3D: 4 Visual Breakthroughs

https://i2.wp.com/bollywood-updates.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/life-of-pi-movie-image.jpg3D and its implementation has easily been one of the most discussed topics in film for the past few years. Despite the fact that 3D technology has been around for decades now, it never seemed to catch on despite the wide variety of different possibilities the technology offered. People found 3D movies of the 50’s and 60’s cheesy and gimmicky and for very understandable reasons since most of those films were content with merely throwing things at the screen for cheap scares rather than trying to truly immerse you in the expierence. It wasn’t really until James Cameron released his record-breaking Avatar that movie going audiences showed any real, passionate interest in 3D. Once Avatar became the movie-going experience of the decade, studios caught on to the vast monetary possibilities of the technology, saw an extremely easy and cheap way to capitalize, and started to release 3D movie after 3D movie to varying degrees of success (Clash of the Titans, anyone?). While the majority of the films have been no better than those of the 50’s and 60’s, a number of brilliant visionary directors have seen the artistic potential that 3D can offer and have used it to enhance their respective films greatly. Though 3D has a long way to go before it becomes a consistently viable option, if these films are any indication, there may be a bright future ahead for the technology.


https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/16/Dredd2012Poster.jpgDredd 3D

If somebody were going to tell me that the remake of Judge Dredd was going to be one of my favorite movie going experiences of the year, I would probably laugh in their face and walk away. While I was aware that the film was based on the supposedly awesome comic book series, the only exposure I had to the character was the shitty 80’s Stallone film, so it was safe to say that I walked into the theater with pretty low expectations. However, to my surprise, I walked out with a huge grin on my face, confident that I had just seen the best action film of the year, with its fantastic use of 3D being a huge contributor.

Typically, 3D doesn’t positively affect dialogue driven scenes very much. In fact, this is when I find the technology the most distracting, and it is extremely rare for a film’s 3D to work outside of action scenes. While, unfortunately, this tends to be the case for parts of Dredd 3D, the technology amplifies the action here to the nth degree.  The action scenes are shot so naturally, and with such fluidity too, that you feel as if you’re in the middle of the shootout. It helps that director Pete Travis lets each shot breathe and doesn’t fall into the frequent pitfall of incessantly cutting to new shots every second in an attempt to mask the action. He simply puts the camera down and lets the action unfold around it, which is perfect for 3D. However, the real standouts are the sequences featuring the Slow-Mo drug central to the film’s plot. The drug slows down time and over saturates the screen to a gorgeous affect. While the scenes are surely fantastic in 2D, the 3D really gives the drug that extra dimension that really helps the audience resonate with its hyperactive and eye tripping effect.



While many might scoff at my inclusion of Avatar in this list, its presence has nothing to do with the merits of its story, writing, or acting, but rather its use of 3D, and its extremely hard to find a movie that utilizes the technology better. It’s debatable, but in my opinion Avatar remains the best 3D movie of all time thanks to its ability to truly transport you to this alien world. No other movie has such a believable and seemingly organic, natural world than Pandora, and the 3D places you in this fantastical forest right alongside Jake Sully.

I have seen this film multiple times since I initially saw it in IMAX 3D and it’s never once managed to astound me the way it did that first time. On subsequent viewings I continually notice the vast amounts of flaws inherent in the film; I notice the stiff acting, the laughable dialogue, and the extreme heavy-handedness, all of which managed to fly over my head when I saw it in theaters. While I don’t like the idea of 3D being used as veil for a film’s flaws to hide behind, there is something so special and so amazing about seeing Avatar in 3D that its flaws don’t really matter. By seeing the film in 3D, its flaws are nowhere near as noticeable because you become so engaged with the visuals and the world on screen. You don’t care that you’ve seen this same, somewhat racist story before because the 3D is that engaging and that captivating. While their have been a wide variety of 3D films that are better “films” than Avatar, there is no denying that it is still one of the best examples of how to use 3D to elevate a movie.



It is a pretty rare occurrence for a well-established, master director to change his methods late into his career. Most auteurs tend to stick to what they know and almost always resist change. While it is commendable that these directors are so passionate about certain technologies, it does make them appear a bit old fashion. As many people say, the times are changing, and if you don’t change with them then you’re going to be left behind.  Well, rather than get left behind, the acclaimed Martin Scorsese decided to take a chance and make his first ever digital 3D film. While some doubted this move, Scorsese’s decision paid off in spades because Hugo is not only a fantastic film, but it’s also one of the best examples of 3D filmmaking yet.

Scorsese’s always been considered a master director, but he truly cements that sentiment with Hugo. Scorsese proves that the means don’t really matter when you have a director who is truly passionate about the material. Scorsese could have shot Hugo on 35mm film and is still would have been a great movie, but the 3D actually elevates the material and creates a better film. Scorsese’s consistently been known for his use of long, unending shots, the entrance to the Coco-Cabana in Goodfellas being a prime example, and these shots already manage to draw the audience in to the story, but his use of 3D makes these shots even more immersive, to the point where, by the end of the film, you feel like you know every nook and cranny of the Paris train station, as if you had been living there alongside Hugo. However, the 3D truly shines in the flashback sequence of Georges Melies’ films. His famous films, like A Trip to the Moon, come to life thanks to the 3D; it helps remind you of the immense artistry and creativity that went into early film. It’s ironic how one of the most controversial recent film techniques helped bring alive movie making of the past in ways we’d never experienced before.


https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/57/Life_of_Pi_2012_Poster.jpgLife of Pi

If you’ve read my review, than you already know how I felt about Life of Pi – it’s one of the best films of the year and a landmark achievement in terms of CGI and 3D. In the past few paragraphs I’ve continually mentioned 3D’s ability to immerse you in a story and make you feel like an active participant rather than merely an observer. While Life of Pi does this just as well, if not better, than the other movies on this list, that’s not even its most impressive facet.

What Life of Pi’s 3D does better than any other film is how it gives dimension to and elevates the dialogue heavy scenes. While 3D is typically best when loads of CGI and action are involved, it tends to buckle in dialogue driven scenes, as I mentioned with Dredd 3D. However, Life of Pi manages to use its 3D just as effectively when there is no CGI involved at all. Many might be most impressed with the scenes of Richard Parker on the boat, but one of my favorite shots is Ang Lee’s low shot of Pi’s uncle swimming in the Parisian pool. It’s a gorgeous shot that has no CGI in it, but the 3D still manages to captivate and draw you in. Even in the beginning when the movie takes place in Pi’s school, the way Lee shoots the film with lots of long sweeping takes manages to use the 3D in a completely original and genius way. I haven’t even mentioned the large quantity of CGI animals that are brought to life thanks to the 3D and its utilization. The movie’s 3D and effects are so astounding that, just by itself, Life of Pi solidifies 3D as a legitimate filmmaking tool.


Do you guys agree? Any other 3D favorites you think deserve on a spot of recognition? Have you seen Life of Pi in all its glorious 3D splendor? Let us know in the discussion board below!

Article by James Hausman


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