Tuesday, 15 March 2011
I went to a very peculiar cinema last weekend. It was in foggy Londontown and was unlike any cinema experience I have ever... er... experienced.
The tickets were extremely expensive, and I soon found out why.
At first, I thought the effects were a little shoddy, opening as the movie did on what was blatantly a matte-painting of some trees, but this soon faded to a fully immersive 3D environment, the likes if which I have never seen.
The 3D is so 3D that they don't even need a screen, just a raised area and a space in which fully three dimensional characters and props are projected for your amusement.
It's like you're actually there! I felt like I could reach out and touch the performers! If I hadn't been sitting ten rows away from them. Or if I had really long arms.
It even had an interactive laugh-track, in a post-modern nod to ropey old sitcoms, which was presented in uncannily convincing surround-sound. It was almost like being in the midst of a live studio-audience.
It's a game-changer. It raises the bar so high, there is no bar.
And the name of this revolutionary cinematic technique?
They call it "The Atre".
The feature I watched in "The Atre" was a new one from Neil LaBute, the bitter misogynist behind "In the Company of Men" and "The Shape of Things" (which are good) and the remake of "The Wicker Man" (which is shonky piss-ribbons), so I was expecting dubious sexual politics, rambling sweary dialogue and bees being poured on people's heads.
I was only disappointed on one count.
Jack from "Lost" was in it. He worked very well in this new-fangled organic 3D, and was a whole world away from noble Jack, playing a borderline racist, sexist ignoramus with a slovenly braggadacio that was often accompanied by the immersive laugh track. I think he has a bright future in The Atre when it catches on.
He also has a scary beard, but not a beard of bees, unfortunately.
The pretty teacher from "Rushmore" is in it too, but she isn't as good as Jack, her American accent wavering occasionally, and only seems able to pitch her performance as whiny and self-absorbed. It's worth bearing in mind that LaBute directed this turn, so this is very possibly just how he sees women and not Rushmore-girl's fault.
The movie was daringly filmed in a single take, with a static shot brilliantly framed to allow us a view of the entire interior of the cabin in the woods where the action takes place. I say "action", but what I really mean is "conversation".
The movie is just Jack and Rushmore-girl having a chat for about an hour and a half, but don't let that put you off. The chat reveals all sorts of wacky (although not entirely unpredictable) twists and character traits to keep you interested, and both characters get some decent monologues to get their teeth into. As 3D showcases go, it's better than fucking "Avatar".
And, another benefit of the revolutionary presentation of The Atre is the interactive behind-the-scenes materials. It felt like Neil LaBute actually walked right past me as I sat in my seat. Almost as if I could've run at him and poured bees on his head 'til he screamed "NOT THE BEES!" if I'd wanted to. I did want to, but there were no bees to hand. Still; IMMERSIVE.
So brace yourself for the future of 3D entertainment: The Atre. It's the closest you can get to actually being there without actually being there, even though you're actually there!