This weekend I took the kids to the cinema to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It was a fun adventure with lots of big laughs and a likeable cast.
But I made a mistake when buying the tickets. We were in a bit of a hurry to get in on time, so when the options came up on the ticket machine screen I just jabbed at “2pm” and paid. What I didn’t realise until we got into the room and took our seats was that I’d accidentally bought tickets for a 4DX screening.
4DX was launched in December 2017 at the Kinepolis cinema, and the first film screened in this format was The Last Jedi. I avoided it as I didn’t want any gimmicks distracting me from the content of a cultural event as momentous and serious as a new Star Wars film. In case you’re wondering what 4DX is and how it affects the viewing experience, watch this:
I was intrigued to learn that the system was actually introduced by a company based in South Korea in 2009. After that it had a rather strange propagation: it spread first to Mexico, then South America, Thailand, Russia, Israel, and Europe starting in Hungary and Bulgaria. For some reason it only reached the US in 2014.
I’m the kind of person who only sees a film in 3D when there’s no 2D option, and I don’t particularly like rollercoasters or other kinds of theme park rides, so I wasn’t especially looking forward to this. And yet I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously it depends on what kind of film you’re watching, but a video-game-style action comedy like Jumanji suits this treatment pretty well.
It was interesting to see how and when the techniques were used, and to think how much work went in to preparing the chair movements and effects to coordinate precisely with the often frenetic on-screen action. When the film started we saw a slow track in towards an object on the floor, and the seats started to gently tip forward, as if you were physically leaning towards the object. This was pretty effective, although I did start to worry that if my seat was going to move constantly for two hours I’d feel nauseous by the end. But I got used to it pretty quickly, and they didn’t overdo the movement, only using it when most appropriate, such as when characters lean out over a cliff.
There were blasts of air when bullets and missles whizzed past our heads, the occasional mist or sprays of water when the heroes were on a river or diving into a waterfall, and strobe lights during storm sequences. During fight scenes we could feel the impacts in the back of our seats, and the backs of our legs were tickled when a character was dragged across the floor.
Perhaps the best use of seat movement was during a scene near the end when two characters kissed. As the camera circled them, the chairs tipped and banked, sucessfully creating the woozy, dizzy feel the camerawork was hinting at.
The kids loved it, and to be honest I wouldn’t rule out choosing this kind of screening again, depending obviously on the type of film.