Ever since my local Regal theater opened their brand new 4DX theater a few months back I have been seeing advertisements everywhere trying to entice me to pay a hefty $25 to be immersed into a movie unlike ever before. Promising a satisfying experience for all 5 of the senses I couldn't help but be interested in what this experience was like. Despite not enjoying most roller coasters or theme park rides I still was interested to see how these extra elements would affect the movie-going experience but it was far from a $25 level of interest so I never took the bait. However, as I saw more and more advertisements for the theater this interest stayed with me and when I got the chance to see Pokemon Detective Pikachu not just a little bit early but also in 4DX I jumped at the opportunity. The smell of a new car was the first thing to hit me as I entered the sleek black theater filled with chairs split into different sections. What followed was a crazy almost 2-hour experience that both really enhanced the movie for me but also seemed like a missed opportunity at times.
The basic premise of a 4DX is that it is a theater that provides 21 "Stunning Realistic Effects" that are supposed to engage 5 of your senses. The seats move to the motion of the film while smells and water shoot out at you corresponding to portions of the film. There are fog machines and special lights used to create an appropriate setting for the theater scene by scene. It also can create other effects such as snow and bubbles yet those were not featured during Detective Pikachu so I cannot speak on their quality or effectiveness. I will say that as far as bringing you into the movie's world this really didn't work at all. There was no point where I felt like I was actually in the movie but I think it succeeds on other levels. During huge moments of action, the theater does create a very unique and chaotic feeling that does actually enhance the action scenes. Where you don't feel like you are part of the actual action it does have a bigger impact because of the craziness happening around you in the theater and the seats moving you all around. It makes the action that could feel stale and boring much more interesting and unique though I feel like this could start to fade if you continued to go back to 4DX time and time again. I was also really happy in these more extreme moments that it was never difficult to pay attention to what was happening in the movie and it never made my motion sickness flair up which was one of my biggest concerns going into the showing as flashing lights and extreme movement normally leaves me throwing up in the nearest trash can. Though maybe even more impressive for me were the smaller things that the theater did especially for the movement of the seats. During smaller moments of cinematography such as when we pan over a landscape or around a character, the seats do small movements that made these small moments feel bigger than they would in a normal theater. I think this also will bring more appreciation for these moments from the general audience. The seats are also quite comfortable, they are much further than other theater seats and its no recliner, but compared to other normal theater seats they are a step ahead especially when they start moving.
As far as the weaker effects in the theater I will say the light machines did absolutely nothing for me. Stationed in the top corners of the theater having white strobe lights go off that are often not the same colors to the lights flashing in the movie just had me distracted and naturally looking away from the screen to see what was going on. The fog was also unneeded, where it wasn't quite as distracting as the lights but still were not nearly as effective as they mean it to be. In the specific case of Detective Pikachu these went off a lot when a gas that was a recurring part of the film came into play but in the movie the gas is purple, so having white fog didn't do anything as far as bringing us into the film. The scenes where the fog made sense also would end before the fog in the theater which was also distracting. I also didn't notice any smells during the film but I don't know if that was due to there not being any or them being too weak to notice from the row I was in as it appears to come from a bar lower down. On the bright side of things being in 3D wasn't too bad, being someone who needs glasses to see the screen having to wear 3D glasses over my normal prescription glasses normally is just terrible but it was a perfectly enjoyable experience this time around though that feels like more of a movie exclusive thing rather than a comment on the theater overall.
Overall I think the advertising of the 4DX theater being a new level of immersion that will put you into the film itself is just untrue, but I can't help but admit that I had a great time in the theater and it made the movie I was watching so much more memorable especially during the crazy action scenes. I think this would be an amazing way to view something like John Wick Chapter 3 coming out next week and am really interested how it would handle a more action driven movie than Detective Pikachu which only features a few major moments of the battle. So at the end of the day would I recommend you check this theater out if you live close to one, NO! It's literally $25 for a ticket, there is no theater experience worth that in my opinion but other than that I think the theater itself is really solid and might even beat Imax as my preferred theater depending on how it holds up in other movies.