This holiday season, Peter Jackson is taking us all back into the fantastical world of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
. The sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
continues the adventure of Bilbo Baggins and his band of dwarf warriors on their quest to reclaim their homeland Erebor and a huge treasure from the ferocious dragon Smaug. With a cast that boasts Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, and Evangeline Lilly, plus loads of beasts and battle sequences, it's sure to be one of the holiday season's hottest tickets. (You can read our review here
.) But is its 3D ticket worth the additional cost?
This is the question we regularly tackle in our To 3D Or Not To 3D column. Here we evaluate a film's use of 3D through seven categories, considering the full scope of the 3D viewing experience. In this way, we offer you a consumer's guide for your moviegoing. Plus, through our readers poll we present you the chance to give us feedback on how you plan to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Does it fit? Yes. Resoundingly yes. With several big battle sequences, rolling landscapes, and various cavernous sets, this epic is the perfect venue for 3D. Plus, the heavy amounts of CGI locations and creatures nicely lends to the device's implementation. There's plenty of opportunity for depth of field, and the CGI makes it easy to create varying planes within the frame.
Planning & Effort Score
As a huge holiday movie with a legacy of spectacle preceding it in the franchise, you can safely assume a great deal of time and money has gone into creating the 3D of this film. All that hard work is apparent. One area that suffers from 3D, however, are the sequences where Bilbo wears the ring, and the look goes swirly and blurry, making it physically hard to focus on in 3D.
Before the Window Score
This is the aspect of 3D where it essentially leaps out toward you, into your space and face. Often, this is used to punctuate moments of action or beauty, and in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
it does both. Lovely little things like snowflakes, birds and bees, float out into the theater, as do less friendly things, like the snapping jowls of horrible beasts and fangs of hissing giant spiders! No joke: if you or your kid are freaked out by spiders, this sequence in 3D could prove traumatizing.
Beyond the Window Score
As opposed to Before the Window, this is the aspect of 3D that stretches back into the screen/the world of the film. Here The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
really shines. Everything from the winding streets of Lake Town to the majestic halls of the Mirkwood Elves, and the glittery, gold-strewn cavern of Smaug is made more spectacular by the enhanced depth of field. Everything feels bigger and thereby a greater threat to the wee Dwarves and Hobbit who are so far from home. Plus, you get the enhanced sense of really being in the muddy villages, lofty mountains, and tangled forests full of danger.
Here the feature's 3D falters a bit. Many sequences take place at night, in caves or in shadow. And though most of these are carefully lit to counter 3D glasses natural dimming effect, I still caught myself squinting at times in attempts to follow the action. This is definitely the area where the added dimension falters a bit.
This is an easy bang for your 3D buck test. Just take your glasses off, see how blurry things are onscreen without them, then put them back on to see how much things pop. With Jackson's preference for tight close ups, not every frame makes noteworthy use of 3D, but if you do this during a crowd scene of any of the many establishing shots of the world's labyrinth-like locations, you'll note many thoughtful uses of this device.
Audience Health Score
Sometimes 3D can actually make the audience ill. Sadly some of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
's action scenes are dizzying in the bad way. One major battle scene between Orcs, Elves and Dwarves had such intense flurry of motion that watching it in 3D did give me a bit of a headache. But these eye-straining moments are considerably few and far between over the course of the 2 hours and 41 minute runtime.