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3D entertainment is a gimmick, they say. And you know what? For the most part, I agree: there are too many movies where the 3D adds nothing to the overall experience. However, when done properly, 3D has the potential to blow you away.
To 3D or Not to 3D
Directors and movie-goers alike tend to lambaste 3D technology. One notable example is Christopher Nolan, who believes that stereoscopic imaging is detrimental to the movie-going experience:
It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you’re looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace. I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life. When you treat that stereoscopically, and we’ve tried a lot of tests, you shrink the size so the image becomes a much smaller window in front of you.
— Via ScreenRant
That being said, there are cases where 3D actually enhanced the final result. These examples are few and far between so they can be hard to find, but they do exist. So let’s take a look at some of the best 3D movies and see what they did right.
For the best experience possible, you should watch 3D movies in theaters. Obviously that’s not possible with the movies listed below, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. If you have something like a 3D smart TV, these films can be similarly enjoyable.
Here’s the movie that set the 3D trend on fire. Prior to Avatar, the “3D is a gimmick” mentality was a near-universal opinion. But after Avatar? Well, I’ll let the chart below — taken from this Reddit thread — speak for itself:
What was it about this film that made everyone go nuts? I’d have to point to the gorgeous environments. It’s one thing to be introduced to a fascinating new world, but it’s another thing entirely to feel like you’re actually moving through that world and even living in it.
And seeing how Avatar successfully transported us to the world of Pandora, the 3D added just enough depth to push us over the edge into total immersion. It’s a perfect example of a film where you really miss out on the world-building by watching in 2D.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
TRON: Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 cult classic was a marvel, raking in over $170 million in gross sales. Older fans had their fingers crossed in hopes that it wouldn’t destroy the franchise, while younger kids had no idea what to expect. Turns out, it was a pleasant surprise.
There are so many elements that make TRON: Legacy an enjoyable watch. The soundtrack by Daft Punk meshes perfectly with the cyber setting, while the CGI dances the line between stylish and overdone with finesse.
But really, the visual effects are so entrancing that you have to see it in 3D. Yes, the movie works fine without it, but if you love eye candy then you owe it to yourself to give this one a go.
Life of Pi (2012)
Life of Pi is a prime example of a novel-turned-movie being done successfully. The beautiful story is coupled with mesmerizing visual effects and a wonderful score, resulting in an emotional ride from start to finish. Even without 3D, it’s considered a winner.
With Life of Pi, director Ang Lee proved that 3D doesn’t have to be over-the-top or visually explosive in order to have an impact on the audience. It’s subtle, reserved, but you know it’s there while watching. There’s a reason why this movie won four Academy Awards.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Here’s another novel-turned-movie, except this time we’re playing with one of the great classics of American literature. As evident by the other movies on this list, 3D is typically reserved for high-action films with a lot of grand set pieces.
So when The Great Gatsby‘s release date was postponed in order to accommodate 3D, people wondered whether a delicate story like this would even benefit from the technology. It would go on to win Outstanding Live Action 3D Feature Film at the International 3D Society’s Creative Arts Awards.
The Great Gatsby is just a visual treat. That’s really what it comes down to. That, and the copious amounts of close-up shots that are made much more striking with the depth offered by 3D.
Gravity is the first movie since Avatar that has become synonymous with 3D success. It’s not that there weren’t any 3D successes between the two, but Gravity‘s execution of it was so good that it really can’t be divorced from it. Without 3D, this movie suffers greatly.
Like Avatar, Gravity takes us to “another world” that we simply can’t experience on Earth, and the cinematography was specifically designed to transport us there. Not only do we get to watch these people float through space, we get to be right there with them.
While the film doesn’t break any new ground in terms of story (it’s a bit predictable at parts), many viewers — even ones who typically hate 3D gimmickry — found that Gravity in 3D was well worth the extra cost.
Pacific Rim (2013)
If you haven’t seen Pacific Rim yet, find a way to watch it — and when you do, make sure you see it in 3D. In fact, even if you’ve already seen it, consider revisiting this film with a pair of stereoscopic glasses. You won’t regret it.
This movie was meant for 3D. There are precious few films out there that combine high concept with high action to this degree, and amongst the ones that try, none of them pull it off quite as well as Pacific Rim does.
The larger-than-life monsters and robots are infinitely cooler when seen in 3D. It’s like an amusement park ride, that’s how exciting it is. Just make sure you watch it on as large a screen as possible to get the full effect.
Like Pacific Rim, Godzilla involves a handful of monstrous terrors that wreak havoc on human populations. But unlike the former, Godzilla‘s usage of 3D is not so in-your-face. It’s more subdued, more intricate, and, in a sense, “smarter”.
Sure, there are moments where the 3D enhances the gargantuan qualities of the monstrosities on screen, but the real beauty of Godzilla‘s 3D is in the way it adds depth and complexity to the cinematography. The world feels more alive as a result.
As for everything else, the film is on par with most summer blockbusters: predictable story, shallow characters, and a big focus on the visceral rather than the intellectual. 3D definitely makes this one easier to swallow.
Even More 3D Content to Watch
These days, you’ll probably need a 3D smart TV to watch these films that way. If you’re thinking about buying one, we don’t recommend spending too much money, but it can be useful if you’re a true fan of 3D.
Have you seen any 3D movies that blew you away? Or are you completely against the idea? Do 3D films have a future or will they die soon? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Red/Blue Eyes via Melissa Dooley