“The Hunger Games” begin; D-Box motion simulator shakes things up

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Watching “The Hunger Games” not only opening night, but also in the state-of-the-art D-BOX motion simulator format at the Ultra Star Cinemas in Mission Valley was a pleasurable experience. D-BOX takes the cinematic experience to another level, rigging each individual seat with its own electro-mechanical system that rumbles and sways along with all the action going on in the screen. More about the D-BOX later, first “The Hunger Games.”

Considering the 142-minute runtime, the movie is incredibly fast paced. This is good and bad. Good because it keeps you thoroughly entertained with plenty of dazzling visuals and just enough action to keep you wanting more. Bad because the movie only lightly skims the surface on some of the story’s heavy themes (poverty, war, violence, and death), and is a bit lacking in the character development department. Since this is the first of a three-part series (four, since “Mockingjay” will be divided into two parts), there’s hope these kinks can be worked out as the story continues.

There’s no use nitpicking at any deviations from the book, however. Besides, author Suzanne Collins co-wrote the script and co-produced the movie herself so fans can’t get angry. There’s also no use drawing comparisons to the 2000 Japanese cult classic “Battle Royale,” which is also about a government punishing its citizens by forcing the youth to engage in a duel to the death. Fans of BR can rest assured “The Hunger Games” isn’t a complete ripoff and can stand on its own as a separate and original entity.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in the dystopian society of Panem, comprised of 12 outlying districts and one central metropolis called the Capitol, where the ruling class dwells. Citizens of the Capitol (shall we call them Capitolists?) look like they raided Lady Gaga’s closet, or perhaps come from the same world that Bruce Willis did in “The Fifth Element.” This isn’t a bad thing, as it offers a nice juxtaposition to the more earthy tones from those who inhabit the poorer districts, namely District 12, where the chief export is coal.

That’s where our heroine Katniss Everdeen comes from, played by the lovely Jennifer Lawrence. She shows poise as a hardnosed woman desperate to fight for her family and primal fear as a young girl thrown into a world far removed from her everyday life. Katniss is a master archer thanks to her late father, and shows that she has potential to join the ranks of Sarah Connor, Mulan, and The Bride from Kill Bill, as one of the most badass heroines in cinema.

The world she’s thrown into is a cross between “Gladiator” and a warped version of “American Idol,” all under a fully manipulated bio-dome that’s a technological upgrade from the world created in “The Truman Show.” With the PG-13 rating there isn’t all the gore you would imagine in a Gladiator-esque game of death, but the gore it does show is tastefully subtle and unsettling.

There are excellent cast choices in this film, namely Woody Harrelson as the drunken mentor Haymitch, and Stanley Tucci as the flashy talk show host. While “The Hunger Games” proved to be a tasty treat, it was made all the more enjoyable through the magic of a motion simulator deemed the D-BOX.

The thought of turning a movie into a Disneyland ride sounded gimmicky and excessive at first, much like the use of 3D for most movies. The D-BOX system wasn’t a distraction and was in fact a major enhancement for the movie going experience. In other words, it was awesome!!!

To be sure there were moments that the Motion Effects (MFX) seemed superfluous. Thankfully, a switch at the side of the seat allows you to adjust the intensity of the motion or to turn off the MFX altogether. More often than not, however, the motion felt organic, drawing you even closer into the movie than you would with 3D glasses: a tilt of the seat when Katniss would draw her bow in anticipation, the steady bumps of the train ride. The DBOX made really good use of a hallucinatory scene in “The Hunger Games,” rocking you side to side as Katniss stumbled through the woods.

The seat wasn’t the clunky hunk of machinery as imagined. It was disguised as a regular theater seat and was just as cozy. Prior to the movie, the DBOX showed what it could really do during a trailer for the upcoming superhero blockbuster “The Avengers,” and the demo blew me away. Assuming the DBOX system will be used primarily for action/adventure flicks, and could also conjure up some pretty big scares in the horror genre (although a love scene with the DBOX would surely make for a stimulating experience). The DBOX shows even greater promise with the potential to revive classics like never before. “Jurassic Park, ” “Star Wars,” and “King Kong” come to mind. Maybe even “The Exorcist.”

Other upcoming titles that will feature the D-BOX system include “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Cabin in the Woods,” and “Battleship.”


Brought to you by UltraStar Cinemas

Ultra Star Cinemas is headquartered in San Diego County and operates 141 screens at 14 sites throughout Southern California and Arizona. The company was formed in 1999 by John Ellison, Jr.and Alan Grossberg with the same goal in mind – be a pioneer in the industry and consistently stay on the forefront of technology, while providing the best movie-going experience to every guest that walks through the doors.

UltraStar was the first exhibitor in the world to be equipped with D-BOX Motion Seats. D-BOX Technologies uses motion integrated within theater seats to capture some of the best action scenes in all types of movies. Feeling the action immerses the guest in the movie like never before.

Hunger Games Photo by Murray Close courtesy of LIONSGATE

D-Box Photo courtesy of Ultra Star Cinemas


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