I saw The Lion King today and I found it to be so bland, boring and lacklustre that it isn’t even worth a full review. Instead though, I am going to talk about my experience seeing it in 4DX. 4DX, for those of you not in the know (you lucky, lucky people) is a type of gimmick screen in a theatre where in order to enhance one’s experience things such as rumbling seats, smoke machines and water sprinklers are incorporated into the screening at appropriate times. For example, if the film in question featured a burning building a smoke machine might emit smoke to mimic the effects seen on screen. On paper, this idea sounds passable. Perhaps not for an entire screening, but for a brief 15 minute or so short film this could prove to be entertaining. These shorter showings are a part of attractions such as Drayton Manor and Alton Towers, and serve as a brief respite from the rest of the park. I never enjoyed these 15 minute 4DX showings, as they often had dreadful films built solely around the aforementioned gimmicks. The gimmicks themselves often weren’t the problem here, the abysmal films were the issue.
The idea of a “big screen blockbuster” such as The Lion King utilising this concept is intriguing. While I myself did not wish to go to a 4DX showing, I was persuaded to go with a friend of mine who naively thought it would be any different than the abysmal showings at theme parks. He, naturally, was wrong. 4DX is an assault on the senses and not in a good way. The film was advertised as allowing you to “Smell the savannah”. If the Savannah smelt like stale, compressed air and an entirely too expensive cinema ticket than I guess the good folks at Cineworld were right on the money. I was aware the seats would move, but the level of shaking that was nigh constant was unbearable. Not every scene needs a rumbling effect, but I could barely see straight and I’m surprised I didn’t spew all over the place. Wind machines activate when characters are running or flying, which is great in theory, until you can consciously hear them shudder on and it drowns out the movie. The songs were muted and neutered anyway, but that isn’t the point. The smoke machines managed to eke out 2 small clouds of smoke and this wasn’t even in a scene with smoke in it. I sat 3 rows in and the smoke didn’t even reach the first row. The only passable effect in the showing was the flashing lights and sprinkler system to simulate thunder and lightning.
4DX costs about £15 a ticket, which isn’t so bad when you have an unlimited card and so only have to pay £4 extra, but I feel for the families that went to see this film with their children, because £15 a ticket is abysmal. For some reason bubbles started floating down at one point. Not suds, just lone bubbles that had no business being in a scene set in the Savannah. Every time the air blew that rancid, stale air smell would take hold of me. I’ve never been to the Savannah, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t smell like silly string and it definitely doesn’t sound like industrial sized fans that are in serious need of repairs.
During the infamous stampede scene, which somehow was shorter than the animated one despite the film as a whole being a half hour longer, the backs of the seats began to emit this repetitive impact to simulate the hooves of the Wildebeest trampling Mufasa to death and it felt like somebody was just kicking the chair. The screening I attended was sparsely populated, which is odd for a 2:30 showing in the summer holidays for a supposed summer smash hit. This just shows that 4DX is likely not worth the money spent on running it. People don’t want fancy bubble blowers and smoke machines, they want good movies. It’s no wonder the cinema experience is waning in profits these days when money is being spent on this absolute boondoggle. You are, essentially, paying to have your chair kicked and your drink thrown everywhere. In terms of the film itself, the voice acting from everybody felt phoned in and lacklustre, even James Earl Jones was clearly just there for another 20 years of residual checks.
The songs were nowhere near as energetic as the original, and the entire film lacked heart and depth. Often times the photorealistic animal mouths did not match the emotion, expression or even timing of the words being spoken. Truly, this film is a waste of time and resources.
VERDICT: I would give it a 5/10 for lacking in near every department except for the visuals which would be impressive were they not all made on a single soundstage. There is clearly a lack of effort and heart when compared to the original, and it frankly goes to show the unending greed and hubris that is strangling Disney in its current state, but I guarantee it will still make bank and be successful so what do I know.