Despite my own philosophy and purely out of a sense of internet etiquette, I will say now, some slight spoilers ahead.
Star wars, The Force awakens, was released in China on the 9th of January 2016 and was my first cinematic experience in China. I had previously attempted to see The Martian in cinema, but was discouraged by the fact that the movie was in 3D. I tired to see it, but I refused to compromise on this point. EVERY theatre in the country was showing it in 3D, and I figured I could wait until the movie was released on the Pirate Bay.
I’m one of the many people who hate 3d movies. I don’t find them to be more immersive. In fact, I find the opposite to be the case. Nothing drags me out of a movie like wondering why everything is a bit blurry and not exactly on the screen. Also, something about forcing something into the foreground makes everything in the background look particularly funny, specifically when you have a long shot with many things at varying distances into the background.
So how can you make 3D movies worse? Make them 4D. Prior to this experience I actually had no idea whatsoever what a 4D movie was. I was told that my chair would “move around”. Didn’t strike me as the greatest idea, and I voted against it.
Come the day of the showing, I discovered that the 4D tickets had been purchased. Well I could have grumbled about it, but I decided to make the best of it and go in.
Now that it’s over, I plan on grumbling about it.
Walking into the theater I found the seats to be oddly spaced and strangely elevated, a fact that didn’t immediately register the forthcoming consequences. I took a seat, chatted with my friends, but the 3D glasses over my standard glasses (for some of that hot glasses on glasses action) and waited for the movie to start. Soon I was watching the initial Star Wars text scroll, and wondering why the words where just a little bit raised off the screen. So far, not so irritating. Then, we got our first shots of the planet where the first scenes took place, and suddenly my chair leaned towards the screen. It did, for a brief second give me the impression of falling towards the planet, yet I somehow don’t think this is the effect JJ Abrams was going for. I’m pretty sure he never said to himself “and in the opening scene, the audience should have momentary vertigo”.
Thankfully, I don’t suffer from sea-sickness.
Well, soon enough we got to the first action scene and the 4D technology decided to show me what it was worth. Every time someone shot a gun towards the screen the chairs would rock violently, as if pained by the action. Every time onscreen debris would fly camera-ward, air canisters beneath our feet would spray up, doing little more for me than make an irritating noise. Explosions were accompanied by bright flashes from bulbs within the theater. Every now and again, at intervals that to me seemed more random than otherwise, something incorporated into the chair I was sitting in would prod me, rather forcefully, in the back. Later in some of the dog fight scenes one would feel a cold blast of compressed air, right in the face, every time an aircraft would make a sweeping pass directly in front of the camera. This for me was perhaps the straw that broke the camels back; who in the world had the wonderful idea of making the cinema periodically ejaculates in your face? This particular effect seemed to increase in frequency as the movie went on, and I recall thinking at some point “Yea, nothing will immerse the moviegoer like giving them the a Brazzers finale every few minutes.”
Well, the Gods of cruel irony and regrettable statements were certainly listening, because towards the movies end I was to receive the 4D cinema’s coup de grace. Once the protagonists land on the thing they have to blow up because this is after all a Star Wars movie, the theater decided to activate the snow machines rigged to the ceiling of the cinema. For a few brief seconds, it was snowing in the cinema, and in that I live in China and the water quality here is dreadful, this was a bit worrying. Thankfully the protagonists didn’t stay outside for too long, and the machine’s shut off. That is, until the climatic scene where heroes must confront villain because Joseph Campbell. This scene did take place outside, and so the snow blowers went on to full effect. And just as I was sitting there with baited breath (I at this point really needed to use the bathroom) watching the light-saber fight, the two largest globs of snow imaginable landed right on my glasses. Now, the first one only managed a glancing blow, getting me right on the surface of the 3D glasses and quickly melting in view ruining drop of water. But the other one floating goblet of falling snow, this was the one that turned off its guidance system, used the force, shot its photon torpedoes into the wamp-rat sized exhaust port and managed to explode the Death Star of my movie viewing experience (fap to that extended metaphor, fanboys!). This little snowflake that could managed to get itself between my two pairs of glasses (because remember; the genius that is 3D movies necessitates HOT GLASSES ON GLASSES ACTION) and landed firmly on the inner most pair of glasses. I was blinded. Now, due to a lack of foresight, I left my leather jacket on during the showing, so my shirt (the default glasses cleaner of the perpetually unclean) was slightly out of reach. I unzipped the jacket, untucked the shirt, removed and polished glasses one, removed and polished glasses two, put both back on and found the climactic fight scene to be over. You win this round, 4D cinema.
4D cinema does its best to mimic the actions happening on screen. In theory this sounds like it might be very cool, but unfortunately it was all very amateurish. It can’t be stated enough; the point of a movie is to render the viewer so immersed in what is happening on the screen that they forget that they are watching something on the screen. Well, imagine that you are trying to do this with someone kicking your chair, blowing in your face, and spitting on your glasses. Far from immersive, they’ve made the cinematic process inconsiderate. So much so that I barely noticed all the Chinese people answering phone calls and loudly chatting during the movie.
Only in one respect could it have been worse. I mentioned that whenever debris would fly on screen compressed air canisters would fire beneath our feet. Those canisters were firing pieces of debris into the air as well, but that debris wasn’t making it to our faces. It was hitting us in the legs, and in that I was wearing pants I didn’t feel it. My colleague who was wearing leggings on the other hand felt every pellet, and when the movie ended and the lights came back on she found her leggings to have been ruined.