Disco-pang-pang-like Cinema : Aladdin 4DX(2019)
Kyungdam Chung
Co-Publisher/Editer of ma-te-ri-al
번역: 박채연

Have you ever heard of Disco-pang-pang in Wolmi Island? Or seen videos of tourists pliantly flopping, just like a live flounder, from aggressive driving of the DJ? Or seen old pros who happen to read the DJ’s pattern, as a result of playing the role of a flounder too many times? The world of Disney’s live-action Aladdin 4DX is the Wolmi Island in cinema, the world of indiscriminate attack. The straightforward chair observes every movement of the film and spits it out. The analogy to Disco-pang-pang is half a joke, but for me it is true. The audiences float, smell, get rained on and are thrown along the unpredictable movements of the movie throughout the screening. But no one thinks it is weird, because they know that the movements have connections with the screen. Throughout the film history, there was no case where the audiences entrust themselves of their movements to something inside the movie. Being physically synchronized with something inside the movie, and attractions which lead the body to make real actions that imitates movements inside the movie, were something new; there was nothing like it in former cinema. Thus it seems unlikely to engraft these experiences upon former theories. Historically, tools which have aided immersion of cinema have guided audiences to immerse in certain characters or situations ― but 4DX does not. In Aladdin 4DX, it seems impossible for audiences to empathize with a single object, yet the audiences follow the narration of the movie perfectly well while their bodies are rocking with enforced movements.

When a Whole New World ― the song that almost symbolizes the film ― plays, when pitch black sky and violet milky way suddenly unfolds before our eyes, we realize that the ground which surely was beneath our feet is gone and instead a carpet, supporting the gentle air pressure, is there. Basically the way we sense the world premises ‘myself standing on the ground.’ We perceive the world continuing with vibrations, sense time by slow changes in the continuation, and feel the vibration riding on our body based on the ground. Meanwhile, audiences (re)located by the 4DX are not based on the ground. Moreover, whether they are human or not is unsure. We can now be transposed onto anything. At the time of entering the 4DX theater, we could distinguish perceptions and objects due to the base coordinates of our body. But the new cinema such as 4DX and VR disposes of the distinction by deleting the layer of ground, which was thought to be under our feet for evermore. The body starts to move separately from perceptions, and maybe in the end our mind could no longer control our own body! Every character ― Aladdin, Jasmine, a tiger, or a parrot ― takes each place inside or outside the screen, staring at or directing to somewhere in the diegesis. Now we can be anything on the screen, unlike the characters. Switches are made at unexpected moments: we look at Jafar with Jasmine’s point of view with our eyes, then move recklessly with teleportation around the area like Genie, and meanwhile feel pain in the same body part as Jafar. Gosh! We are now sons of Typhon and Echidna without committing any crime.

But still we are not inside the virtual reality, luckily, so anyway we can distinguish the screen’s hectare from our own. Also the risk is low, since what 4DX provides us is merely an experience of sharing the mimesis, on a machine chair that randomly mixes up the coordinates, while the chair stays on the ground. We soar in the sky as the wings of the dark parrot, Iago, then in the next second we are Abu riding on Iago’s back, making a fuss, then a shaking road pavement, then a plant swaying sideways. We can even be a dust storm or a loaf of bread. Actually this experience turned out to be quite fun, I got on the mimesis chair as many as 5 times. 

One thing should be noted at this point: that over 60 percent of 4D cinema in the whole world use 4DX, the [Korean] CJ 4DPLEX format ― except for Japan Toho Cinema and Ion Cinema, American MX4D is never used, not even in its homeland ― and 90 percent of the proportion, is made by local Korean producers in another track, totally separated from the filmmaking process, rather than at post production level. 4DX is rarely concerned during the process of production. Likewise, in the case of Aladdin, the CJ 4DPLEX designed and inputted their own effect concept. 4DX effect design is getting more and more specialized. In the Marvel series, there is even an exclusive producer for each of the hero characters to establish the effect concept. It is said that the producers are required to hold an analysis of the character at a level of an actor. Before the characters’ analysis, specialization based upon the movie’s overall mood is also made. In Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald the 4D motion highlights the natural weather phenomena such as heavy rain, fog and wind. In The Lion King, the green note fragrance to enable experience of vast savannah and jungle. In Aladdin, the focus was on twitching and vibration, elaborate beat and the rhythm. So it is to say, I played along the twitches inputted by CJ producer, not by the filmmaker nor the staffs.

Experiencing it 5 times in total, I became an expert of this attraction. The Friend Like Me scene in which the Genie of the Lamp first appears, is when the motion chair of Aladdin 4DX goes wild for the first time. I am arranged as Aladdin ― being a marionnette of Genie ― , a flying carpet, and somewhere near them in the identical state. Being four corners of the carpet, helplessly tugged by hands of the divine Genie. I am recklessly vibrated and thrown, repeating motions without any self-consciousness. Just like in Fantasy Express roller coaster of Everland before the renovation or in Disco-pang-pang. Even when the fresh newness and thrilling sensation became familiar, I was paying 14 thousand won, with nobody looking, yet imposing ― cadraging ― one’s new frame with never leaving the seat.

This experience seems very close to a cinematic experience, the expression which has been used without any thorough definition. Speakers always use the word ‘cinematic’ by merging some feelings, some appreciations, some wonder or shock or aftertaste, and by newly categorizing each time of the usage. (Nevertheless, the literal ‘cinematic’ in level of technique is out of the question.) Meanwhile, after Benjamin deduced cinematic senses from his impressional experiences in Moscow, even in the attempt to define ‘cinematic,’ the word is romanticized without fail. Just as in:

“Light shines in the darkness. Sounds. The title credit. Countless eyes toward the screen, waiting throughout the whole 2 hours, only gazing at the screen where the movie shows. Then one moment the eyes stop breathing, stop eating their popcorn. The moment has come. We feel thrilling excitement at the very moment. What we call a ‘good movie’ has this moment(s). That is, the cinematic moment.”(Ingyu Choe, 2014, Cinematic Moment, Communication Books)

Let’s make it clear. The word ‘cinematic’ is used at what is not a cinema. So to speak, a cinematic life. When these words are said, life is not (yet) recorded on sheets of photosensitive emulsion. Nor captured by digital cinematography. A cinematic success story is not a cinema either. We might as well use the word recursively, if we want. But cinematic cinema lies at a different layer with paintative painting, pictoric picture, or sculptic sculpture. A cinematic cinema is rather a pun ― just as ‘feeling-like feeling’ recited by Youtuber Seung-heon-su. What on earth is cinematic cinema?

Referring to dictionaries, ‘paintative’ means ‘expressing various feelings and images using colors and lines on a flat surface,’ ‘sculptic’ means ‘something three-dimensional,’ so these two words are used with close meaning to characteristics of the medium. Meanwhile, ‘cinematic’ is defined as just ‘cinema-like.’ Cinema is a circular circuit, defined only by itself endlessly. Then what is cinematic experience? In the end, we came back to the tricky concept which cannot be fully explained without using any romantic or abstract rhetoric. The experience at the 4DX motion chair definitely is cinematic. But still the ‘cinematic’ experience in traditional movie watching and that in 4DX have significant differences in terms of material, due to the distinction in conditions of screening. Thus considering those two as the same leaves unpleasant aftertaste.

Now I recall the memory of moving my body with the movie. When watching Netflix or Watcha with one hand while lying on one side, or when walking through video installations of an exhibition, when Sing-along and Dance-along screenings where leaving the seat or standing up or making noise is allowed, these are active experiences of swinging your limbs and muscles while watching ― even more, dance-along screenings could be more of a club where there is a movie instead of music, rather than a group watching of a movie ― it is clear that 4DX movies are passive experience, where the form and directions of movements are all designated, even what smells to be scented and where the winds will blow. The motion chair, where available space is limited, functions as a frame to cage the audiences and makes us move as designed, ultimately operating the audiences as another movie, besides the main cinema ― Aladdin on the screen. Here the bodies replace screens, and the movements of bodies replace the film. The analogy of the seat and the cadrage denotes that the experience on the 4DX motion chair is some kind of a cinema, that is, a movie without screen.
Yet, being thrown this way and that in a silent blackbox without Aladdin is not necessarily cinematic. It would be just as weird as Disco-pang-pang without music. The experiences from 4DX motion chair devices are acquired synchronized with inspirations from narratives and expressions of the movie. Besides, the direction where the audience gaze at is still the main cinema, the Aladdin on the screen. Then it is risky to say the 4DX’s success is the return of attraction cinema. Just as Deleuze said earlier that the perspective of watching images is implied in the cadrage itself, and as above where I described that the motion chair randomly mixes up the coordinates of our bodies, we are forced with the perspective(s) which the CJ 4DPLEX producing team inputted when designing the motions. That is to say, the 4DX cinema reaches the audience after two times of cadrage. We are media ― quasi-screens ― where the 4DX motion, the appendixical cinema shows on. At the same time we are audiences who watch the overlap of two dimensions of cinema. In other words, the distance between the screen and audiences becomes zero, therefore the audiences cannot entirely watch with their eyes, and instead have merely the experience of movements. The only object of a visual gaze is the huge screen attached high in the theater, where Aladdin is shown. Thus 4DX covers two dimensions: as a cinematic experience that makes the main cinema more impassioned, and as another movie ― movie without screen ― attached to the main cinema.

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