Have you ever tried to watch a wide-screen movie while riding a rollercoaster? 4DX movie theaters provide roughly the same effect.
4DX theaters are touted as making moviegoers as much a part of the film they’re watching as possible. Once the 3D portion is in place (thanks to the same kind of special-effects glasses that have been used for decades), your movie experience simulates rain (mists of water), lightning (split-second lights) — and best of all, earthquakes, via rattling seats that make it a challenge not to end up on the floor.
Disney World has used the 4D effect with such crowd-pleasers as The Muppets and Shrek. But it’s a lot easier to enjoy 10 minutes of this silliness than it is to provide a life-like experience for a feature film.
My first 4DX experience was last weekend, when my son and I saw Godzilla: King of the Monsters. (My mini-review of the movie: It’s enjoyable enough matinee fare, but don’t take any kids who are easily traumatized, and good luck trying to follow the plot.)
Happily, 4DX didn’t throw me out of my seat, but it did pull me out of the actual movie experience. I’m sure many people regard 4DX as a fun carnival ride. But for me, the “realistic” special effects just distracted me from the actual movie.
A really engrossing movie will draw you in without cheesy theatricals. Would Say Anything‘s iconic rain scene been more effective if the theater had been dripping water on us?
The 1977 sketch film Kentucky Fried Movie showed a theater-goer experiencing a movie in “Feel-Around.” An usher stood behind the movie-watcher to augment the movie’s action. When someone on-screen spilled a drink, the usher would douse the guy in wine. When the movie hero kisses his girl, guess what the usher does to the guy.
This was all played for laughs, of course. But I think I’d find Feel-Around more engrossing (if a bit gross) than 4XD.