows were obviously made specifically to boast 3D effects, they left me thinking that the future of films is not in spectacles.
Anyone who knows anything about film history will be familiar with the many failed attempts of adding extra dimensions to movies. There have been experiments with scented cinema (look up Smell-O-Vision if you don't believe me), super wide screens and of course 3D itself which first appeared in the 50's when movie creators would go to any lengths to win back their audience from the television sets. So far, 3D has always fallen flat after a couple of years every time it's resurfaced. I'm hoping that this time around won't be an exception.
To me, going to the cinema is viewing a good film in the setting it was intended to be seen in. To me, it's the difference between seeing a band live on stage, and hearing it on an old cassette tape. Bearing that in mind, I never wanted a band to jump down to me in the audience and start poking me with their instruments, and I don't want to smell their breath. I need the perfect blend of a dark, quiet room, a comfortable seat and a large screen to be able to reach that cinematic Nirvana where you're completely absorbed in the movie, whether it be with its story, the acting, or simply the pictures in front of me. With a 3D movie, it's all about the spectacle, and it becomes a sort of interruption with a pause where you're meant to 'ooh' and 'aah'.
Today was a fantastic, fun spectacle which is just what you need sometimes, but I'm certainly hoping that the future of cinema will honour other virtues of film :)
(Anyone need essays written on the topic of the future of cinema are welcome to send cheques, 50€/page is a reasonable price, no?)
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6 months ago