Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back Review

Fun but costly, it is

by James Dyer |
Published on

When The Empire Strikes Back was announced as the theme of the latest Secret Cinema extravaganza, it was clear that this was going to be an ambitious affair. Would the film be screened in a replica of Cloud City, with Lobot manning the cloakroom? Would visitors be thrust into a Hoth-esque icy wilderness, with the option to ride around on people in tauntaun costumes? Or would it involve a bus trip out of London to a fetid bog?

It was, in fact, none of the above. Instead, guests are ushered through set-ups from the previous Episode, A New Hope, 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 twice the size of the one used for last summer's Back To The Future shindig, and even without going on the 'missions' assigned by the in-character actors, there's plenty to keep one busy. Empire — who dressed "up" for the occasion as a Dark Helmet-esque Darth Vader, a gaffer-taped-trousers-wearing Han Solo, a crap Porkins and a Poundshop Obi-Wan — got pestered by Jawas, enjoyed some Lando's Chicken (pun of the night) and accidentally wandered into an expansive outdoors smoking area, proving that deathsticks are still in vogue. Though less of a communal experience than Back To The Future, where a huge crowd congregated in a mocked-up town square, there are several big orchestrated moments and it's geek heaven to see so many people cheering scenes recreated from a 35 year-old film.

Fans of Star Wars will have a great time. The much talked about sticking point is, of course, the price, and this Secret Cinema is the most eye-wateringly expensive yet. The entry fee is £75, and in addition to that most of the activities involve forking out still more - even a souvenir digital photo (cameraphones are sealed in silver bags at the start of the night) will set you back £3.

It's not the company's finest moment — Back To The Future and Blade Runner were more spectacular — but at least we didn't get locked in a cell with a man pretending to masturbate (Empire's heinous Shawshank Redemption experience). And if you know your Aunt Beru from Count Dooku, you're going to have a lot of fun. Pricey it might be, but film-lovers should still be thankful that such gloriously nerdy experiences are being put on. Now can they please tackle Game Of Thrones?

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