Midsummer Check-Up on 3D
In the middle of this summer season of blockbusters at the theater, it seemed like a good midway checkpoint to see how 3D is faring. In a previous article I wrote in response to the tacit dismissal of 3D as being worthwhile (you can see that article here), I stated how the idea of watching some of the coming summer delights would be more fun with Hal Jordan’s power ring shooting beams into the audience or Thor’s hammer flying over our heads. Now that we’ve seen a goodly amount of these big popcorn flicks, I wanted to take a look at how value-added the 3D was at this point.
Since the event movie season began with it, let’s start with Thor. Firstly, speaking as a comic nerd, I will go on the record as stating that I enjoyed this movie a lot. I loved how Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three genuinely loved to fight during the big Frost Giant battle early in the film. They all had giant grins on their faces. Loki was an extremely compelling character throughout the film. Anthony Hopkins as Odin got to bluster and bellow in fine Shakespearean fashion. Idris Elba made what is essentially the role of night watchman into something compelling. And the female members of the party I saw the film with got to drool adequately when Captain Kirk’s Daddy as Thor had his shirt off. While the earthbound scenes didn’t pop quite as much as the otherworldly locations, the battle with The Destroyer was neat, and the reactions of the townsfolk were fun. So for summer popcorn fun, this movie hit the right note. For being a Thor movie, it’s about the best Thor movie for which I could have asked.
I thought the 3D in this film was worthwhile. The look of Bifrost (The Rainbow Bridge) sparkled and had depth. The aforementioned Frost Giant battle had scale that was enhanced by the process. Again, it looked like they employed more of the 3D when they weren’t on Earth, which may have been on purpose. Much like Oz is in color while Kansas is in black and white, it would make sense that Asgard be more fanciful than our home. Aside from just being a neat effect, in both examples it may help to place the audience in the protagonist’s head. Dorothy sees Oz as a fantastic place. Color helps the audience feel that. This may have been what Kenneth Branagh was attempting here as well. Thor feels that home is amazing and wonderful. While he’s earthbound, things feel a little less epic.
Now, I’m sure part of this is based on budgets as well. When they are in New Mexico, I did note how much mileage they tried to get out of their one location of “generic small town.” You notice that a being from another world visits ours for the first time, and he’s not doing the Superman thing of visiting the White House, Niagra Falls, Hoover Dam, and the Statue Of Liberty. Instead, he stays in a small desert town with a diner and a gas station. It makes the movie feel a little smaller.
Anyway, while I might see the point if someone argued that the 3D isn’t NECESSARY to enjoy Thor, I felt it enhanced the experience. It was fun.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides may have been my biggest disappointment of the summer so far. Captain Jack’s exploits previously have been grin-inducing fun. While I will always argue the first film is still the best, the second and third each had their merits. Granted, I got pretty confused by the morass of overstuffed plot in the third outing. But still, it had enough snappy dialogue and buckled swash that it still put a smile on my face. Meanwhile, On Stranger Tides is the first one of this franchise that I don’t have an overriding urge to see again. Johnny Depp is still fun, Penelope Cruz looks great, but Ian McShane felt vastly underused, and, most seriously, the rhythm of the action scenes was off. The shots seemed a beat too long. There is a momentum that is built through editing and cinematography during action movies that is supposed to put you “on the edge of your seat.” But here, that thrill just was not present.
As to the issue at hand, this movie DID NOT need to be in 3D. This was my early nominee for the year’s worst use of the technology. The images felt flat. There wasn’t a lot of scale to any of the set pieces. Most of the movie looked like it was filmed on a sound stage or back lot. I know most movies actually ARE filmed on sound stages, but it’s the director’s job to not make it look that way. Failed here. And quite frankly, even the cheesy use of pokey things popping out of the screen in your face didn’t happen very often. Just nothing going for it. Last year, my award for boring 3D was the most recent Narnia movie. Pirates of the Caribbean looks to be this year’s front runner.