Friday, 24 July 2009

Day 24 - Universal Studios, L.A., California

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?)


  1. Korsijemine! Vilken galen värld :D

  2. Det är en sak jag har funderat på, när det gäller just Hollywood och dess filmskapande; hur många av dess alla scenerier är permanenta skapelser, och hur många som byggs upp och förstörs för en viss film!? Bl.a. alla dessa Vilda Västern-filmer, vars städer ute på prärierna ter sig nog så lika ut, så man undrar om de används gång på gång, med vissa modifieringar, eller om de byggs upp nya för varje film? Detsamma gäller andra miljöer, som inte ska motsvara historiska förebilder!?
    Annars är det ju många varanter på katastroffilmer, där ju allt s k a brinna upp och förstöras, så där är utgången given, s.a.s. Men i övrigt!? Undrar en viss (och samtidgt oviss) morbror..!?

  3. Morning
    It´s like High Chaparall(or how you spell it) in småland, but much, much bigger and much, MUCH more spectacular:)
    I can really understand you enjoyed it, both film and tivoli lovers as you are:)
    Oh and Kim, I remember, your bag with all videos from your USA trip was stolen:( Yea you had it all on film but some evil stupid person made you only have it in your minds data bank. But that is not bad either, to know you have been there and smelled the air of american moviemaking.

    All is fine here, with cats and me, but i don´t like that my sofa is starting to look like something i picked up from some rubbish heap, both are useing it to sharpen there claws. I have even been thinking I might take a fight with them and try to cut there claws. But hey i am a catlover, so i know, this is how it is to have cats around, and i love them both.

  4. Gunnar: Många set återanvänds, det fick vi se. Bland annat har de en speciell liten gata som används som cowboy/mexikanska städer. De hade också en storstadsfasad (skulle kunna vara bostadshus i New York eller något liknande) som verkade kunna återanvändas gång på gång. Det var nog vanligare förr i tiden dock. Många filmskapare verkar tycka om att istället stänga av halva städer och reta gallfeber på lokalbefolkningen :)

  5. Tack Vanja för svaret - jag nästan anade något sådant! Förresten så såg jag en western med "Clintan", när jag var i Finspång senast, och även en annan, där han spelar säkerhetsagent åt USA:s president - fast den sistnämnda såg jag bara senare delen av - och Clintan är ju alltid Clintan, yes box! Ha det så bra, var ni nu befinner er just nu! Vi hörs!