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Starting when Carl Fredericksen attached those bright balloons to the sky and floated off to Paradise Falls in Up, Pixar movies have used 3D excellently. In a way they were always built for it, with their animated heroes and bright colors and willingness to bound through space, but the studio famous for its perfectionists seemed to take to the 3D format especially well, even when so,so many other movies out there were simply slapping on the 3D surcharge and calling it a day (we've written about lots of those over the years of this column, you may remember).
So does Brave continue the 3D winning streak? Does our heroine Merida, with her bows and arrows and gravity-defying red hair, truly pop in the third dimension, to the point that it's worth paying for both your 3D glasses and the kid-size ones? We're back yet again to help you answer that question, with the latest installment of To 3D or not to 3D. We go through the 3D effects point by point and figure out just how much you're getting for your money when you shell out for that more expensive ticket. Read below and let us help you decide which Brave ticket is the right one.
Does It Fit?
Back to what we were saying about Pixar's stellar track record here-- it's hard to imagine something better suited to 3D than Brave, which isn't just an animated film (they always tend to look better in 3D), but one from the studio that's done animated 3D pretty much better than anyone. Add in all the opportunities to have Merida fire her arrow directly at the audience, and it's pretty much a lock.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort
It's always been a little unclear how much thought the Pixar people really put into their 3D effects. They go on and on about the exhaustive work put into developing the story, or the technology for something as groundbreaking as Merida's hair, but the 3D seems to always interest them less-- and I can't really say I blame them. And while there are parts of Brave that do feel carefully structured to take advantage of the 3D, there are plenty of others where it feels like a bit of an afterthought.
P&E Score: 3/5
Before the Window
This is what I like to call the fun part of 3D, and you might call it the gimmicky part. It's when something from the screen pops out at the audience, going "before" the window of the screen-- think monsters or swords or anything that might jump out and try to scare you. And Brave is both a supremely silly Pixar movie and an action-packed one, giving lots of opportunities for before-the-window goodness. In the Highland Games scenes early in the film, for example, logs are tossed and balls rolled, with hordes of burly Scotsmen barreling after them. It's fun to jump out of your chair, and not distracting from the good-natured shenanigans onscreen when they use the Before the Window effect.
Before the Window Score: 5/5
Beyond the Window
"Beyond the Window" is pretty much opposite of before the window, referring to how the 3D affects the depth of the movie-- y'know, like you're looking through a window into a wide world that expands beyond you. Unfortunately, despite Brave's setting in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, it doesn't have a lot of scenes of vistas or massive armies, and instead sticks to thickly packed forests and the castle where Merida and her family live. There might have been more depth in there that I wasn't seeing, for reasons we'll discuss in the next section, but there was a disappointing lack of dimension to the 3D on this count.
Beyond the Window Score:2/5
For a long time I thought we were getting over this problem with 3D, with filmmakers finally compensating for the fact that when you put on 3D glasses, you're effectively wearing sunglasses, and they have to amp up the brightness accordingly. Then came Brave, the first animated 3D film that I've been practically unable to see because of the 3D. Now, granted, this can often be a projection problem-- and I've heard reports from other people who found the brightness in Brave just fine--but if it happened to me, it can easily happen to you too. A lot of Brave takes place at night or in dense, dark forests, and the dimness of the 3D can make some scenes literally impossible to make out. I've never seen a film where the brightness was such a complete disaster, to the point that it honestly ruined some sections of the movie.
Brightness Score: 0/5
The Glasses Off Test
I wound up taking off my glasses a fair amount during Brave, in a vain attempt to try to actually see what was happening onscreen, and the results weren't too great. When you take off your glasses in a 3D movie you'll notice the image get blurrier; the stronger the blur, the more 3D effect you'll see when you put them back on. Brave didn't seem totally flat, and there are some moments where the blur is truly noticeable, but they don't seem to be taking advantage of the overall 3D effect here as much as they could.
Glasses Off Test: 2/5
Usually in this section we mean the sense of nausea you can get from watching an action scene in bad 3D, making you unable to orient yourself in the scene. But in the case of Brave, you're much more likely to suffer from eye strain, squinting to try and make out what's actually happening. Sure, it's not quite as dramatic as needing to vomit into your popcorn, but the 3D in Brave can be truly uncomfortable at times, which surely isn't the effect they were going for.
Health Score: 3/5
Final Verdict: Especially given how solid animated films usually are in 3D, this is a pretty dismal score, and hopefully the families who will flock to Brave this weekend will be able to save themselves the extra cash. Yes, it's sometimes hard to find 2D screenings these days, but it's worth that effort for Brave-- not only will you save the money, but you'll probably be able to actually see what's happening in the movie, an experience I missed out on thanks to the worst 3D Pixar has ever provided.
Will you see Brave in 2D or 3D?
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.