Geostorm is not an homage to the 90's Isuzu vehicle. It is the feature film debut from Dean Devlin, the writer and producer of Independence Day. Much like that film and others in his portfolio, it is a big-budget disaster epic with state of the art visual effects. Warner Bros. did not screen Geostorm for critics. But I got a chance to see the movie as a promotional 4DX experience. This was my first time seeing anything in 4DX. It's pretty intense, much more immersive and volatile than expected. For this review, I'll recap the film briefly; describe the 4DX technology, and what it was like to watch a movie in this new format.
Geostorm takes place in the near future. Climate change has subjected the world to devastating meteorological events. Gerard Butler stars as Jake Lawson, a scientist who creates Dutch Boy, a series of interconnected satellites that can control weather. His younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), is a state department official who helped garner world support to build the device. Upon its completion, Jake is fired from Dutch Boy for his failure to follow orders. Three years later, Dutch Boy is about to be turned over to international control. The system starts experiencing glitches with catastrophic results. Max fears that Dutch Boy has somehow been compromised. He's forced to ask for his estranged brother's help, before the system causes a global catastrophe.
Geostorm is what you'd expect, bangs and whistles wrapped around a goofy plot. It's silly and illogical, but does deliver the special effects goods in spades. In short, a perfect movie to see in 4DX. The term refers to a 3D movie that has been enhanced with in-theater physical effects. The technology is owned and pioneered by the South Korean company, CJ 4DPLEX. They work with studios to add the 4D track to films. Then partner with theater chains to retrofit specific auditoriums. 4DX has three types of theater set-ups: deluxe, standard, and economy. I was able to see Geostorm in the 4DX Deluxe theater, which incorporates all 20 of their "signature effects".
4DX turns a movie into a theme park ride. And I'm not talking about the kiddy carousel, but a hardcore, twisting, turning, vibrating, mini-rollercoaster, where you actually get wet. I totally underestimated the depth of the experience. When you enter the theater, there's a clear warning about not proceeding if you have back problems or physical limitations. Take it seriously, the 4DX is not the massage chair in the mall. You notice immediately the seats are designed like theme park simulators. They are comfortable, but not for overly obese people. I'm a fatty, so was a bit snug. There's a panel where your feet rest. The seat in front of you has holes in the back that shoot air, fog, and water. The walls are lined with large fans, strobe lights, and smoke/fog emitters. There's a button on the side of your chair that turns the water effect on and off.
The beginning of Geostorm 4DX caught me completely off guard. There's a bit of a montage where violent storms decimate hapless CGI people. The chair lifts up, starts shaking like crazy, then swoops back and forth in response to a tidal wave scene. The fans kick in, the strobes recreate lighting, air starts blasting the back of your head, and then the real kicker, a heavy mist of water douses you. Everything is synced to the screen. The intensity of a scene correlates exactly with the 4DX. When nothing is happening, and the camera elevates for a shot, the seat does the same in a subtly way. When a car is racing to avoid a crumbling and exploding road. The chair vibrates, hits you in the back like a pat massage, all while wind and air are blasting. Thankfully the hot air feature is a mild warm, but the water effects will legitimately get you wet. You're not soaked, but it was more than a gentle mist. If had known, I would have turned off the water button.
4DX is not for the faint of heart or anyone with a physical limitation. It is like a Six Flags ride at the movies. Geostorm is laden with visual effects, so this kind of movie will offer the most extreme experience. It's definitely as immersive as promised. The motion of the chair is jarring to various degrees. My suggestion would be to pay attention to the different types of 4DX theaters. You may by happier in an economy setting. I saw Geostorm at the Regal Cinemas Union Square in New York City. Regal Cinemas has twenty 4DX theaters across the United States. They are only in big cities, but worth the trek if you want to supercharge your trip to the movies. Just remember to turn off the water if you don't want your 3D glasses soaked.