There are a lot of big movies in theaters this holiday season that don't come with the 3D option, which seems like one of just many signs that the 3D trend may be flagging. But then, one of the most anticipated and best movies of the season is in 3D, meaning it's not time to ring those death bells just yet. Working in 3D and motion-capture animation for the first time, Steven Spielberg is back this week with The Adventures of Tintin, a massive adventure film that you might call the Indiana Jones sequel we wish we'd gotten with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If 3D works best with animation and great scenery, then Tintin is probably the perfect film for the format.
But did Spielberg bring his usual skill to 3D this time? Or was the move into motion capture so difficult that the 3D got lost in the shuffle? That's the question we're tackling in the latest installment of To 3D or Not To 3D, in which we use our ranking system to help you figure out which Tintin ticket to buy. Take a look at all the categories below and let us help you make up your mind.
Does It Fit?
Animated films have always been better suited to 3D than live-action, since the colors tend to be brighter and the action more controlled, making it easier for everything to pop out in the third dimension. As it's directed by a master like Steven Spielberg, and uses motion capture to really take advantage of the 3D animated space, Tintin is even better suited for 3D than most animated films.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort
Steven Spielberg has been making films long enough that he knows what he wants to do, and moving into motion-capture for the first time he made sure he was doing everything right, from working with the geniuses at Weta Digital to hiring Andy Serkis, master of motion-capture acting. Though the 3D was slightly less of the focus, it was still thought through from the very beginning, and it's an effort that shows.
P&E Score: 4/5
Before the Window
The Adventures of Tintin is an energetic, sometimes jokey film that allows for the before the window "gimmicks" typically associated with 3D, like yo-yos or arrows popping out of the screen at you. It doesn't go too far with these, but there are definitely a few bits that pop out of the screen, like the prow of a pirate ship or champagne corks deployed like bullets. In another movie these moments might feel over the top or take you out of the world but in Tintin it's all part of the energetic atmosphere.
Before the Window Score: 4/5
Beyond the Window
A globe-trotting adventure full of desert vistas, crowded city streets and massive action sequences, Tintin practically requires the 3D to help you keep up with what's happening where, and it takes advantage of it nicely. There's nothing quite on the level of Hugo, the new gold standard for depth of field in 3D, but especially in the action sequences Spielberg uses the 3D to be able to set up multiple planes of activity, so you can keep an eye on Tintin in the foreground while the bad guys come zooming up behind him. Even smaller spaces, like Tintin's own apartment, expand off into the background in a way that immerses you fully in this world.
Beyond the Window Score: 4/5
In the early days of 3D films the glasses themselves served as a huge problem in trying to see the film, since 3D glasses are effectively sunglasses you put on in a dark room. Smart filmmakers typically compensate for this by making their films brighter and more colorful, and Steven Spielberg, of course, is a smart filmmaker. Even with a number of scenes taking place at night, Tintin is crystal clear and easy to follow-- it helps that one of the central characters is a bright-white dog named Snowy, but really, everyone in Tintin pops out just fine.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test
This is where you can really separate the 3D men from the boys, as it were, removing your 3D glasses in the middle of a scene and seeing just how blurry the image becomes. If it's pretty much the same, that means the 3D isn't being used all that well; if it's almost unseeable, that means the 3D image is popping out at you, so get those glasses back on quick. Tintin mostly falls somewhere in the middle; though the film's depth is really accentuated by 3D, there's very few scenes so dramatic that they're unwatchable without glasses. It's not entirely a 3D experience you couldn't recreate in 2D, but not something you could sit through without glasses either.
Glasses Off Test: 3/5
"Will this movie make me sick?" It's not something most people ask themselves about a moviegoing experience, but when 3D is used poorly, it's an important one-- all those planes of action and quick-moving 3D objects can make you totally sick to your stomach. Like with everything else in Tintin, though, the action here is masterfully controlled, meaning you're never going to have trouble focusing your eyes on the scene no matter how fast things are clipping along. If Indiana Jones running away from the boulder didn't make your stomach hurt, this shouldn't be a problem either.
Health Score: 5/5
Final Verdict: You're not absolutely required to see The Adventures of Tintin in 3D, unlike the way I would verbally threaten you if you told me you intentionally saw Hugo in 2D. But if you do wind up shelling out extra for the 3D Tintin ticket, you'll probably get a lot of out if, including the joyful feeling of watching a 3D movie that's been created by a director who really knows what he's doing. It doesn't hurt that the movie is a complete delight, so energetic and fast-paced that you probably won't even remember you're wearing the glasses after a while. If you want 3D that's good but not constantly drawing attention to itself, this is a perfect one for you.
Which Tintin ticket will you buy?
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.