Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back review

When Secret Cinema announced that Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was to be the theme for their latest cinematic event, it was clear that this was going to be an ambitious undertaking. Would the film be screened in a replica of Cloud City? Would visitors be thrust into the icy wilderness of Hoth?

Instead, guests are ushered through a series of set-ups from the previous Episode, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1980), most notably Tatooine. And without getting into spoilers – fear the wrath of Secret Cinema stormtroopers – it is a genuinely impressive experience, both in terms of its scale and the attention to detail. The space is reportedly twice the size of the one used for last summer's Back To The Future event, and even without going on the 'missions' assigned by the in-character actors, there are plenty of areas for you to explore and things to experience. Wandering around the market stalls and eateries – Lando's Chicken anyone? – of Mos Eisley whilst being pestered by Jawas and avoiding any Imperial entanglements, you soon forget your London location and find yourself swept into the world of a galaxy far, far away.

Though arguably less of a communal experience than Back To The Future, where a huge crowd congregated in a mocked-up Hill Valley town square, there are several big orchestrated moments and seeing so many people cheer infamous scenes recreated from a 35 year-old film is simply geek heaven.

Fans of Star Wars will have a great time. The much talked about sticking point is, of course, the price. At £75 this is Secret Cinema's most expensive yet. Even a souvenir digital photo (mobile phones are sealed in silver bags at the start of the night) will set you back £3.

It took over a year for founder Fabien Riggall to secure a license from new Lucasfilm owners Walt Disney Pictures, and its staging comes ahead of the much anticipated release of new instalment Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December.

If you know your Aunt Beru from your Count Dooku, you're going to have a lot of fun. Pricey it might be, but this is a gloriously nerdy experience you will never forget. The Force is most definitely strong with this one.

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