Wonder Woman, surprisingly, did not make me barf. Nor did it make my coworker, Ellie Shechet, barf, who may be the only person I know with a stomach more sensitive than mine. Wonder Woman did, however, beat us up, particularly in a scene early on when Antiope shoots three arrows into an opponent. We felt them in our own backs, three swift kicks landing in quick, startling succession.
For awhile I had been wanting to try 4DX, the South Korean theater innovation that fully immerses viewers into a movie through motion, sight, sound and smell, but was not prepared for how immersive it would actually be. My expectations hovered somewhere between Captain EO and Smell-o-Vision, the idea that the normal 3D viewing experience would be amended with a rather cheap carnival ride experience, but that was not exactly the case! The 4DX theater generally looks like a normal theater, but the seats are like jarring, aggressive massage chairs; when you’re not taking hits in battle from the back and getting kicked around to and fro, you’re panning with the camera, so the effect (in Wonder Woman, at least) alternates between active participant and dispassionate viewer, something like the difference between the actor’s point of view and a director’s.
The immersion is full. When Wonder Woman leaps into the sea to save Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, the only Chris we recognize), the seat in front of you blasts your face with a spray of water like you jumped in along with her. This is not insulting like a diss, but perhaps dismaying like a prank. Still, Wonder Woman was a great film to see in 4DX because it relied so much upon the sheer physicality of Wonder Woman and the Amazons; it made it a little more possible to transpose oneself onto the spirit of a warrior demigod. This was rather motivating if you left Wonder Woman thinking that you need to go back to the kickboxing classes you abandoned two years ago. (I imagine Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the other film I seriously wanted to see in 4DX but didn’t, would have been fun but not as punishing.)
There is a confounding rainbow of neon lights at the front of the theater that flashes at lightning strikes and lasso-of-truth energy pile-ups, which didn’t quite make sense to me but I appreciated the effort. During battles, a smell would waft through the theater, an unwavering scent of burning rubber that indicated to me that either the smell rotors are busted in the Union Square Regal 4DX theater, or that the scent palette needs to be improved upon slightly. The fog machine made up for it, with little blasts every time a gun was shot; at a certain point the experience became so realistic I was slightly convinced that Dr. Poison’s “gas” would be released, too, in the form of thick smoke. Perhaps next time, but we were treated to a light sprinkle of rain from the ceiling during a shot in London, which smudged on our 3D glasses (layered dorkily over our regular eyeglasses). The only time it got a little too real was during the too-long, gently rocking scene in which Diana and Steve sail from Themyscira to Europe; after a certain point I desperately wanted to get off that freaking boat.
In the end, though, stronger stomachs prevailed—which was good considering both Ellie and I housed greasy By Chloe “burgers” right before the movie, something we realized between bites was perhaps not the wisest idea. But when it was over, I looked at Ellie, and she was bawling. “Steve Trevor!” she exclaimed.