The biggest decision modern moviegoers face when showing up at a theater isn't which movie to see, but how to see it. 3D ticket prices have skyrocketed as high as $30 per ticket in some areas. Overall 3D ticket prices have risen around $2 to $3 over the prices charged for Avatar around this same time last year. Before you spend the extra money for a 3D ticket, you need to know if it's worth the extra dollars. We're here to help.
My goal in this space is not to analyze the relative merits of Tron: Legacy as a film. If you're interested in my opinion, read it here. Instead my purpose here is to present an unbiased analysis of the technical merits of Tron: Legacy's 3D, only. To do that, we've developed a straightforward, 7-point system to help audiences determine whether 2D or 3D is the right movie going choice for them. Let's get to it programs.
Does It Fit?
The truth about 3D is this: It doesn't work on live action movies. The format always seems to work best on computer generated animation, where shadows can't get in the way and sharply contrasted edges rule the day. Luckily much of Tron: Legacy is computer generated and the parts that aren't, aren't in 3D. More on that later. But because of the way the film's structured, because of what it's about, and because so much of it's computer generated it's hard to imagine any film being a better candidate for 3D than this one. It's a perfect fit.
3D Fit: 5/5
Tron: Legacy put a lot of thought into its 3D, so much so that it's one of the very few films to clearly use 3D tools as a storytelling device and not just as a gimmick. The early part of the film takes place entirely in the real world and absolutely none of it is in 3D. The movie only switches to 3D when Sam Flynn steps into the computer world, in an effort to differentiate the two realms and in the process really wow the audience with the size and scale of the computer environments we've just stepped into. Think of that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of her black and white world into the amazing Technicolor world of Oz and you'll get what they were going for here. Whether it actually works is a different matter but it's proof that the movie was structured and planned all along with 3D in mind. The film was shot with the new F-35 Sony Cam, the latest generation in 3D cameras, one generation newer even than the ones used by James Cameron on Avatar. Shot in 3D, written for 3D, planned for 3D from the beginning. Tron: Legacy's team gives it all they've got.
Beyond The Window
In his interview with us earlier this weekTron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski says of his 3D efforts: “I wanted to treat the screen like a window into another world.” That's exactly what he does. When used properly, 3D can provide depth to the picture on the screen in front of you, giving you the impression that you really are watching something alive and happening through a window, rather than something being projected on a flat screen in front of you. Legacy pulls that off perfectly and from the moment the film enters Tron's computer world the effect is so flawless at times you'll forget there's a 3D effect at all and simply accept it for what is.
Beyond The Window: 5/5
Before The Window
3D can make create depth to make it seem as though you're looking through a window, but it can also be used to make it seem as though objects are in front of the window, even floating over the heads of the audience. Used improperly this can become gimmicky, but it doesn't have to be. Movies like Legend of the Guardians have successfully used it to enhance the feeling of depth created by the Beyond the Window effect. Unfortunately, Tron: Legacy doesn't even try. Perhaps because Kosinski was so dedicated to the notion of making it feel as though we're watching another world through a window, or perhaps because they simply couldn't make it work with Legacy's dark computer world, whatever the reason Legacy doesn't even attempt to bring the movie out of the screen and into the audience. This could have added an extra dimension to some of the film's action scenes, made them feel more alive and visceral, so it's a shame that they've utterly ignored such a large part of the opportunities 3D technology offers. But I suppose better not to use it at all than to do it badly, as so many other movies have before it.
Before The Window: 1/5
It's one thing to make your 3D movie bright enough to be seen properly through the fog created by the lenses of 3D glasses, it's another to do it with both 2D and 3D scenes in the same movie. But Tron: Legacy pulls it off so brilliantly that before the movie starts a message is displayed recommending that the audience keep its glasses on throughout the movie, whether the scene on screen is in 2D or not. It's helped in part by the nature of Tron's world, full of the darkest darks contrasted with extremely bright, neons and flashes. But they deserve a lot of credit to for how watchable the 2D real world portions of the film are, even with your glasses on, you won't notice for a second that there's a filtered lens between your eyes and the screen.
It's no secret that 3D causes problems for a lot of people. Some people can't even see 3D, such as Cinemalogue's Rubin Safaya. But even Rubin, who gets a headache when attempting to watch any 3D movie admits that Tron: Legacy was better for him than most. He says, “I got a pretty intense headache with Avatar, I can tell you that. for the first 1/3rd of the film. Tron wasn't nearly that bad.” In part this may be because the opening minutes of the film are actually in 2D, which gives your eyes some relief before launching into all the 3D scenery. But for people who, unlike Rubin can see 3D, a lot of the time it has to do with brightness, and whether you have to strain to see the movie's 3D effects as they're projected. None of that's a problem with Tron: Legacy and, unless you're like Rubin odds are you won't have any problem with it at all. Even if you are like Rubin, it sounds like Tron: Legacy's 3D will treat you better than most. Leave the Tylenol at home.
Audience Health: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test
If you've ever taken off your glasses while watching a good 3D movie, you probably noticed that during the most intensive parts of the film, the picture on screen became even fuzzier. The easiest way to explain this is to say that the blurrier the image on screen appears when seen without glasses, the deeper and more vibrant the 3D is likely to be with your glasses on. So to test this I removed my glasses periodically during Tron: Legacy to see how the film's 3D effects created. The movie's real world scenes actually take place in 2D, and you'd be almost completely comfortable watching them with your 3D glasses off, though you may notice they seem unusually bright, probably to compensate for the fact that they expect the audience to keep their glasses on even in the movie's 2D moments. During 3D scenes the level of effect changed, depending on what was going on, deepening in wide, action scenes, narrowing some in others. A sure sign that a lot of thought went into the process and that by using contrasting levels of 3D the film is attempting to heighten the effect. That's exactly what we want.
Glasses Off Test: 5/5
Planning and Effort
Beyond The Window
Before The Window
The Glasses Off Test
31 (out of a possible 35)
Final Verdict: I'm not sure any movie, no matter how good it looks, is worth paying $30 to see. But if you live in an area where they're charging more reasonable 3D ticket prices (the nationwide average is around $16.50) and you're heading out to experience Tron: Legacy, then 3D is really the only way to see it. In some areas it's even playing in 3D IMAX, and according to the film's director this adds even more value to your viewing experience since when seen in IMAX the computer world portions of the film expand to a larger size format, filling even more of the screen in much the same way The Dark Knight did. If you're seeing Tron: Legacy it's worth spending the time and money to see it in the best way possible. It's just that kind of movie.
Are you planning to see Tron: Legacy in 2D or 3D?
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.