Should you choose to see director Marcus Nispel’s Conan the Barbarian remake this weekend, the biggest decision you’ll face at the ticket counter isn’t when to see it, but how to see it. Like nearly every major movie release, Conan’s being presented in both 2D and 3D formats. We’re here to help you decide between them.
Our ongoing “To 3D Or Not To 3D” series does not analyze the relative merits of a movie like Conan as a piece of art or entertainment. If you’re looking for that kind of review of the film, read mine right here. Instead what you’ll find here is an unbiased, 7-point analysis of Conan the Barbarian’s 3D on a purely technical level. To make that easier to understand and sum up, I’ll assign a score to each rating criteria, total it up, and you’ll have a simple guide to help determine the best way to see the Barbarian in theaters. Read on to find out what is best in life…
Does It Fit?
3D is a waste of time on a quiet drama and ideally suited for big, splashy, summer blockbusters. Conan the Barbarian is an action movie, which makes the use of 3D potentially worthwhile, but it’s also a gritty, down and dirty action movie. It’s the kind of movie destined to be full of fast-paced, shaky, close quarters, dust in your face, sweat and bodies colliding, battle sequences. While 3D can be a lot of fun on action movies, it’s not so much fun on that specific kind of action. 3D needs slow motion, wide angles, clearly defined visuals. That’s not really the world of Conan.
Fit Score: 3/5
Planning & Effort
Conan the Barbarian was not shot in 3D, rather it was shot in 2D and then post-converted into 3D. That’s not always a disaster, if the movie was shot in 2D with an eventual post-conversion in mind. That’s not what happened here. No matter what anyone involved with the production might tell you, one look at the screen while watching this film will tell you that it was really intended to be a 2D movie. Sure they decided to post-convert it more than a year before the film’s release, and so had plenty of time to do a good job, but the movie wasn’t really mean to be a 3D movie and so wasn’t written, shot, or produced in a way that really does much to maximize its use of the format.
P&E Score: 2/5
Beyond the Window
Done right 3D can be used to give images on the screen depth, to make it seem as though the screen in front of you is a window in with a whole world behind it. Because they did have so long to work on the post-conversion for this film, Conan really does try to make the most of this. But most of the movie’s battle scenes take place in extremely close quarters, where 3D depth doesn’t really matter. It tries, it really does, but bottom line here is that the film really just doesn’t need any of that 3D depth at all. It pulls it off, mostly, but that depth doesn’t make much difference in what you’re watching and if it wasn’t there odds are you wouldn’t even notice. Conan does what it can, but there’s just not much to work with here.
Beyond the Window Score: 3/5
Before the Window
3D is more than just a method to provide depth, it can also extend images out beyond the screen to make it seem as though they’re right in front of you. Done wrong it’s a gimmick, done right it’s a great storytelling advice, but Conan doesn’t do it at all. I suppose they could have at least tried, there are plenty of those arrows shooting past the camera, sword being thrust in the audience’s general direction shots… but again the movie really plays out as though was never intended to be in 3D and so there’s just not a lot of opportunity to use the technology to the fullest, much less do it in a way that isn’t gimmicky. So rather than get it all wrong, Conan doesn’t try. I guess not trying is better than screwing it up. I’ll give them an extra point for having the sense to know when to stop.
Before the Window Score: 2/5
When you put on 3D glasses you’re basically putting a filter between yourself and the screen. It’s like watching a movie with sunglasses on and that can make the image in front of you dim and listless. Theaters may be able to compensate by using different lenses and other techniques to increase the brightness of their projection, but really it’s up to the film to compensate for this by using 3D on something that’s naturally bright and vibrant. Conan isn’t. Most of the movie takes place in fog, smoke or dust. The sky is almost always overcast, a lot of it takes place in caves, at twilight, underwater, or in the dark of night. To the film’s credit, it makes those dim images as sharply defined as possible and that helps, but the movie’s just not really cut out for 3D and unless you’re seeing this film in a theater with particularly bright projection methods, you’ll be faced with images dulled and dimmed by the haze of 3D.
Brightness Score: 1/5
The Glasses Off Test
The simplest way to explain this is to say that if you view a 3D movie without your glasses on, the blurrier the image the more they’re using 3D. I took my 3D glasses off periodically during Conan the Barbarian to test this and found that not only was the image blurry, it was blurry in different places. This suggests that they’re using 3D in different ways to create different levels of depth. They didn’t just flip a 3D switch on or off, they vary it in an attempt to get the most out of the film’s post-conversion.
Glasses Off Test: 4/5
3D makes some people sick for a variety of different reasons, but there’s a pretty good chance that Conan the Barbarian in 3D will have adverse affects on even the most hardy moviegoers. The biggest problem here is the dimness of the images being projected on screen, that’s sure to result in headaches and fatigue caused by the strain of watching the entire movie through a sort of light-destroying haze. The film also contains a lot of close up, shaky, fast-paced battles which don’t really lend themselves to 3D and could very easily make more sensitive moviegoers nauseous. You’ve been warned.
Health Score: 1/5
Final Verdict: It should be said that I believe Conan the Barbarian’s 3D team did everything they could to deliver the best 3D experience possible with this film, but their task was impossible. Conan the Barbarian was never meant to be in 3D, should not be in 3D, and there’s simply no way to properly post-convert this movie into the format. There’s no reason at all to pay extra money to see this movie in 3D in fact it’ll probably be a much better film should you find a way to see it in 2D.