Don’t just see a movie, become part of one, or at least let the theater toss you around a bit!
Last weekend, I was invited to a screening of the new disaster film Geostorm in 4DX at the Union Square Regal. I have seen the 4DX experience advertised every time I have gone to this theater, as well as the Regal in Times Square, but I have never been to a 4DX screening before. I did attend the Shrek 4D attraction at Universal Studios in LA, but this was my first time seeing a full-length feature film in this format. So is the 4DX experience really worth checking out?
Walking into the 4DX theater, I noticed that it is smaller than regular theaters, and contains fewer seats. The seats themselves are solid and heavy in appearance, and they are not easy to relax in, which would make it difficult to fall asleep, even during the most boring movie. As I sat in my seat, I looked around the theater, and, on the ceiling, I noticed a row of fans and lights pointed toward the seats. Something told me that I was going to be in for a wild wide.
As I was getting to know my surroundings, the lights started to dim and the audience was suddenly thrust into a 4DX advertisement that made use of all of the 4DX elements, which includes the seats moving back and forth, the fans blowing wind, and water spraying at you from the seat in front. What is unfortunate about this trailer is that while it was fun to sit through, it presented everything at once, which ultimately undermined the impact of the main feature. The usual cinematic trailers started playing afterwards, but the 4DX features were not used at all, since these particular films weren’t made for 4DX.
After about ten minutes of trailers, the feature finally began. The opening sequence of Geostorm is where I felt the 4DX was at its best, because the opening is an uninterrupted montage displaying different types of weather. Similar to the 4DX trailer, this sequence made use of all the 4DX elements to simulate the on-screen storms. I felt as though I was part of these storm scenes, as well as part of the space scenes, when the seats moved up and down to simulate zero gravity.
I wish that there were more moments like those, because most of the rest of the film takes place indoors and full of dialogue exchanges. I found those parts underwhelming, because I was expecting the entire movie experience to be more interactive. Instead, though, the audience just sat there listening to conversations, something one could experience in a regular screening for a cheaper price. I could see 4DX working for a film like Dunkirk, because the action in that film is nonstop. The action in Geostorm is not consistent enough to warrant the 4DX experience.
There were also a few noticeable faults in the 4DX presentation. There is one scene in Geostorm where a tsunami strikes and a wave of water is headed towards the camera. The same time the water sprayed from the seat in front of me, the fans blew a gust of wind, which blew the water away, nullifying the effect. In addition, even though the water spray was entertaining, the water that did hit me landed on my 3D glasses, and I had wipe them clean each time to avoid distorting the picture. I can only imagine what a 4DX presentation of Waterworld would feel like. Thankfully, there is a switch on the right armrest to turn the water off and on, but it would be nice to have both effects with no interruptions.
Whenever there is an impact or whenever a character gets punched, the back of your the chair strikes against you. This feature is only slightly effective, as it only reminds me of the many times I went to the theater and had someone behind me, kicking my seat. It starts to become annoying after a while, and unfortunately, this feature was used a lot during Geostorm, particularly during the scenes of Gerard Butler’s character floating through space or of the numerous brawls that follow.
The flash effect was also used a lot in the screening of Geostorm, particularly in any scene involving lightning storms or camera flashes. It is a neat effect, but the way it was used lack continuity. For example, during a lightning storm, the flashing would appear when it is an outside scene, but would stop when the same scene shifted to indoors, even though you could still see the lightning outside the window. I couldn’t help but feel that the flash should have kept going. After all, isn’t the point of 4DX to feel like you are in the scene?
In the end, I found the 4DX experience to be a mixed bag. It was fun for a few minutes, and I did get the feeling of being in some of the scenes, but I grew numb to the experience relatively quickly, and felt there were some things that needed to be modified. I also feel that for the 4DX experience to be truly effective, the film given this treatment would have to have less dialogue and more action. Otherwise, you’re better off just seeing it in its regular format. Still, I would like to see Daddy’s Home 2, where the seats rumble whenever Mel Gibson loses his temper.