Having raved recently about the merits of watching movies in IMAX, I thought I’d pick up on a comment I made in the post where I first mentioned it. When I heard about 4DX, I did wonder if it was the name of another Star Wars ’droid, but it turns out it’s a relatively new way to watch a film.
The objective is to make you feel you’re really part of the movie, and it does that using technology I’ve only previously encountered in theme parks.
Attempts have been made in the past to bring films to life in more ways than sound and vision. Probably the best known of these was Sensurround in the ‘70s, though that was short-lived. 4DX will probably also not be the ultimate, because attempts will continue to make the experience even more immersive. Virtual Reality is already a step in that direction and I can see the potential for it to be integrated into films in the future.
For now, though, 4DX offers an exciting development, though in the UK it seems only Cineworld are offering the option at the moment. (I promise you, I am not being sponsored by Cineworld for these posts. I wish!)
The objective is to provide an experience that includes most of the senses. I say most, because I don’t recall tasting anything, though taste and smell are related.
Adverts for 4DX gave the impression that it was largely about wearing 3D glasses while having your seat move about, but it’s a bit more than that.
Done well, 3D helps to draw you into the story. Who hasn’t flinched when a really effective bit of 3D means you think a projectile’s about to hit you? But a lot of films have 3D options that don’t add anything – especially if it’s retro-fitted. Retro-fitting doesn’t happen as much as it did a few years ago but, generally, the effects are not as strong, so you wonder why they bothered in the first place.
Regardless of whether it was filmed in 3D from the outset or had it bolted on afterwards, it still only benefits certain kinds of movie. A film focused on story rather than visuals isn’t ideal material, particularly the kind that British filmmakers tend to produce, like Four Weddings and Funeral or The Full Monty. On second thoughts, maybe The Full Monty…
My point, though, is that I’m not an advocate of 3D for its own sake. Still, with the right kind of film – and if it’s done well – it can add to the enjoyment.
So, 4DX includes 3D, but also has the moving chairs. The only film I’ve seen in this format was The Last Jedi, and I explained why here. With Star Wars you get plenty of action. There’s a lot of flying, so there are chases and dogfights. There are fights – hand-to-hand or using light sabres, and lots of weapons being fired. There are jumps and falls and other crashes, bangs and wallops throughout the film. In short, if you were actually in the movie, you’d experience a lot of physical stuff.
The chairs help to create the impression you’re experiencing that. Some of it’s done using motion. The Millennium Falcon goes into a dive and your seat tilts forward, or it banks left and your seat tilts that way too. You get the idea.
There are also jolts. Something crashes, or there’s an impact that would shake the ground, and your chair tosses you about as if you were there as it happened. The most impressive thing for me was when a character was hit in the back with a fighting pole. Something that felt distinctly like the end of a pole punched into my back! It wasn’t painful, but it was very effective.
Some of you will be horrified at this description. This isn’t cinema, you’ll be thinking, and I completely understand that. I’m not attempting to convert anyone to this. It won’t appeal to everyone, and there are some who definitely shouldn’t do it for health reasons. My son, who accompanied me, turned out to be one of those who shouldn’t. I think it took his back a couple of days to recover.
Nevertheless, for those who like trying something new, and are curious about how it works, I would encourage you to give it a go. It’s over six months since I went, because I wouldn’t want to see every movie in that format, just as I wouldn’t want to watch a film in IMAX every time. But I’m glad I tried it, and will do it again some time.