Are 3D films worth extra cost?

Posted May 2, 2013


People are allured by theme parks because it gives them the opportunity to experience a world outside of reality. They embrace the illusions and they allow the surreal to fool their senses simply because it’s fun. This is the same reason why 3D films have become so ubiquitous over the years.

Oz and Theodora, the Wicked Witch of the West, walk towards the Emerald City

Oz and Theodora, the Wicked Witch of the West, walk towards the Emerald City

Feeling as though one has been immersed into a crowd of butterflies, such as in the ride, It’s Tough To Be A Bug at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, can happen in a local movie theatre.

As can the breathtaking experience from the sensational scenes that seem as though they’re in arms reach in Soarin’ at Disney’s EPCOT Park. When a viewing experience is in 3D or has the IMAX effect, it adds the thrill of interacting with the story as opposed to just watching it.

Nonetheless, 3D effects don’t work for all movies. There are certain characteristics about a film that help determine whether paying the extra $5 for 3D glasses is worth it. For instance, Steven Spielberg’s classic, “Jurassic Park,” returned to the screen for its 20-year anniversary in 3D format. Whether somebody saw the movie in theater in 1993 when it first came out or simply on his or her television set at home, the chance to see it on the big screen two decades later probably should not be passed up. But simply because there’s the option to watch it in 3D, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better choice.

3D is simply a variation of the movie and it cannot be considered its own category. Therefore, a movie will not be enjoyable simply because it is in 3D. The film has to have quality to begin with. 3D is meant to add life to the film and the plot through added dimension. Similar to the way color can add life versus black and white.

3D makes objects pop, it adds depth to scenery, and enhances details that may have otherwise been overlooked in the flat view of 2D. But unless it’s a film worth watching, with a compelling plot, well-developed designs and convincing characters, 3D won’t upgrade the quality. In other cases, the film can be worth watching but 3D won’t upgrade it either. This is because unless the movie is made with the mentality of having key objects pop at the audience and imagining how it will look to the audience, it simply won’t be effective.

“Jurassic Park,” unlike many movies that have been recently released in 3D, wasn’t created with that predetermined vision. Because of this, the overall enhanced effects aren’t as thrilling as one would hope. The exceptions may be in a few select scenes, such as the moment when the helicopter first flies over Jurassic Park. The memorable theme song in the background as John Hammond, played by Richard Attenborough, says, “Welcome to Jurassic Park,” is even better in 3D because when the camera pans over the lush, green mountains waiting to be explored, it feels as though the viewer is inside the helicopter.

Since there are already so many layers of trees and plants in the film, the depth created with 3D does make a difference. And although this gives somewhat a feeling as though the viewer is in the park, it doesn’t seem as though the viewer is interacting with the scene. Especially in comparison to the modern 3D movies, such as “The Croods” and “Oz the Great in Powerful.”

These two recent films not only have scenery that pops out, objects are also thrown towards the camera as though they’re going to hit someone in the audience. The camera pans along side the action of the characters or of the camera displays action through the eyes of the character. Because of this, the intensity of speed is enhanced.

“Jurassic Park” only creates this particular sensation when Dr. Allen Grant, played by Sam Neill, is in an open field with the two kids Lex and Tim Murphy, played by Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello. A stampede of Gallimimus dinosaurs run towards them and the viewer can sense the speed because the camera faces directly at the dinosaurs from the characters’ point of view. It feels as though the giant creatures are running straight at the audience, but only for a moment.

If the animatronics had been recreated to add scenes where the animals actually snap at the audience, as is the case several times in “Oz the Great and Powerful,” then the 3D aspect would contribute more to the new version.

Essentially, 3D in “Jurassic Park” is unnecessary. With or without the modern effects, it’s one of the few movies that a theater audience will applaud at the end but the same cannot be said about “Oz the Great and Powerful” or “The Croods.”

Yet, there is another kind of motivation to pay the extra $5 for “Jurassic Park” 3D. This is considering just how much extra work was put into converting 2D to 3D, as opposed to using a modern camera with the intentions of releasing it in 3D.

Stereo D is the company responsible for creating this transition. It initially takes a full digital scan of the original negative, restores any scratches or grainy noise that could have developed over the years, then follows a process referred to as rotoscoping. This is when every single image, in every single frame of the entire movie is traced and isolated on the computer. This includes isolating the smallest of details, such as somebody’s nose so that it can pop out for the 3D effect. It also includes isolating every tiny drop of rain. And it rains a lot in that movie.

This is followed by assigning depth and then basically filling in the newly added volume, for example, the side of someone’s head that didn’t exist in 2D. This was the process for the thousands and thousands of frames in the 127-minute film. In comparison, “The Croods” was completely computer generated and didn’t have to follow those tedious steps. And “Oz the Great and Powerful” was partly computer generated and the other part was filmed using Red Epic 3D cameras, which were recently released into the industry in 2011.

Both these movies are ideal for 3D primarily because of their creativity. Both of them are filled with bright, bold colors, fast-pace movements, magical scenery, and nonsensical creatures that have the tendency to pop out at the camera. The creators of both films clearly placed emphasis on building an unforeseen fantasy world.

“The Croods,” directed by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, is about a caveman family with the motto, “never not be afraid,” instilled by the father, Grug Crood, played by Nicolas Cage. Eep Crood, played by Emma Stone, is the curious teenager who constantly defies her father’s teachings and craves adventure. She finds this when she meets Guy, played by Ryan Reynolds. Guy is a more evolved human that refers to the Croods as “cavies,” wears shoes, traps his food with innovative contraptions as opposed to simply chasing after it, and uses a leaf to wipe his mouth when he’s done eating.

He introduces the Croods to fire, using their mind to form ideas, and the concept of having a pet. Guy’s pet is an amusing pink sloth, Belt, which he uses to keep his pants up. This influences the son Thunk Crood, played by Clark Duke, to keep a blue crocodile with dog-like qualities with him as the family crosses unknown territory in search of safety. Because according to Guy, the end of the world is near.

The Croods have no choice but to abandon their cave as earthquakes begin to cause rocks to collapse around them. In 3D, it feels as though the audience is running with the family trying to duck underneath the rocks as well. While “Jurassic Park” also has depth effects adding more layers within the wildlife, those same effects add so much more in the jungle through which the Croods travel.

The imaginative plants with over-sized leaves and hanging vines that the cavemen use to swing through make it seem like a playground. A somewhat frightening playground with a green and blue saber-tooth tiger that continually attempts to attack the family and the audience, as well as a swarm of small pink birds that can consume an entire mammoth within seconds, leaving nothing but the skeleton. Flying turtles, fireworks that turn into popcorn, and giant dandelions all jump out of the screen throughout the movie.

Yet, “The Croods” doesn’t create a theme park ride illusion as much as “Oz the Great and Powerful” does. It seems as though the director, Sam Raimi, imagined every scene to be in 3D. The extraordinary effects and magical scenery almost matches that of “Avatar,” likely due to the fact that Robert Stromberg was the production designer for both.

Oscar, Oz for short, played by James Franco, is initially a selfish, con artist from Kansas, who eventually proves to be the sort of ‘wizard’ that the Land of Oz needed. Just as in “The Croods,” the creatures in this world are as fictional as possible, such as tiny river fairies that squirt water when they’re mad. When Oz first discovers this, the camera shows his point of view so that it seems that the viewer is getting squirted.

Instead of friendly flying turtles like in “The Croods, Oz the Great and Powerful” has evil flying monkeys that are constantly trying to attack Oz and his companions due to the evil witch’s demands. His companions are Finley, a loyal flying monkey who wears bellhop suit, played by Zach Braff, and China Girl, a delicate, yet feisty 14-inch china doll from Chinatown, played by Joey King.

Through their adventures, they encounter the Dark Forest filled with frightening plants with sharp teeth that try to bite at them. The plants snap at the camera in the way that one would want the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” to snap, in order to feel within the story.

At another point, they come across Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, played by Michelle Williams, who takes them across the pink sky as they travel in individual bubbles. Oz is having trouble balancing within his bubble and finds himself unable to slow the bubble down. The camera changes to show his perception, highlighting his inability to balance and the rapid speed he’s moving, to the point where it’s almost dizzying. This shows that the 3D effect is successfully bringing the audience into the action.

Spending $5 extra for the 3D experience is almost necessary to fully appreciate films such as “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Where there are fireballs, spears, gold coins, fence posts and other objects that fly towards the camera, as well as constant movement throughout the majority of the film. Just like in theme park rides, it’s fun entering an illusion where you can be thrown into a twister, run from a lion, and fall down a waterfall, without getting hurt.

  • Title: Jurassic Park 3D
  • Released: April 5, 2013
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy & Gerald R. Molen
  • Distributer: Universal Studios
  • Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum
  • Screenwriters: Michael Crichton & David Koepp
  • Cinematography: Dean Cundey
  • Run time: 127 minutes
  • Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: PG-13 (for intense science fiction terror)
  • Playing at: Regal Southland Mall Stadium 16, Movies at the Falls 12, Regal Kendall Village Stadium 16 & RPX, Paragon Grove 13, AMC Sunset Place 24, Regal South Beach Stadium 18, Cobb Theatres-Dolphin 19 Cinema
  • Title: The Croods 3D
  • Released: March 22, 2013
  • Directors: Christopher Sanders & Kirk De Micco
  • Producers: Kristine Belson, Jane Hartwell, Jeffrey Katzenberg
  • Distributer: Dreamworks Studio & 20th Century Fox
  • Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman
  • Writers: Christopher Sanders, Kirk De Micco, John Cleese
  • Cinematography: Yong Duk Jhun
  • Run time: 91 minutes
  • Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: PG (for some scary action)
  • Playing at: Regal Southland Mall Stadium 16, Movies at the Falls 12, Regal Kendall Village Stadium 16 & RPX, Paragon Grove 13, AMC Sunset Place 24, Cobb Theatres-Dolphin 19 Cinema
  • Title: Oz the Great and Powerful 3D
  • Released: March 8, 2013
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Producer: Joe Roth
  • Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
  • Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King
  • Screenwriter: Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsay-Abaire
  • Cinematography: Peter Deming
  • Run time: 130 minutes
  • Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: PG (for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language)
  • Playing at: Regal Southland Mall Stadium 16, Movies at the Falls 12, Paragon Grove 13, AMC Sunset Place 24, Regal South Beach Stadium 18, Cobb Theatres-Dolphin 19 Cinema