If you see The Batman in the cinema, don’t watch it in IMAX 4DX

Robert Battinson doesn’t fly, he falls in style.
gif: Warner Bros. / The New York Times / Kotaku

As an unexcused bat cat Shipper and a sucker for movie trailers Use Nirvana songs effectivelysee The Batman was not a question of “if” but of “when”. However, I got more than I expected when I mistakenly bought tickets to see Matt Reeve’s new Bruceman film in an obscure format called 4DX.

4DX, if you’re unfamiliar with this weird film format, is a “Immersive” sensual cinematic experience in which on-screen events, particularly things like weather and action scenes, are synchronized to belch out real smoke, dazzle you with lights, blow air at your head and, perhaps worst of all, lurch around your hydraulically-charged seat you ride a bronco. I know what you’re probably wondering: how to mistakenly buy movie tickets in 4DX? Was it worth it? And how important is reading to the human experience?

A week before seeing the movie, my friend Cade and I decided to take a break and watch the almost three-hour superhero epic at IMAX. However, we waited until release week to grab tickets, which was our first mistake. When I went searching, it became difficult to find seats next to each other. When I hurriedly looked for nearby IMAX screenings, I found one that was about to sell out with two adjacent seats left. Had the stars aligned? I quickly bought the tickets and tragically missed the little “4DX” appended after “IMAX”.

My first clue that we weren’t in for a run-of-the-mill IMAX theater experience came when we sat down and noticed a strange glowing text on our cup holders that read “water on” and “water off.” I assumed like an idiot that this must have been one of those neat drink-cooling doodads. But as the trailers rolled in, my mistake became obvious. Suddenly, our chairs started rocking, which resulted in someone two rows in front of us expressing my surprise by shouting, “Holy shit!” My eyes quickly darted to the huge 4DX logo that adorned the walls of the theater, causing me to twist my face in embarrassment.

“Did you know you bought 4DX tickets?” Cade whispered urgently.

“No, but now I regret not getting high before I came.” I didn’t realize it was an even worse idea.

To be fair, not every 4DX element by The Batman was oppressive. One of the better parts of our viewing experience came from Batman’s first fight scene when he brutally knocks out a few Darby Allin-looking jerks (you can see this in the Movie trailer). We felt every bone-crushing punch and fluid takedown as our chairs shook frantically as Batman’s nice villains rose from ass to appetite.

However, the rest of the 4DX experience was annoying to stick with. Footage of Gotham’s downpour (of which there were many) was accompanied by a mist that would spray down from above our seats. Mind you, this happened every time a rain shower appeared on screen, often multiple times in the same scene. Additionally, the aforementioned “water on/off” buttons also seemed to control blasts of air that shot over our ears whenever Batman was shot. This 4DX gimmick was more immersion-breaking than enriching, which led to Cade and I quickly shutting it down.

Even the most innocuous on-screen impact, whether it’s a knock on a door or driving over Chicago’s many potholes, felt like a child kicking the backs of our chairs on a nearly three-hour flight. Instead of Batman’s struggles causing us to lean forward in our chairs in anticipation, everyone ducked and braced for the impact, preparing for our seats to fling us violently to the beat of Batman’s warpath. I’m sorry to say that the 4DX gimmick started to bother me about 30 minutes into the movie and this was a nearly 3 hour movie.

Annoying chair twitches aside, I’d argue that all those awkwardly translated film-to-reality bits from our 4DX The Batman Experiences were quickly overshadowed by the Batmobile scene. Before the Batmobile was even on screen, we felt its engine rev up under our seats, gradually increasing in intensity as it slowly teased. Our chairs should have come with seat belts because when the chase finally got serious, our theater became a roller coaster at Universal Studios.

I held my mug for my life as our seats swayed in sync with Batman’s ride. I whispered to Cade that we were lucky that our seats only gave us Batman’s perspective during the chase, only to be rudely interrupted by Penguin’s car rollover, and in turn our seats did their best to emulate that experience without the Regal City North was sued. By the time The BatmanThe credits were rolling, Cade’s hat had fallen off their heads three times, and all of our neighboring viewers’ popcorn was strewn down the aisles like pearls from Martha Wayne’s necklace.

Despite my first viewing of The Batman Distorted by watching in 4DX, I walked out of the cinema with a new favorite Batman movie. The film felt like one of the Arkham games on the big screen; I could practically see Rocksteady’s counter-prompts during his high-octane action sequences. But more than that, I appreciated watching Batman go through an actual character arc and learning that there’s more to being the hero Gotham deserves than just being revenge personified.

Battle-hardened by my 4DX experience, I came up with the idea that we should venture onto a different one for the upcoming 4DX show Fast & Furious. I think something that light and airy would make for a far better 4DX experience than The Batman, a grounded, more serious film that took a hit on Immersion and Gravitas whenever my hydraulic seat decided to go into orbit. Whether I can convince Cade, who is now seriously considering an acupuncture appointment, to accept me is still an open question that.


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