Sean Larney: Some Thoughts on the 4D Experience

Nowadays, there are many advances in technology which wouldn’t have been dreamt of in the days when our parents were getting their college degrees. Phones are now portable, but more than that, you don’t even have to speak to people if you don’t want to – a text covers all the necessary bases, and if you want to say something a bit risky, a smiley at the end acts as an insurance policy. Then there are cameras, apps and ringtones. Phones double as MP3 players to make the anti-social behavior complete.

Then there are E-Readers. People are no longer content to go to their local library and dig through old dusty tomes to find what they’re looking for. Not when you can sit at home trying to work the internet online paying system and use a touchscreen simultaneously. But it’s all ok, because at the end of this odious task you’re holding thousands of books in the palm of your hand (even if it does take half an hour to find the one you want).

But by far the most money-grubbing technological advancement in recent times (in this writer’s humble opinion) is the advent of the 4D cinematic experience. 4D, for those who are unfamiliar, attempts to bring the spectator into the film so they live it, rather than merely watching it. It sounds brilliant, but really it’s just an excuse for filmmakers to mess with/scare the daylights out of their audience. There is no other purpose.

During the summer, I went to see a short 4D film entitled ‘Shrek: Lord Farquaad’s Return’ in which the diminutive lecher (Farquaad) enters as a ghost (following, of course, his demise at the taloned hands of  Donkey’s  ball and flame at the end of the first film) and attempts to bring Fiona to live with him forever in Purgatory.

The seats in a 4D cinema are equipped with seatbelts. Seatbelts. In a cinema. So not only are you going to attempt to see through used and filthy 3D glasses, but you’re going to do so, as your guide (wrapped in an extra-large children’s knight  costume)  informs you, with the floor moving beneath you, unable to get a regular breathing pattern going because the belt digs into your stomach continually. Excellent.

The lights dim and the film begins. We see Shrek and Donkey happily celebrating the demise of Shrek’s life as a bachelor, with Dragon, Donkey’s other half, following. As they amble up the street, Donkey sneezes at the screen. Immediately, the audience is sprayed with (if the ideals of suspension of disbelief are to be upheld) Donkey boogers. Nothing like a bit of realism. (Really it’s just water, don’t worry folks!) At this moment, a horse and rider appear on the road ahead and coerce Shrek and Donkey down the dark, misty path ahead with tales of Fiona’s imminent death at the hands of Farquaad. (The details escape me; at this point I was still busy wiping Donkey’s nasal excrement from my face.)

So Shrek, Donkey and Dragon follow the nameless rider down the dark road. (The seats in the cinema gallop along painfully beneath us, disregarding any attempt by us to enjoy the camera angles, or other such elements.) As they turn a corner, the rider disappears, and we see a rickety bridge leading to the godforsaken spit of land the ghost, Farquaad, calls home. Suddenly, a large, black dragon appears, breathing fire like there’s no tomorrow, puffing his chest out to emphasize his superiority over Mrs. Donkey. A lash of flame just misses Shrek and Donkey, and in keeping with the realism, real flames jet from on high somewhere in the theatre, cooking the left side of my face. If they’re going to do that, they should at least warn you to BRING SUN CREAM so you don’t all leave the cinema looking like the cast of the next Batman movie, Batman 4: Two Face was a Player. Who Knew?

Of course, Donkey’s new wife creams our new foe in five minutes (Hell hath no fury, and all that) and they advance onto the island where they find Fiona, somewhat peeved by the extent of Farquaad’s success and looking rather bored. Predictably, Fiona is rescued and they all live happily ever after (except the audience, who have seatbelt marks, burns, and Donkey phlegm for souvenirs). In short, 4D is a fun day out, but I’d recommend sitting at home with chocolate, tea and the good old 2D version. Much safer. And less disgusting.

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