Paul W.S. Anderson, the helmer behind Resident Evil
and Mortal Kombat
, applies his love of wild action to the tragedy of the city of Pompeii, which was buried in ash and stone when the volcano Mount Vesuvius blew its top in 79 A.D. Game of Thrones
' Kit Harington stars as a gladiator who valiantly strives to save his lady love (Emily Browning) from the world-ratting mayhem this historical natural disaster has unleashed.
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, complete with a viewers poll where you can weigh in on how you plan to see Pompeii
Is this a film deserving of a 3D extrapolation? On paper, you'd think so. One part sword and sandal epic, one part disaster movie, there should be lots of opportunity for weapons to flex out into the theater along with fireballs, and for the lush landscapes of glorious Pompeii--from their glamorous homes to their massive gladiator arenas--to feel more dimensional and grand. Computer generated visual effects of natural disasters should be the cherry on top! On paper, it's a good fit.
Planning & Effort Score
The paragraph above is preamble to a major "But." But Pompeii
wastes nearly every opportunity for compelling 3D. For one thing, much of the film is shot in close-up, which is a framing that makes the 3D largely useless and generally unspectacular. For another, Anderson favors a cinematography style here that prefers having the background--and occasionally foreground elements--out of focus, which deadens the impact of 3D. Worst of all perhaps is the effect the quick-cut action sequences has on the 3D, which is essentially they make it impossible to focus your eyes on what's going on.
Before the Window Score
This is the aspect of 3D where it seems like elements of the film are reaching out into the theater. Pompeii
does okay here. Ash flits about like snow, and later screaming balls of flame and presumably molten rock jettison through the air, trailing black smoke. These moments works, they are just few and far between.
Beyond the Window Score
Here's where 3D pushes the world of the film seemingly physically back into the screen. When used properly, it provides a greater sense of depth to a setting, which can make palaces seem grander, caves seem more ominous and forests seem fuller. However, as much of the backdrops of Pompeii
are out of focus or minimized in close-up shots, there's little use for this device. It's only in the film's third act when a massive fight scene in the arena leads into the final destruction of Pompeii that we actually get to see the streets and architecture in a remotely interesting way.
As much smoke chokes out the film, brightness is never the thing keeping us from making out the action. Even with the inherent dimming effect of 3D glasses, Pompeii
is clearly lit.
This is a simple test to simply see how much 3D you're getting. Take off your 3D glasses, observe the blur. Put them back on, see everything pop anew! I ran this test a few times throughout the film, and while there are definitely layers applied within every frame, little of it was strong enough to really pop when I put my glasses back on.
Audience Health Score
When 3D is really bad, it can actually be bad for you. Some complaints of bad 3D include nausea, eyestrain and headaches. Watching Pompeii
, I suffered both of the latter. My eye's began to actually ache during one quick-cut fight scene, as my eyes desperately attempted to latch onto any recognizable shape to make sense of what was going on. Then a dull pain overtook my brain. This movie's 3D is literally so bad it hurts. At least it didn't make me nauseous, right?