Godzilla is a franchise larger than life (both in terms of the title character and the breadth of films made with the iconic daikaiju-hero), and this makes the largeness of the spectacle something special in the right format. This could not be truer of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which has a collection of monsters to behold, as homage to the original Toho Studio films that the Legendary has adopted into their “MonsterVerse” (Kong is absent from this one, to be seen in a show-off teased during this film’s post-credit sequence), including King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra. Along with the integration of additional giant monsters from the Japanese counterpart, the film cleverly includes the use of the original weapon used to destroy Godzilla in the classic 1954 film
Godzilla: King of the Monsters also seems to borrow its structure from the Toho Godzilla films, building the narrative of the battling monsters through the lens of the human characters as they attempt countermeasures. There are a lot of moments that true Godzilla fans will appreciate, while also providing plenty of excessive monster action for those patient enough to sit through the human dialogue (which relies heavily on one-liners and the audience’s ability to accept outlandish character motivations). While I would love to go into greater detail with a deeper analysis of the film, or at least a complete review of the narrative, I will save that for another time and focus instead on the review of the 4DX elements alone.
It is important to note that not all 4DX theaters offer the same experience. Although each theater is provided with the same coding for the movement and effects, created by technicians to match up with the action onscreen, there may be variation from theater to theater in terms of what effects are available. For instance, while the CGV Cinemas I have visited have seats that move and vibrate, they do not have the other interactive features, such as the leg ticklers and any movement/interactivity on the upper back, which are available in the Regal 4DX theaters.
For the full effect, I would recommend researching your local 4DX theater to see how they are equipped, to make sure you experience as many elements as are available. With that being said, it is also dependent on individual theater maintenance, even within preferred chains. I have been to two public 4DX screenings where the water function did not work in my seat, and the snow effect was also lackluster in one screening due to a shortage of the bubbles which create the effect. As with every film-going experience these days, audiences must simply be aware that they are being provided what they paid for, and rewarding properly managed theaters with regular patronage.
This is especially true of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which makes use of pretty much every available effect in the 4DX universe. There were moments within the film that effects lacked some consistency (primarily, it seems, not to overdo some of the more jarring elements), but any stumbling along the way is forgotten in the film’s moments of excitement.
Effect 1: Motion and Vibration
Easily the most recognizable element of the 4DX experience is the seats that move and even vibrate to simulate the experiences onscreen. The vibration comes into play anytime we enter a vehicle, often paired with the movement of the seats. There is some time spent in vehicles (cars, helicopters, planes, and boats), but the most dramatic movement in this particular film comes in the form of city-destroying battles. This means being tossed around by the seats as Godzilla is being tossed around by his opponents, but it also means feeling the ground-shaking movement from the perspective of the humans as fighting monsters lay cities to rubble. It is far less smooth of an experience as some of the other films I have seen in the format, but it adds to the intensity of narrative. While other films spend a lot of their movement tying us to the experiences of the protagonists, Godzilla: King of the Monsters makes it feel like the entire theater is being destroyed along with the cities.
Effect 2: Back Attacks
Helping with that direct identification is the effect that actually hits the back of the audience. It is more of a poke than a hit, protruding somewhere hidden beneath the padding of the chair’s back, effective not for the pain it causes but rather the shock from an unexpected assault. There are times that this is used to simulate a blow, and occasionally it is used to simulate the impact of Godzilla being thrown to the ground. The only difficulty with this effect is one of connection; most of the time, we are feeling the blows that Godzilla is taking, but there was also a moment that the back effect was used when a villainous monster was impaled. While the effect is no less cool, the random connection to characters is occasionally distracting.
Effect 3: Air Blasts
Mostly used for the military responses, the air blasts located in the headrest of the seats are used throughout the film to simulate bullets, missiles, and other weapons used in an effort to battle the monsters. This is one effect that can become tiresome with overuse, as was the case with John Wick 3 (the novelty wore off over the two-hour film), but Godzilla uses it sparingly, and carefully spread out over the film. There is also an air burst that comes from the front, hitting you in the face during dramatic moments. This feature is also often paired with water, discussed in a section below.
Effect 4: Leg Ticklers
The leg ticklers are a couple of moving tubes (or air blasts) that hit your legs to simulate movement. I can imagine they would be perfect for a horror movie involving creatures moving around underfoot, but they have the unique and singular purpose of simulating falling debris during several city-destroying sequences in the film. This is another feature that was not heavily overused, making those moments even more effective.
Effect 5: Water Elements
Another perk of the Regal 4DX is the option to turn off the water features, for those who prefer not getting even marginally wet. This may be especially important for viewers attending Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 4D, as it seems that nearly every large battle takes place either in the rain or at sea (occasionally both), leading to more water effects than even Aquaman had. Paired with the wind, a few of these rainy sequences even had me shivering slightly. Along with the rain effects, there is also occasionally water included in the front air blast: this is mostly used to simulate gross things, like Mothra sneezing on the audience.
Element 6: Floodlights
Used to simulate lightning and explosions, there are large floodlights that flash on the sides near the front of the screen. There are rainstorms that use this effect in Godzilla, but even more effective than the lightning is the explosions used in numerous scenes of extreme spectacle. And even better than the explosions are the moments when Godzilla’s power surges so much that it seems to extend (with momentarily blinding light) into the theater itself.
Element 7: Wind
The wind elements are heavily used in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, whether due to the storms that King Ghidorah is able to create or in order to simulate the movement in the various vehicles humans use to track the monsters. Again, for this film, I highly recommend wearing a sweatshirt, because the wind can get a bit chilly, especially when paired with water elements. The wind is also used to clear the smoke effects from obscuring the screen for too long.
Element 8: Smoke
With as many explosions as this film has, it is a wonder that the fog machine used to simulate smoke was ever turned off. There were times that were better than others, but this effect played heavily into the immersive experience of seeing Godzilla in 4DX. It is the combination of vibration, movement, light, and smoke that so effectively simulates the feeling of being in the middle of a not-so-natural disaster.
Element 9: Snow
Hardly the most subtle of the effects, the snow can be either completely magical or unfortunately distracting. In Godzilla it is a little bit of both, partially because the film uses the effect multiple times. At the same time, there were moments that the scene was in snow and the effect wasn’t utilized, which can make the moments feel a bit random. I imagine it would work best in a film having a slow or romantic moment in the snow, but Godzilla is mostly concerned with the urgency with which the humans travel through the elements on their way to a more important destination. This feels somewhat contradictory with the strange beauty of having it snow indoors (the effect is accomplished with the use of bubbles).
Element 10: Scent
I’ve long had problems with this effect. Honestly, I’m just never sure if I’ve smelled what I am supposed to smell. When I saw Avengers: Endgame in 4DX, I randomly smelled something sweet during a scene outside. In John Wick 3, I think I smelled something once or twice, but it is difficult when everyone around you is eating popcorn, nachos, and hot dogs. Godzilla: King of the Monsters may be the first film where I am certain that I smelled things, even though I still wasn’t entirely able to distinguish what the smells were (except that I did get a whiff of strawberries during one forest sequence).
Some of the 4DX films I have seen help in making the audience members feel larger than life (particularly the superhero ones, which have audience simulating flight and other powers), but Godzilla: King of the Monsters has the opposite effect. It made me feel small, but that is because the film and the action on it feel that much larger with the elements of 4DX. While not as dramatic as seeing King Kong in the Universal Studios backlot tour, this is as close to that experience as you are likely to find in a movie theater.