By James Hancock June 24th, 2016
If you’ll forgive a little hyperbole on my part, I have a new enemy in this world and its name is 4DX. I just saw Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence in a screening room upgraded to the 4DX experience and I’m going on record as saying it was the worst moviegoing experience I have ever had. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, 4DX is an technological export from South Korea that adds wind, smells, flashing lights and moving chairs to the theater experience, perhaps out of some misguided effort to distract moviegoers from realizing just how awful the movie being projected in front of them might actually be. I was eager to experience 4DX firsthand but after a few minutes I got out of my seat to sit on the stairs beside me. Put bluntly, the process adds nothing to the story and only serves to jolt the viewer out of the movie every few seconds ruining whatever immersive experience the viewer might hopefully be having. I can safely say I would rather be in a theater filled with people talking and texting on their phones with somebody behind me kicking my seat while simultaneously choking me with their farts and halitosis before I would ever buy a ticket to a 4DX screening again. Since the dawn of cinema in the late 19th century, hucksters have tried a variety of gimmicks to lure people to the theater. In 1959, William Castle famously introduced the short-lived phenomenon Percepto which added electric shocks to some chairs at screenings of The Tingler. The flip side of these gimmicks are genuine innovations such as the addition of sound to movies, wider aspect ratios and VFX. These tools have been incorporated brilliantly in ways that give filmmakers far more options with which to tell their stories and they are all thankfully here to stay. 4DX, on the other hand, is a very limited bag of tricks that attempts to turn roller coaster movies into actual roller coasters, and piss poor ones at that. If 4DX becomes the new norm, I will retire from going to movie theaters permanently. Now that I have that rant out of my system, I can move on to reviewing the movie.
When I first saw the trailer to Emmerich’s sequel to his 1996 film Independence Day, a movie that played a large role in sparking the late Nineties event movie boom, I rightly assumed that the new movie would essentially be the exact same movie as the first one but with some changes in cast and some improvements in special effects. After seeing the trailer I remember thinking to myself that Independence Day: Resurgence could be the least anticipated sequel ever made. Was there some market research that claimed there was a demographic clamoring for a return to this universe? I seriously doubt it. Be that as it may, some folks have sentimental love for the first one, and I figured I should check out this movie if only to have an informed opinion about where Roland Emmerich stands as a filmmaker today. This new film is neither better nor worse than the first and offers no surprises of any kind. I’m almost impressed by how deliberate an effort was made not to surprise the audience with any new material. Apart from a few minor wrinkles in the plot, Independence Day: Resurgence is basically the exact same movie as the first but with a fresh coat of paint. Perhaps it will be embraced by a new generation of fans but my suspicion is that this movie will only play well with those people who want to be reminded of the glee they felt watching the White House explode so convincingly twenty years ago. It is easy to forget just how groundbreaking that shot was back in the day and what an effective piece of marketing it was for a film that had very little else to offer. So as you can probably gather, this movie is not for me but I might have had some fun if not for the loathsome 4DX experience that I paid for like a complete fool. The good news is (I hope) that in the future, no matter what terrible movie I might be watching or what horrible, selfish behavior might be demonstrated by my fellow moviegoers, the experience will never be as bad as the one I had today. Onwards and upwards.
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