JJ Abrams never liked 3D. Sure he used the format on his two Star Trek movies, but those were corporate mandated business decisions, not a creative choice. That changed with Star Wars: The Force Awakens though, as the advances in digital laser projection meant that the director could finally deliver amazing 3D visuals with none of the drawbacks. And boy did he ever deliver as The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D is a sight to behold!
That would mean that The Force Awakens in 4D would be even better, right?! I mean, it’s a whole extra D! And so with that assumption, I headed down to the Nu Metro cinema at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to check out Star Wars: The Force Awakens for a second time, in their newly unveiled 4DX cinema.
Nu Metro recently signed a deal with Seoul, Korea based CJ 4DPLEX, creator of 4DX, and together they will be unveiling five such planned venues around the country, with V&A being the first and Durban’s Pavilion up next. Currently 4DX is available in 182 auditoriums across 34 countries, with CJ 4DPLEX aiming up that number to 300 auditoriums by mid-2016.
- So what is 4DX?
In a nutshell, it’s a much more tactile movie viewing experience as the cinema is rigged with seats that can move and shake along with the action on-screen, lights that brightly illuminate the area in accordance with big explosions, water spray nozzles mounted on the back of the seat in front of you which squirt you with a fine mist to simulate water conditions, fans installed around the cinema and on your seats to create wind effects, smoke machines in the front to create fog effects, and even a nozzle mounted underneath the seat which lets out a choice of 11 different smells to simulate the environments seen on screen… and farts. Yes, it really does fart smells.
Here’s a little promo video giving you a taste of it.
- Does it work?
For the most part, the 4D effect is quite cool. When the opening text scrawl appeared on-screen for The Force Awakens, my seat started subtly tilting back to follow the scrolling text. And when the camera panned around to track some action, my seat panned along with it to very neat effect. Massive Star Destroyer’s engines rumbling on-screen? Be prepared to feel that rumble in your spine as well. When a character was caught in a desert sandstorm, I was also getting blasted by gusts of wind. When a spaceship just barely crested a sea, sending water everywhere, not only did I feel that spray on my face, but I smelled that salty air as well. There was even a genius moment where a character was zapped on-screen with an electric shock, and a highly concentrated thin blast of air hit me in the exact same spot on my body, jolting me in my seat. Oh and be prepared to be shaken around like a ragdoll when a big explosion rocks the screen.
All in all, it’s very impressive and certainly makes for a visceral experience. It’s just too visceral at times. To produce the hectic winds needed in some sections of the movie, the fans are cranked up high. And as you should know, powerful fans are loud, meaning that every time they’re used they’re accompanied by a highly distracting roar coming from the walls.
The biggest culprit though is the seat shaking effect. There’s a reason why 4DX does not allow children under 5 or pregnant women, as the seats really do shake you like you’re in an earthquake. More than a few other patrons around me were looking to see if there were seatbelts (there aren’t). You also cannot hold anything on your lap, least of all popcorn, as everything will be sent flying in every direction imaginable after the first violent seizure. And it’s annoying!
It wouldn’t be too bad if only used for the most kinetic of explosions or crashes, but instead the shaking is cranked out every time anything just touches something else. Spaceship dogfights and stormtrooper shootouts will already see the fillings shaken straight out of your teeth as you get bounced around whenever there’s a hit, but hell, even lightsaber battles features a hectic shake every single time blades just make contact.
It’s unnecessary, over the top and completely ruins whatever immersion the other effects build up. This is most definitely an instance where “less is more” should have been employed.
- Would you recommend it?
Here’s where things get tricky. I would most definitely recommend people check it out, as it really is a cool idea – which would be better if they just reined in that damn shaking! That being said, you shouldn’t view this as a filmgoing experience though, but rather as two-hour long amusement park ride that happens to have a Star Wars movie attached to it. It’s too intrusive and gimmicky to allow you to truly get swept up in the movie’s narrative or characters which will certainly ruin some key emotional moments.
But if you’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens the traditional way already, and want to check it out again with a brand new experience, then would I most definitely say go for it. Especially for the younger kids, who should get a literal kick out of it.
- How much does it cost?
4DX screening tickets are R150 per person (in comparison, IMAX 3D is R110, while Nu Metro’s Scene is R120), and excludes traditional non-IMAX 3D glasses (which you can purchase at the cinema or use your own).
Currently Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the only movie being offered in the country in 4DX, but it would certainly be interesting to see how future titles make use of this technology.
Last Updated: December 24, 2015