With the advent of Thursday evening releases of movies, the anticipation of waiting for a midnight showing early on a Friday morning has long since been killed — leaving me to look for movie theater thrills in new places. So, when the 11-buildup to “Avengers: End Game” was finally over, I found myself in a 4DX theater at Edwards Mira Mesa for the first time.
The format combines 3D visuals with immersive effects that draw the viewer into the action. Imagine if when you watched “Star Wars” for the first time, a blast into hyperspace meant you were flung back into the seat the same way Han Solo and Luke Skywalker were. In addition to synchronized motion chairs, central San Diego’s first 4DX theater sports environmental effects like water, wind, fog, scent and snow.
While many theaters are turning to more comfort and amenities to get people out of their arm chairs at home to enjoy the costly recliners at a theater complete with servers carrying pitchers of beer and fanciful food, 4DX is more about replicating a theme park experience than anything you would find in the comfort of your living room.
Instead of being comfortable, the chairs are actually hard and cannot recline. I thought sitting for a three-hour movie in that state could get uncomfortable, but soon I was paying too much attention to the action of the movie to be wishing I was relaxed in a recliner.
The motion chairs contribute the most to the experience. In addition to moving in time with the space ships, it also means you are being bumped around during fist fights. Although, at first I was concerned the motion would tear my eyes away from the movie during an important action sequence, it turned out to make those sequences more interesting as I felt some of what my favorite characters were going through. When a superhero tumbled after being kicked in the gut, the violent movements of my seat made it feel like I was the one being flung.
The most annoying effect was definitely the water works. I disliked my face being sprinkled when there was blood splatter on screen and my hair getting wet when it was raining. Luckily, there is a button on the chair’s armrest to turn off the water (and I definitely would have pushed it if I weren’t writing this review).
My only other complaint was the hissing sound made by the wind effects, which I thought interfered with the soundtrack of the movie. Otherwise, the 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminating in that 4DX theater with the original actors giving their farewell performances was the most fun way for it to end.
4DX technology has been used all over the world at this point, with six million attendees globally in the first quarter of 2019. This is good news for the flailing theater industry, as 4DX theaters bring in significantly more revenue.
At a little more than $25 for an adult ticket, only the upper tier of action movies that use the extra effects compellingly would justify me paying for this experience.
If you want to view something visually stunning, you should still go to the movies at the Fleet Science Center or see a movie in IMAX. If you want a trip to the movies to be an all-encompassing experience, go see a movie in 4DX.