I was recently invited to the press preview showing of ‘Fast and Furious 6’ at the UAE’s first 4DX film theatre. 4DX technology, launched originally in 2009 in Seoul, augments the regular viewing experience with environmental features including motion, scents, air-jets, etc.
A film like ‘Fast 6’ lends itself well to this enhanced film-going experience – the revving engines vibrate beneath you, bursts of air simulate the gunshots whizzing by characters’ ears, and panning landscape shots find you swaying from side to side. In the UAE, as of now, less than a handful of films are being shown in 4DX – ‘Thor: The Dark World’, ’47 Ronin’ and ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’, along with ‘Fast 6’. At the press preview, Cameron Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas said that the intention was to release new films in the coming seasons in all formats, including 4DX.
I then, by coincidence, came across this article on the BBC website. It highlights a revolutionary concept for filmgoers – Future Cinema. Conceived by Fabien Riggal in 2005, Future Cinema essentially makes you a participating member of the film, allowing you to interact with actors playing beloved characters, with visuals projected on to walls for added effects. So far, so good – we are unlikely to suffer from anything close to holo-addiction, then.
Riggal states that with the advancement of technology we have become more disconnected when it comes to film-going. How often do we watch films on our own on whatever device we have? I tend to go to the theatre a fair amount compared to most people I know, but I spend more time watching films on my laptop – on my own.
The whole point of something like Future Cinema is about connecting people, reiterating that community instinct filmgoers used to have. It also emphasises the wish of viewers to no longer be just that – passive viewers sitting on a couch. Films have become more about the film experience, hence the advent and success of 3D films. Which, in some way, explains the introduction of 4DX (and in some countries, 5/7DX), as well as Future Cinema. We edge closer and closer to the ‘Star Trek’ concept of the Holodeck, where a story isn’t just a story, it’s an experience and an adventure that you live and participate in.
Since I grew up watching ‘Star Trek’, I obviously love the concept of the Holodeck. Already, Microsoft is working towards the creation of holo-technology with its Illumiroom concept. They’ve advanced gaming with the stable Kinect feature for Xbox, thereby making gaming more than just a passive hobby. Cinema will inevitably attempt to follow suit, though how successfully remains to be seen.
When I think of films, I usually equate it with the term ‘magic’. I know, it’s old-school thinking, but there was a wonder attached to my favourite films that appears to be almost gone now. Promotion of films nowadays means spoiler-filled trailers, TV spots, press junkets, character videos, etc. And these are released months in advance so by the time the film comes around you know everything that will happen in it, what the action pieces look like and how everything was created. I firmly believe that studios are losing out on a lot with their promotional methods.
And let’s not start with the quality of films. If you watch three action films in a row, you’ll notice that the bullet, spear, sword and optical projectile are all filmed in the same fashion, and cause the same amount of destruction too.
With technology enabling us to experience cinema in a variety of new ways, it makes me wonder what film may end up sacrificing in its lieu. Would the inclusion of immersive cinema affect the quality of films? If yes, is that good or bad?
I enjoyed my first 4DX experience. It’s definitely fun, if a bit alarming at first (especially when you’re partway through sipping your soda). However, it is inevitably distracting – or perhaps that is the fault of the editing in the car chases. But, the question is, will I go back again? At the current price, I probably wouldn’t. It’s much too high, and at times too distracting. I find 3D frustrating (though strangely addictive), so 4DX is likely to be lower on my list.
So, while I’m all for immersive cinema, and actually do look forward to my own personal Holodeck, my worry is that the magic of cinema will continue to be missing. If I know what’s coming, where’s the surprise? Show me the behind the scenes footage after the film has released. Make the cast interviews more about teasers, rather than spoilers. Edit the trailers so that they entice, not inform. Studios need to focus on who they’re making films for, and not on what they’re making them for (money).
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