Muffin: The 4D Experience

by July 14th, 2009 - Culture » Film and TV »


I recently visited relatives in the lovely little state of Maryland. While there, we conducted a reconnaissance mission at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, studying the tactics of the indisputably evil and nigh unstoppable menace that we call Jellyfish.

Turns out…the gelatinous critters just float around in glass cylinders.

Perhaps my fears were overblown. Surely, provided we do not enclose ourselves inside these transparent tubes that are the natural habitat of the jellyfish, no harm will come to us.

The recon mission a surefire success or complete failure, we regardless had time for more leisure fare and stumbled upon an intriguing offer from the aquarium’s 4D Immersion Theater.

Planet Earth: Shallow Seas…sounds good to me. And so too did it to the rest of my party as we bought our tickets and strapped in for the ride.

This was something of actual interest to me. The Planet Earth series has a great reputation as a beautiful, mind-expanding visual experience, a real measuring stick of early HD. Surely, the addition of a 3rd dimension to the high definition would make it quite a spectacle to see.

But what to make of this 4th D? In a rare case of blissed ignorance, I glossed over this obvious question staring me square in the eyes, instead focusing only on the third dimension – a dimension that has not been regularly shot into my eyes by a darkened room – literally not giving a single thought to the horror that lay ahead.

Seated inside the theater, semi-fashionable eyewear already in place, I scan the audience, a motley collection of other great explorers – ages 3 to 5 – accompanied by one or both of their service staff.

And the show begins in startling fashion, a quick-hitting, potently compact demo showcasing the prowess of the system. 3 dimensions flying in every direction with scare factor their only intent as agents of death, destruction and repulsion come hurtling towards you. A snake springs towards the audience at the same time as the 4th dimension grabs hold of your soul, a blast of air the hiss of the snake erupting from the chair in front of you as a soft piece of rubber whips from under your chair at your feet.

And at that moment the younger explorers in the room all burst out crying, turn yellow in all the right spots, and surprisingly evolve to learn curse words they’ve never heard before.

A young girl in front of me turns to face me screaming, “WHAT THE FUCKING SHIT MOTHERFUCKER!?”

“I know…I know. Total ass-reaming insanity, indeed,” I respond, but she has only recently entered the world of obscenity and this is, perhaps, a bit much for her.

The crying continues and intensifies, an uncertain combination of the terrifying 4 dimensions and my horrible language.

By the time the actual Planet Earth feature begins, the audience has thinned significantly and those that remain are on guard, muttering like Tourettes afflicted cocaine junkies.

Surprisingly, the feature presentation itself was not that strong, the 3D elements that I would find the most uniquely engaging of the experience sparse and random. Similar to planetarium shows, the film takes the attitude of “Sure, I’m just telling you things you already know and the whole thing is a lot shorter than you ever thought imaginable, but its in this neat room with explosive smoke and mirrors so suck it up with love, fella.”

Many of the 3D moments were great, but they were few and far between and often ruinously interrupted by the 4th dimension.

An adult whale and its offspring are floating gently and aweinspiringly in front of your eyes, for example, but just as you let out a relaxed, inspired sigh you are hit in the face with a blast of water and air as on screen the whale simply exercises its blowhole.

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