Ready Player One

 “Ready Player One” just has to be the best movie of the year (though I predict it might be second-best after “Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom” as of June, despite that movie’s alleged narrative shortcomings). A cool story, convincing special effects, one of the most awesome car chases every imagined, a none-too-obtrusive love angle, and oodles of pop culture references. Even a good and positive message for today’s gamer generation. It’s a bit like “Pixels” for a more mature audience. And the 3D aspect of the film was quite convincing and engaging.
Steven Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch!

 Up next, I hope someone is going to do a film adaptation of Tad Williams’ “Otherworld” books!

Avengers Infinity War (4DX version)

 Now before you continue to read, I should add two disclaimers: a) I am biased against ‘new’ film technology, and b) There are going to be spoilers.

  Yesterday I experienced my first 4DX movie. This is, basically, where you can watch a movie with augmented environmental effects such as scent, rain, fog, seat movement and wind. After having witnessed this nearly two decades ago in “Honey I shrunk the audience” in Disneyland Paris (back then I think it was still called Euro Disney) I thought it was enjoyable but a gimmick, really, nothing more than a gimmick. So when the cinema my wife and I most often frequent built a 4DX hall, I was not all that keen on trying it out. My non-keenness had probably been caused by my overall disappointment when it comes to another ‘new’ movie technology: 3D. Although a few movies did have an added sense of realism in 3D (computer-animated Pixar flicks, “Avatar”, “Gravity” and “Life of Pi”), most of them were souped-up versions of 2D movies (“Alice in Wonderland”, anyone?). When I have the choice to see 2D or 3D, I always opt for 2D. This is partly caused by cinema tickets being expensive enough as it is, and 3D movies being even more so.

 So I had eyed that 4DX hall with scepsis ever since it was finished about half a year ago. But yesterday my 4DX cherry was popped. The movie I wanted to see, “Avengers Infinity War”, was only being shown in 4DX at the time when it was most opportune for me. So I considered my hand somewhat forced. And, to be honest, I was a bit curious.
I love superhero movies, though I used to be one of those people who thinks you should have one superhero per movie. Granted, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Avengers Unite” were good examples of the current trend to have as many heroes in a movie as possible. It’s like superhero porn, really, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t becoming my guilty pleasure. It must be quite a challenge for filmmakers to have someone like Captain America in a movie also featuring The Hulk and Iron Man, and actually make Captain America appear like a genuine superhero. Or Hawkeye, or Black Widow for that matter (if you forget she is played by an apparently ever more breast-augmented Scarlett Johansson, you might forget all about her).
“Infinity War” has the regular Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr Strange, Black Panther, Spiderman and a bunch of lesser known heroes (but thankfully not Deadpool, who should only be in his own movies) fighting the apparently not-even-beatable-by-The-Hulk bad guy Thanos and his also pretty unbeatable sidekicks. They are on the lookout for the six Infinity Stones which, when combined, will allow him to provide mercy to the entire galaxy by allowing there to be more resources per person. His way of attaining this is decimating the entire galaxy’s inhabitants by half. Needless to say, the Avengers and their friends rather don’t appreciate this intended genocide of billions or perhaps trillions of citizens.
The movie is a long thrill ride of various well-orchestrated battles which definitely capture the imagination. Slowly but surely the viewer can but realise that Thanos is winning. The odds against the good guys are tremendous. And by the time all the stones have been collected and half the inhabitants of the galaxy turn to dramatic dust in the wind you have seen Groot die, and Dr Strange, Spiderman, Starlord, and too many other good superheroes to even want to remember (also because the pain is still too near).
And then the end credits roll.
The whole movie thus leaves me with a bit of a hangover. It’s not even an open ending, it is simply no ending at all – like “Titanic” ending when it hit the iceberg, or “Alien” at the moment the thing bursts out of John Hurt’s chest. I’ll just have to go and see the next one – which is probably what the Marvel people want.
And Black Widow as a blonde? Preferably not. I don’t even remember if her character survived or not.

 But the 4DX, now.
I could be nice and capture the whole experience in a positive word. That word would be “interesting”. But I could, and perhaps should, also describe it as “distracting”. I didn’t really realise there were going to be scents and at a certain pretty random moment in the movie I smelled something that was the nasal equivalent of one of those bad-tasting Beanboozled Jelly Beans. And the wind, oh, the wind. Whenever something ran or flew there was wind. I was slightly overdressed with a pretty warm hoody and T-shirt but it was quite chilly. Noisy, too! And unless there was pretty static dialog (this happened only a few times in this particular movie, which was to be expected) the seat was constantly shaking and throbbing. With loud noise the bottom of the back vibrated, and when someone got stabbed there was a sort of stab in the collective audience’s backs as well. It made me think of one of those automated massage chairs, and I have not done one of those anymore after my first trial. Thankfully I could disable the water/fog effects because these would not be too convenient for wearers of glasses (as this was a 3D movie, everyone wore glasses).
I found myself trying to determine when certain effects were being used, looking at it perhaps like the programmers of such devices might, and sometimes came up empty. The lightning effects happened quite randomly, really, and, like I said before, the scents were pretty unrelated to the movie. The chairs were also much less comfortable, as you kinda have to continuously sit upright in a certain way to prevent yourself from gently being slither-shaken out of it. About halfway through the movie I had a seriously sore bum.
So, all in all, I hope 4DX is not here to stay. Wikipedia says it’s been around for over a decade already. I was hoping 3D was not here to stay, either, but I guess I will just have to consign myself to being disappointed there.