Knock knock, open up the door, it’s real.
The ribbon is cut, my popcorn is half spilled on the floor and the magnificent scent of Benedict Cumberbatch is flowing through the nose holes of hundreds at Cineplex Entertainment’s 4DX Cinema at Yonge & Dundas in Toronto, the very first of its kind in Canada.
Last week, Cineplex invited a number of film writers to experience Marvel’s Doctor Strange in this quote unquote strange new format. While I won’t be reviewing Marvel’s new superhero film (you can read the great Rob Trench’s review here), I will be taking a look at the 4DX experience and If it’s worth your while. So what is 4DX?
Does anyone remember the James Bond 007: A Licence to Thrill ride at Canada’s Wonderland? Have you been on the It’s Tough to Be a Bug ride at Disney’s Magical Kingdom? Maybe the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Studios?
To simplify it, 4DX is an extra-long theme park ride version of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. During your ride, you’ll experience a variety of sensations, including motion, water, rain, fog, wind, vibration, air, lightning, bubbles*, scents, ticklers, rainstorms and snow.
Now the real question. Is it worth it?
Well… it’s complicated. The entire experience is a novelty, and while I completely understand why Cineplex is trying new things to get butts into their theatres, why can’t movies just BE movies? As I was sitting watching Doctor Strange for the first time, I kept thinking to myself how distracted I was and that I couldn’t focus on what was happening in the movie. Air is being blown in my face, snow is falling from the ceiling, and I’m getting jabbed in the back while Stephen Strange gets beat up.
The seats also move quite a bit – much more than the slight movements in D-BOX – and it’s fairly relentless throughout the entire runtime. There’s a reason these experiences are usually limited to a 10-minute theme park ride, as short disposable entertainment that’s more about how intense the experience is over the actual content being watched. When you engineer this into a two-hour film, it becomes a sensory overload that actually takes away from what you’re watching, instead of enhancing it. By the end of the movie, you’re a beaten, broken man or woman – it fundamentally changes how you’ll perceive what you just watched.
That said, I still recommend experiencing 4DX for yourself. Younger kids between the ages of eight and thirteen should have a blast and if you’re a curious adult, why not give it a shot? As 4DX is not the intended format for film viewing, my advice would be to try this on a second viewing of a movie you’ve already seen and enjoyed, or even save it for something completely ridiculous with a plot that you don’t really care to follow too closely. With major attractions like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and John Wick: Chapter Two soon to be seen in this format, its tailor-made for action-based extravaganzas with a relentless pace, and chock full of visually stimulating sequences.
In summation, it’s hard to justify the $25 price tag, especially for something that detracts from the actual experience of watching a movie the way we’re normally used to. Even though it was enjoyable for a few early moments, especially in the opening scene of Doctor Strange where Tilda Swinton battles a bevvy of baddies in a gravity-defying sequence, I felt sore and nauseous after two hours of assault on my senses. To me, this confirms that this type of ride shouldn’t leave the theme park.
Doctor Strange is now playing in 4DX at Cineplex Yonge & Dundas.
*I didn’t see any bubbles, but hopefully that’s in there for the next Fast & Furious movie. Maybe when Vin Diesel takes a bath or something.