Typically the films I am most excited about experiencing in 4DX are the ones that promise the widest variety of effects. Sure, it is nice to have the seats move, but that is pretty a much a constant through most 4DX experiences. The additional effects like snow, rain, or fog machine only occur at key moments, making their use that much more impactful. With that being said, I was sold on seeing Ford v Ferrari in 4DX after seeing the trailer in the format, and it was able to convince me with the use of seat motion alone. Some of the other effects are used sparingly, but the primary reason for seeing this film in the immersive format of 4DX is for the experience of feeling every gear shift, acceleration, and curve in the road, through the motion of the seats.
The trailer sold me on the experience, and it did its job by showing the most impressive moments of 4DX presentation. While those moments are still spectacular, they are spread out over a 152-minute run-time rather than a 2-minute trailer. This is truly a different experience than seeing a superhero film in 4DX, because those films tend to have wall-to-wall spectacle. Ford v Ferrari has some spectacularly intense action sequences within the races, but it is still an award-season character drama above all-else. This means that the acting and the development of the characters are often more important than keeping the audience constantly entertained. This is not to say that watching the banter between Matt Damon and Christian Bale is not entertaining, but it is a form of entertainment with little need for additional elements.
While there are entire scenes that don’t utilize the 4DX elements at all, this may come as a welcome break for some audience members. It allows for the motion of the racing to be more impactful, and it also allow respite from the movement, which can be significant when the film is two-and-a-half hours long. It didn’t feel that long, however, and that likely has a lot to do with the steady rhythm of the film. Although I don’t see myself making a habit out of seeing award-season films in 4DX, this particular release feels uniquely designed for those wanting more realism in their 4DX experience.
Effect 1: Motion and Vibration
As mentioned, this is the effect used most effectively (and most often) in the presentation of Ford v Ferrari. There are a few moments that the seats really toss you around to simulate bumpy rides and the occasional crash. For the most part, however, this film focuses more on realism than a full-on roller coaster experience. There is attention to detail beyond just the motion simulating the feeling of taking a hard turn in a fast car. There is the rumble of the engines in the vibration of the seat, with variations depending on the car and the engine. Some vehicles even give the occasional pop of a car backfiring. This is the reason to see this in 4DX, with the remaining effects as subtle support.
Effect 2: Back Effects
There are few reasons to utilize the back effects, which can simulate contact in a fight sequence. Ford v Ferrari does have a fight, and uses the effect for subtle reinforcement of impact, but it is never obtrusive or showy in a way that might detract from the film itself.
Effect 3: Air Blasts
There were quite a few air blasts in the presentation of the film, but like the back effects, they are never used at full power. Instead, they seem to be just brief spurts of air to quickly sell moments. The fans are used far more in simulating the forward motion.
Effect 4: Leg Ticklers
The leg ticklers are a couple of moving tubes (or some variation) that hit your legs to simulate movement. They were used during one sequence when the car goes off of the road, to simulate the rocks and dirt being thrown up. It doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, but it was a nice surprise to help sell the moment.
Effect 5: Water Elements
While there isn’t a lot of rain in the film, there are a few sequences near the end. This was either another of the effects that was kept subtle or the water wasn’t quite working in my theater, but I did feel a few drops.
Element 6: Floodlights
Often utilized to simulate lightning and explosions, there are large floodlights that flash on the sides near the front of the screen. There was one of those moments in Ford v Ferrari, though I am pretty sure they were used to simulate flashing bulbs the moment a car is crossing the finish line.
Element 7: Wind
The wind elements are used to simulate forward motion in this film. While it was never overwhelming, the fans do help to sell the motion of the seats more convincingly. I was further from the screen than I normally am, so it is possible the fans were weaker further back.
Element 8: Smoke/Fog Effects
There are a few explosions in the film, and these are often paired with smoke effects, which fill the theater before the fans clear it away. During the first explosion, there was a good amount of smoke. For every explosion that followed, the smoke was weaker and weaker, leading me to believe the theater may have been experiencing some difficulties. If not, they have limited the amount of smoke, which makes it so that the screen is never fully obscured, but the effects are also less effective as a result.
While I enjoyed the film and thought the 4DX helped enhance many scenes, the real winner behind this is the marketing behind the enhanced trailer. This was the first time I felt that I needed to see a film in 4DX to fully appreciate it, much in the way I had felt about Avatar and 3D. If 4DX continues to market films this way (as well as finding a way to get non-4DX audience members to experience it) the popularity of the format is sure to rapidly increase.