4DX: Not the future of cinema

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th February 2013.

4dx logo

As the resident cinephile for the CWD, the question I’m most often asked is, “What’s your name again?” The second most often asked question is, “Is 3D the future of cinema?” My answer to that is a resounding no. 3D cinema is a gimmick. A pointless, headache inducing gimmick if utilised badly. Take Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans or Thor, for example. An impressive gimmick if used correctly in films such as Life of Pi, Hugo and Avatar, but a gimmick nonetheless.

A question that I wished someone would ask me is, “What’s not the future of cinema?” I actually have an answer to that one. It’s definitely not 4DX.

4dx cinema

At the moment, there are only a few 4DX equipped cinemas in the world, and the closest one to Australia is located at the Paragon Cineplex inside the gigantic Siam Paragon shopping centre in Bangkok. On a recent visit to Thailand, I had the opportunity to try out 4DX, and the bad news is that it’s more of a theme park attraction than an immersive cinema experience.

The 4DX cinema consists of hydraulic motion chairs with 3 degrees of freedom. They pitch, roll and heave along with the action on the screen. Built into the seats are air jets that simulate bullets whizzing above and beside your face. There are also jets that replicate splashes by spraying water in your face. Back and leg ticklers kneed you from inside the seat. A bass shaker vibrates your backside. Speakers placed in the headrest scream into your ears. But wait, there’s more.

4DX

There are fans installed in the roof to hit you with gusts of wind. Foggers fill the cinema with smoke. Fragrances are released to enhance the emotions and moods portrayed on the screen. There are bubbles for no particular reason at all. And did I mention that the films are in 3D too?

My 4DX movie was Upside Down, starring Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), which is yet to receive a release date in Australia. This fantasy romance is set on twin planets which share the same atmosphere, resulting in two worlds with opposing gravities. Sturgess’s Adam falls in love with Dunst’s Eden. The only problem is that she lives in the world above him, and it’s upside down. Chaos (and some woeful physics) occurs.

Featured films are not generally rendered into 4DX by the filmmakers or film studios. The seat movements and other effects are programmed by the South Korean company which developed the technology. This results in a bizarre experience where the in-house special effects are more about showing off the capabilities of the format than enhancing the storyline.

4dx

My seat moved around at times with no regard to what was happening on the screen. During a scene set high on a mountain, the foggers filled the room with smoke. This certainly enhanced the cloudy atmosphere portrayed on the silver screen. Unfortunately, all I could see was smoke and no screen.

Upside Down featured lots of outdoor scenes. For some reason, the 4DX programmers decided that it was windy every time the action ventured outdoors. With the wind effect fans working overtime, I was cold for most of the film. I didn’t mind the air shots which synched with gunfire although I’m not sure why I deserved a kidney punch from the chair during a fight scene. With the 4DX system supposedly capable of reproducing 1000 different scents, I only noticed one during my screening. I will forever associate Kirsten Dunst with urinal cakes.

4DX cinema experience

At a premium ticket price of 400 baht ($13), compared to a standard screening ticket of 230 baht ($7.50), a 4DX screening in Bangkok is hardly going to break the bank for most Australian tourists. My advice would be to give it a go but leave within the 30 minute refund window, get your money back and enjoy the film in a nice, comfortable, non-moving seat, then spend the difference on a funny t-shirt at the markets.

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Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 12:01  Leave a Comment  
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