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When Richard Donner's Superman was released in 1978, the posters and trailers promised the movie would make you believe a man could fly. 35 years later, audiences need a little more convincing-- so can 3D help? With Man of Steel opening this weekend, we're getting a chance to see Superman take to the sky in glorious 3D-- but is that extra dimension really going to make the difference on whether or not you enjoy the movie?
That's what we're here to answer with the latest installment of To 3D or not to 3D, in which we break down the movie's use of 3D into all its parts and help you decide which ticket to buy. This isn't a review of the movie-- for that, you can go here-- but of how it uses the 3D technology that the studios want you to pay extra for. Is it worth it? Read below and find out.
Does 3D Fit? The answer to this depends on which part of Man of Steel you're looking at. On the one hand, superhero movies are in 3D more often than not these days, and many of them-- The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America: The First Avenger-- make pretty decent use of the format. Then again, none of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies have used the format-- and given that Nolan is a producer on Man of Steel and is lending it his trilogy's darker tone, that's probably a better comparison. This is a good fit only if you've resigned yourself to every single big movie being a good fit for 3D… which, sadly, you probably should have done by now anyway.
Fit Score: 3/5
Planning & Effort At one point, when he was releasing his bizarre passion project Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder seemed skeptical about the process of converting a film to 3D in post-production. Of course, now that he's been handed the keys to the DC Comics kingdom, he's clearly been overruled. Man of Steel was confirmed for a 3D and IMAX release just last fall, but in on-set interviews Snyder was planning for the 3D post-conversion, though he didn't exactly sound psyched about it: "Well, we’ll post convert and that’s cool. We’ll spend time and we’ll make it as awesome as we can. We’ll collect all the data we need and we’ll just do as good a job as we can.” I don't want to over-analyze, but doesn't this sound kind of like a guy who's given up already?
Planning & Effort Score: 2/5
Before the Window Superman: he flies faster than a speeding bullet. He leaps tall buildings in a single bound. He flies all over the place, in a way that's basically the set up of every old cheesy 3D effect-- look, you're with him, soaring through the Grand Canyon! Man of Steel had every opportunity possible to take advantage of this for a "before the window" effect, which is what we call it when 3D is used to make it feel like objects are popping out of the screen at you. But Snyder and company reject the before the window moments at every turn. There is no popping, no jumping in your seat. Even in moments where there is snow or other particulate matter floating in the foreground, a popular way to get some before-the-window impact in other films, the effect doesn't jump out. Man of Steel is clearly trying to ground Superman within a more realistic context, and maybe they thought the "before the window" effects-- which, granted, can be gimmicky-- were too big for the movie's tone.
Before the Window Score: 1/5
Beyond the Window This is the part of 3D that even "serious" movies are supposed to be able to take advantage of, using the extra depth to make large spaces-- say, the cornfields of Kansas or outer space-- look even deeper, and setting up multiple planes of action that, done correctly, can make big scenes even more exciting. But when you post-convert a film, it can be really hard to get that extra depth in there, and when directors rely heavily on handheld cameras-- as Snyder does here-- the extra depth can make it really hard on the eyes. So while part of me regrets that nothing in Man of Steel feels particularly deep or expansive, a bigger part of me is glad they didn't try it-- deep vistas combined with shaky cameras equal a queasy stomach.
Beyond the Window Score: 2/5
Brightness No one's ever going to praise a Zack Snyder movie for its bright color palette, and even with Supes's signature bright red cape in the middle of things, none of the hyper saturated colors in Man of Steel rise beyond "mellow." But, in all fairness, it works within the 3D anyway. Even the dark outer space scenes don't suffer from being too dim when you're wearing those 3D glasses, and you get the sense that even though Snyder might have lost a contest when he had to add the 3D, he was very, very careful to keep his signature color palette intact.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test Removing your glasses in the middle of a 3D is the surest way to clear up a hunch that the 3D might not be doing as much work as they want you to think. The glasses off test in Man of Steel, over and over again, proved its point-- you're supposed to see a really blurry image without the glasses, but the shots in Man of Steel were only mildly hazy, leaving me to wish more than a few times that I'd just gone with the 2D version instead. Not every scene in a 3D movie needs to have significant blur to be worthwhile, but even in moments where serious 3D depth would have helped, it simply wasn't there.
Glasses Off Score: 2/5
Audience Health Here's the one upshot on 3D that's not really doing anything-- it's unlikely to make you sick. Man of Steel may wear you down, and there are some action scenes so frenetically cut that you can lose your place amid all the punching and flying. But the 3D, for the most part, doesn't really add to the chaos. Small favors!
Audience Health Score: 4/5
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