To 3D Or Not To 3D: Buy The Right Guardians Of The Galaxy Ticket

While every Marvel Studios film has been released in 3D since Kenneth Branagh’s Thor back in 2011, the reality that it’s probably the weakest area of the company’s track record. None of the movies have ever been filmed in native stereoscope, and even though post-conversion has improved greatly over the last few years, Marvel’s features have never really looked that great with an added dimension. But that’s not stopping them from trying.

Enter James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The 10th film from Marvel Studios is heading into theaters this weekend, and will be doing so both in 3D and 2D formats. Rather than making you guys gamble on spending an extra $5 for a pair of glasses with your movie ticket, however, we have once again applied our patented "To 3D or Not To 3D" breakdown system to help you determine the best way to see the movie. How did it do within our criteria? Read on to find out!

Fit Score


Now that we are more than four years removed from James Cameron’s Avatar, I don’t think I have to fully explain why 3D and science-fiction action films work so well together. Expansive worlds, highly-choreographed fight sequences, and lots of CGI are all really good friends of the extra dimension, and Guardians of the Galaxy has all three in spades. On the list of movies that should be in 3D, "epic summer spectacles" will always be on the list, so James Gunn’s blockbuster gets an easy 5/5 for this one.

Planning & Effort Score


As alluded to earlier, Guardians of the Galaxy was not filmed in native 3D – but that doesn’t mean that the movie wasn’t planned from its inception as a 3D movie. James Gunn has revealed that he oversaw the conversion of every shot during post-production on the blockbuster – insuring that every scene works without being "silly, distracting, or overly showy" – and the film even has some extra immersion available in the IMAX 3D format thanks to shifting aspect ratios for particular sequences. Just because Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t actually filmed in 3D doesn’t mean that it wasn’t always going to be released on the format, and the filmmakers behind the movie did their part to prepare.

Before the Window Score


"Before The Window," a.k.a. when stuff comes out of the screen at the audience, is largely considered the more gimmicky side of 3D, but many – including myself – see it as the really being the fun aspect of the format. Given how dedicated Guardians of the Galaxy is to just being so damn entertaining, I was hoping for a bit more in the movie to fly off the screen, but I didn’t walk away wholly disappointed. From Groot’s glowing spores to a patch of grass and dirt that Rocket starts kicking towards the audience, the Marvel film does extend itself towards its audience occasionally, and it’s great when it does.

Beyond the Window Score


Looking at the opposite of "Before The Window," our "Beyond The Window" category is dedicated to the sense of depth that the movie delivers – and it’s where Guardians of the Galaxy shines brightest. Particularly when viewed in IMAX, the film’s beautiful, thrilling action sequences really pull the audience into the movie, as the 3D helps the audience feel like it’s really looking deeply into a world far beyond our own. Even more impressively, however, is the depth featured in the more intimate scenes, like when the titular group of anti-heroes has gathered in the belly of a ship to discuss plans to take down the bad guys. It’s in this category in particular that Guardians shines brighter than any previous Marvel 3D film.

Brightness Score


Being someone who wears prescription lenses makes me predisposed towards hating 3D glasses, but I royally rage against them when they do their part to hamper the brightness of a film. Fortunately, I was able to stay happy and relaxed during my two hours-plus watching Guardians of the Galaxy. It certainly helps that the movie is a vivid, flashy blockbuster with plenty of color and well-lit action sequences, but the filmmakers also do a good job not letting the darker scenes become muddy. This category is admittedly a bit subjective, as there are plenty of projectionists around the world who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, but I personally had a fantastic experience at my screening.

Glasses Off Score


Want to know a really simple test you can perform in-theatre to see if you’re getting the proper 3D bang for your buck? Just take off your glasses while the movie is running. The extra-dimensional effect is created because two separate images are being combined though the specialty lenses, and removing the lenses reveals the way that the 3D has been layered on the screen to create a sense of depth. While watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I removed my glasses periodically and was rather impressed with the results. With some exception, nearly every scene was so densely layered that it was actually hard to watch – which is, weirdly, a great thing.

Audience Health Score


If a director or stereoscopic artists fail to establish places for your eyes to focus during a 3D movie, an extremely negative reaction can be actual physical illness (usually represented in nausea or intense headaches). As someone who has seriously felt these effects before, I am happy to report that Guardians of the Galaxy is entirely sickness-free. Even with so much going on in certain sequences, your eyes never get lost in the screen, and I felt 100% for my entire experience watching the film.


3D Fit


P & E


Before The Window


Beyond The Window




Glasses Off Test


Audience Health


Total Score


Final Verdict: I can say without any hesitation that Guardians of the Galaxy is the best 3D we’ve seen featured in a Marvel Studios movie yet – and while I understand that’s not a super high bar, that shouldn’t undercut just how impressive it is. In addition to being simply visually spectacular, the extra dimension really does a great job of bringing the audience further into its world, and really enhances the experience. I will also add that if you have the chance to see it in IMAX, you absolutely should.

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Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.