When Aquaman arrived in theaters last December, the 4DX experience was known for soaking audiences during all the ocean scenes, submerging DC fans in that world completely. The running joke before seeing John Wick 3: Parabellum in the immersive format was that you'd feel every bullet as blood splattered your face. Once locked into that roller coaster seat, that became less a joke and more a reality. Seeing Keanu Reeves' legendary assassin in 4DX is a truly brutal experience. You literally feel every punch, kick and bullet.
This was my first 4DX experience. And I'm not quite sure how I feel about the entire ride. But that's exactly what it is. A ride, perhaps like you'd experience at the local county fair. The seat is on hydraulics, and moves and weaves like a roller coaster. Imagine Star Tours at Disneyland, only the technology isn't as sophisticated. The seat engages all your senses. Mist sprays when it rains, wind blows, lightening goes off, you get to smell wet dog, and the inside of the Continental (it smells like sweet herbal tea by the way). You chair moves with each vehicle, the rumble of the motor vibrating your lower torso. Perhaps most excruciating is that the back of your seat literally punches and stabs you for two and a half hours, while air blasts hit your neck every time a gun is fired. Once or twice, a hard blast of mist shoots out from the seat in front of you, hitting you in the face hard. It's not blood red, but you definitely feel the splatter.
This is not good if you're wearing glasses. And that's probably why the movie is not in 3D. 4DX is more about engaging the senses around you, not manipulating the visuals onscreen. There are some theaters that show the movie in 3D. I don't remember much water in Avengers: Endgame. And that was probably more like a straight roller coaster ride. Watching John Wick in 4DX is like being locked in a box while you get punched on repeat.
As anyone who has ever seen a John Wick movie knows, this franchise has a high body count. And Parabellum reaches an insane number in fresh corpses. The action scenes come fast and furious, with only a few breaks here or there. You'll need the breather. Perhaps watching the third chapter in a standard theater, you'd be satisfied with the few lulls that come during the narrative. Here, you are literally begging and praying for them. They are few and far between.
John Wick 3: Parabellum isn't the best movie in the franchise, at least in my opinion. Though it's as good as the first two. This is a continuing series, very episodic. And you should probably see the first two before going to see this one. The opening gets right to business, and doesn't explain much. The story picks up immediately where John Wick: Chapter 2 left off, and it serves up three big action scenes back to back in the first act. You'll be sore, body aching, before you get to the second act.
At the start of things, John Wick is Excommunicado. After gunning down a member of the High Table back in 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2, Baba Yaga finds himself stripped of the organization's protective services. He is now running loose in New York City with a $14 million bounty on his head, and he must fight his way through one gang of assassins after another as he becomes the target of the world's most ruthless killers. The sequel currently holds an 89% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And I can only guess that those who didn't like it don't generally like these kinds of movies.
Parabellum is at the top of the action game, and it's definitely one of the best in the genre in the last decade, though this time it strives to reach absurd Fast and Furious levels of WTF just happened. There's one moment where Wick literally uses a horse's kick like a pistol to mutilate the bad guy. And oh, yeah, you literally feel it at the back of your head as the seat bucks you forward with a fast, sudden jolt.
The very first gunshot in the movie is pretty amazing to watch happen. It's unexpected in the moment, and my entire theater jumped out of their chair as the seat back punched you in the spine along with a loud blast of air. And then, game on. This happens for every bullet spent and every punch thrown. And the seat rocks in the incoming direction of the action. Perhaps most exciting, or irritating, or however you want to paint it, as this really is a personal preference type of scenario, whenever anyone gets stabbed on screen, you feel the stab at that point in your body. And when the assassin holds the blade in place, the seat stays with it, and you can feel each sword being pulled out.
So if you ever wanted to feel what it is like to get stabbed by a samurai sword at the hands of John Wick, it will only run you $27, give or take a few bucks depending on the theater. And man, in this movie you are shot and stabbed a lot. Does 4DX add anything to the experience of watching John Wick? Absolutely not. And I almost wish I'd watched the movie on a standard screen before hand. All the jostling is distracting, and it sometimes pulls you out of the story, because your are more hyper aware of what your chair is doing than what's actually playing out on screen. With 3D, your eyes get used to the visuals. Here, there is no getting used to being pummeled while you try to enjoy your Saturday night out at the movies.
The 4DX experience isn't without its merits. Just judging the packed theater I was part of, a group of dude bros enjoyed the amusement park like setting quite a bit, cheering and stomping almost all the way through. It's a party. And it seems to be a great date night activity, as there are so many jumps and unexpected surprises in John Wick 3 that you'll have an excuse to grab and hold each other. But don't go into this thinking you get to tell anyone to shut up. Almost the entire theater was very vocal about what was happening to them. It was a shared experience, much like being on a roller coaster. Not exactly at Six Flags. Perhaps more like at a State Fair. Danger lurks around every corner. There are warning signs all throughout the lobby leading into the auditorium. And the usher at my theater said that quite a few people had left midway through because they couldn't take getting shot in the back of the head every two minutes. So be aware of what you're in for.
John Wick 3: Parabellum 4DX is a brutal cinematic experience. I love the movie. I had a lot of fun with all bells and whistles. And I left with at least two good bruises, no joke. Though some people aren't going to enjoy dying on repeat for the entire runtime. Ever so often, you hear that someone died from a heart attack in the theater. Last night, I literally thought that might be me at the twenty minute mark. I was out of breath and shaking. But it had notihng to do with what was playing out on screen. My chair was fairly agressive.
I'd definitely pay $30 bucks to do it all over again with another movie, but only if it was the right movie. 4DX isn't going to suite everything coming out this summer. But despite all the warnings leading you to your doom chair, there is one thing no one tells you. As many theaters now have, there is a bar. I was given a Tall Boy, which I didn't drink right away. I left it sitting in the armrest. Twenty minutes in, that chair had shaken all of the carbonation out of the beer, leaving it flat. I cant image what would have happened had it not been opened before hand. The spray would have gone everywhere. But with all the rain and blood mist, no one would have noticed or been bothered. Only, there are no refunds for flat beer or soda. You just have to suck it up and enjoy the ride. You can search for the 4DX theater nearest you at Regal.