For years now James Cameron has been splitting his time between making movies and exploring the depths of the ocean. In DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D
his passions combine to take audiences 36,000 feet below sea level within his specially built submarine, Deepsea Challenger.
Our theatrical review
will weigh in on whether or not this new release is worth your time, while this column will focus solely on the film's use of 3D. Considering seven separate categories, To 3D Or Not To 3D evaluates the full scope of the 3D viewing experience. Think of it as a consumer's guide for your movie-going.
Typically documentaries that get the 3D treatment are nature docs that capitalize on the incredible habitats and creatures they are capturing. DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D
has its fair share of moments like these, and its when the doc's 3D is most dazzling. However as this is also a doc about the very process of going undersea, there are segments of the movie that--while in 3D--aren't visually dynamic enough to be much enhanced by the added dimension. For instance, boardroom meetings about the progress of their submarine aren't fit for 3D experiences.
Planning & Effort Score
It's James Cameron. As the most outspoken advocate of 3D, you have to expect every element of the movie's 3D was treated with the greatest care. Much of the film is shot in 3D, Cameron even takes a moment to point out the two 3D cameras made especially for use outside his sub. But when it comes to archival footage, say of his trips down to the Titanic in the early 2000s, or behind the scenes footage of The Abyss
, the post-converted 3D is impressive as well. Looking at this, it wouldn't surprise me if Cameron pushes documentaries as the next great terrain for 3D technology.
Before the Window Score
This category refers to the elements of 3D that seems to exist in front of the screen, reaching out into the space of the theater. It's sometimes considered to be 3D's most garish element, which might explain why DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D
directors John Bruno, Ray Quint and Andrew Wight used it sparingly. Mostly it is used in the underwater environment, popping out the wildlife that swims there, far below where most men tread. It's an incredible way to put us into the adventure Cameron is living out here.
Beyond the Window Score
On the other end of the spectrum is this category, which refers to the element of 3D that appears to stretch deep into the screen. This is where DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D
most shines. Aerial shots of Pappua New Guinea give awe-inspiring views of its lush forests as well as the devastation a volcano brought to its shores. And as Cameron takes us under the waves, the 3D-enhanced views into the depths of the ocean are absolutely breathtaking, recalling Life of Pi
's underwater sequence.
Except of course, this is all the more engaging for being real. The movie doesn't only throw us into the drink, as it were. It throws us in with Cameron, who is crowded in a tiny sphere that groans as it descends. With the impeccable 3D camerawork within his pod, it feels like we're sitting right beside him, which amps up the stakes of the film.
3D glasses inherently dim your field of vision, so 3D movies need to compensate accordingly to prevent their images from getting lost in the murkiness. DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D
is a top-notch 3D experience, and won't be tripped up on this count.
The most rudimentary way to see how much 3D you're getting in a given scene is to remove your glasses and observe the blur. DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D
is stem to stern 3D, though some of the lower grade archival footage is too grainy to merit a great 3D upgrade.
Audience Health Score
Bad 3D can actually be bad for you, causing nausea, eyestrain and headaches. I suffered none of the above. However, being wedged into a tiny sub alongside James Cameron did make me feel a bit claustrophobic. If that's an issue for you, be warned.