At this point it's a surprise when a superhero movie isn't in 3D, so no one should act shocked that James Mangold's The Wolverine is coming to theaters this Friday and trying to get you to pay extra to watch it through those plastic 3D glasses. And hey, Hugh Jackman is back, and haven't you always wanted to see those adamantium claws in the third dimension? But as we well know by now, not all 3D is created equal. Is The Wolverine worth your cash?
That's what we're here to answer in the latest installment of To 3D or Not To 3D, in which we break down a film's 3D effects into all its components and help you decide whether it's worth the extra cost. Check out our analysis of The Wolverine's's 3D effects, and vote in the poll at the bottom to let us know how you'll be seeing it this weekend. You can also read our review of the movie here.
Does 3D Fit? At first glance, sure, lots of superhero movies have been in 3D, so why not The Wolverine? But whereas Man of Steel had city-sized fights to dazzle you with its scope, and The Avengers had outer space to contend with (in a handful of scenes, at least), The Wolverine is probably the most intimate superhero story we've seen in years, mostly about Hugh Jackman's Logan getting enmeshed in one family's drama. So while there are fight scenes and all, none of them really scream "third dimension" the way many other films of the genre do. The lack of CGI-- an element that usually lends itself to 3D-- doesn't help much on this score either.
Fit Score: 2/5
Planning & Effort When the President of a studio says he doesn't know if a film will be in 3D just months before it shoots, you can guarantee post-conversion, which is exactly what The Wolverine officially got just back in September, well after production was already underway. Talking on the set director James Mangold admitted that not shooting in 3D was essentially a budget decision, and seemed way more enthusiastic about the non-3D digital camera he was using than anything to come in the post-conversion process. In short: this is one of those post-conversion jobs that nobody but the studio accountants was giving much thought to until well after the movie was made.
Planning & Effort Score: 2/5
Before the Window The "before the window" category is where even post-converted films can sometimes have fun, adding in snowflakes or ashes or other particulate matters to pop out in front of the screen, or "before" the window of the movie's frame. But Mangold, who has expressed his distaste for gimmicky "pop-out" 3D moments, pretty much leaves this area alone entirely. Even scenes that do have snowflakes or other stuff in front of the characters don't especially pop. It's as if he was overseeing the conversion process and specifically saying "No, make sure that nothing feels like it's coming into the theater at all"--even though this category is pretty much half of the appeal of 3D in the first place.
Before the Window Score: 1/5
Beyond the Window
"Beyond the window" is the opposite of "before the window," the part of 3D that allows the scenes to feel deep, as if they're reaching into a world through the movie screen. The Wolverine, as a film that takes place largely indoors or in confined outdoor spaces, doesn't really have an opportunity to take advantage of this, and rarely tries. Even the celebrated action scene on top of a bullet train doesn't really take advantage of the depth-- the damn thing is moving too fast to try. Post-conversion rarely does all that well conveying immense depth onscreen, but The Wolverine doesn't really even try.
Beyond the Window Score: 2/5
Brightness 3D faults aside, The Wolverine is a very well-directed movie, and Mangold is careful in staging his action so that everything is clear and the audience is constantly oriented-- which includes keeping the lights bright enough. The 3D glasses still have the expected dimming effect, but it's never enough to make the action unclear. In one later scene, set at night and in the snow, the glasses start to feel like a hindrance. But for the most part the brightness does just fine.
Brightness Score: 4/5
The Glasses Off Test The glasses off test is a quick way to get a general sense of how "much" 3D you're getting. When you take the glasses off, is everything really blurry? Then it'll really pop out in 3D. If it looks pretty much the same, you're being robbed. As a film without a lot of depth either in front of or behind the action, The Wolverine unsurprisingly looks pretty flat when you take the glasses off as well. Sure, some backgrounds will be slightly blurry if they're especially far away, but that's really the bare minimum for getting 3D impact. The glasses off test will likely confirm what you already know: there's not much 3D going on here, period.
Glasses Off Score: 3/5
Audience Health Remember what I said about Mangold being a careful director? That's especially good for the risk of nausea here, since the action scenes in The Wolverine are clean, well-composed and utterly unlikely to give anyone a woozy stomach, 3D or not.
Audience Health Score: 5/5