The D-Box experience: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2”

Review by Hilary Klein 

I survived the Battle of Hogwarts.

I was attacked, thrashed, doused, and nearly burned to death by Fiendfyre, but I survived.

And I did it all while never leaving the comfort of my cinema chair.

Nearly eight months ago, I wrote up a review of my D-Box experience seeing Deathly Hallows – Part 1 on my Tumblr that was, also amazingly, featured on MuggleNet. At the time, I fear the review didn’t receive much notice until after the movie was no longer being played in D-Box theaters, so I am hoping to remedy many people’s disappointment at missing out last time by writing up my review much sooner this time around.

For those of you who are asking, “What is D-Box?”, you are in for a treat! D-Box is a simulator inside the chair of your local cinema that transports you inside the film. As of last November, D-Box was only available in 48 cinemas worldwide, but now, nearly eight months later, their website boasts 65 US locations and 9 Canadian ones. Hopefully, there is one near you!

For more information on D-Box visit their website visit here.

Now, I should preface this with a few generic, sweeping statements:

1. My cinema was not only playing Deathly Hallows – Part 2 simply in D-Box but also in 3D. In order to see the D-Box, I had to also pay for 3-D, and the review herein will reflect both as a combined experience. Have you ever seen any 4D  shows in Disney World? It was similar to that.

2. While my mom and brother’s experiences were fine, mine was slightly dampened by the man sitting directly beside me who felt it was best to eat what appeared to be a three-course meal while watching the film. Reheated, cafeteria-style food smells, slurpy bottom of the soda cup noises, and crackling wrappers all featured prominently in my movie-going experience today. Also, the man insisted on quoting the film out loud before the lines were spoken by the characters. If you find yourself in a D-Box situation and have spent the extra money for this awesome experience, please be kind and make sure everyone around you is also getting their money’s worth. Respect each other in the movie. You aren’t the only one who paid for it.

And so the film begins. Unlike any other previous film, Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is so integrated into Part 1 that you almost don’t realize it has begun. Immediately, we were flying over the Black Lake toward Dumbledore’s tomb. We can feel the air ripple as we cut through it and feel the stone crack as the tomb breaks open. The D-Box chair is delightfully delicate when it needs to be (during helicopter landscape views) and more forceful as the spell is cast to break the tomb. I immediately recalled my last D-Box experience with Part 1, which was a pleasant way to ease into the idea of the moving chairs and virtual movie-watching.

Almost immediately we were thrown into the scene that I have been anticipating ever since I discovered D-Box: Gringotts. After a few short scenes at Shell Cottage, we join Harry, Ron, and Hermiotrix (as I shall be calling the imposter Bellatrix), and Griphook outside, where they are about to Apparate. And with the help of D-Box we feel as though we have joined them as they turn on the spot and arrive outside Gringotts Bank. The chair provides the jolting sensation one imagines with apparition. We then enter Gringotts Bank, and our chair makes us float along with Harry and Griphook as they are hidden beneath the Invisibility Cloak. The scenes with Ron and Hermiotrix feel normal, but the disoriented view we see on screen beneath the cloak is translated into the D-Box sensors and provides a perfect companion. Almost unnoticeable movements cause you to feel a dizzying effect and a lightness. The result is quite a unique experience for a movie audience.

And then finally, FINALLY, we are in the cart headed down to the vaults deep below ground. This rollercoaster-like scene was the number one thing I had been looking forward to. And surprisingly, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped. Maybe the Gringotts cart doesn’t loop around as much as a rollercoaster. Maybe it’s to do with the angle the filmmakers used, not giving us a first-person view for long enough. While the chair did toss us around as though we were in a coaster, it just wasn’t as much as I expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t cool, just not as big as the hype I had created for it. On the other side of the rollercoaster, however, was the Lestrange vault, and I did appreciate the chair popping as the gold duplicated. Each pop made me jump in unison with the characters dealing with the multiplying treasures, and it definitely added to the effect. Perhaps my favorite moment in D-Box, though, was the dragon escape. As the dragon made its way out of the vaults, the chair emulated a clunkiness that I had formerly associated to riding upon a hippogriff or a Thestral. The way J.K. Rowling has described those creatures in flight – the boxiness and awkwardness – seemed to carry over to the dragon. I really loved this because, for all intensive purposes, I thought flight would always feel the same. How many ways could the D-Box simulators possibly portray it? Well, it was different. It did not have the sleekness of a D-Box broomstick or the waftiness of a D-Box aerial view. It was a feeling all its own, and it impressed me much more than I had expected.

After jumping from the dragon and deciding it was time to return to Hogwarts, we feel Apparition again. Still fairly impressive, I really enjoyed that a sensation described so frequently and vivdly within the canon was able to be felt in a convincing way within the D-Box medium.

One of the neatest effects that D-Box was able to portray was the casting of spells. As Snape and McGonagall dueled in the Great Hall, the D-Box ensured that we were the third party in the duel. The chair was thrown back as the sparks hit their marks or were deflected. The spells felt like they were ricocheting from the cushions, and with every vibration I had the notion that I had just missed being struck with certain doom. It made me feel like I was in the battle myself, which was certainly welcoming.

The next scene I want to mention as being particularly enhanced with D-Box was in the boathouse with Nagini. As she attacked, the chair recoiled with the force of the snake’s body. Not only did we watch a death occur, but in many ways, we felt as though we were being personally attacked. The syncopated slams against my body placed me right inside that boathouse. It was a perfect use of the D-Box technology.

As I’ve already mentioned, the spell casting was spectacular with D-Box (and let’s be honest, the combination of 3D with the D-Box meant that the spells jumped right out of the screen and right into your seat!), but an extra neat spell scene occured as the protective barrier around Hogwarts dissolved. The sparks flew from the Death Eaters wands, and the slight pings hit my chair, but I was totally unprepared for the explosion of the barrier, which threw me backward against my chair with such force that I felt sure I was within the castle experienceing it with the students. The vibrations paired with the physical motion in the seat made that moment all the more real.

The battle itself was obviously full of moments. Sparks flew, hit, and just missed me. The Chamber of Secrets filled with water and splashed along before breaking upon not just Ron and Hermione but against my frame as well. And as we flew from the Room of Requirement, the broomsticks not only threw their riders from them upon reaching the doorway, but my chair seemed to throw me as well.

And as for the final moments of the final battle between Harry and Voldemort? The D-Box kept us in the moment and lent itself to the intensity. During the few moments where Voldemort and Harry are flying over the grounds with their heads merging together, the chair felt as though it were almost about to fall apart. It bumped and vibrated and banged as the two slammed into the turrets of Hogwarts and swooped and attacked each other. It was throbbing and dizzying and made you very aware that we were nearing the end. I say it felt as though it were about to fall apart, but I mean it felt as though Voldemort were about to fall apart. It felt wrought with emotion and fear (which I understand is a strange way to describe a feeling emoted by a chair), but the D-Box seems to have mastered these subtleties. And as we reached the moment with Voldemort’s ultimate demise, his skin floated on the wind like a shedding snake, and we drifted among it, wafting and bobbing through the slowly spiriling shreds of skin. It not only fit the scene, but it also acted as a denouement. It brought us back into the world of non-motion, like a ride slowing to a stop. It glided into the finish line, easing us back to reality as the film approached its final moments.

And soon we had advanced into the future, and the train was pulling away from the station, our chair softly lulled us away as well. It provided a send-off for the movie and the D-Box technology. A fitting ending to a nearly perfect film.

Of course, there are so many more moments that the D-Box was able to enhance, so many more scenes that felt fresh and new and real. So much for you to experience yourself. I could go on endlessly about how this new technology really sparked something new within the film, but it would be so much more satisfying to feel it for yourself. There really are no words. And while this may have been only my second time seeing Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the D-Box definitely managed to make the film feel brand new. It’s something everyone should experience at least once. It’s like taking a tiny bit of the Forbidden Journey ride home from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It allows you to immerse yourself in the epic conclusion, live the battle, and above all else, really believe that magic is real.

Thank you, Hilary!