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Every time a remotely expensive fantasy movie comes to theaters, the studios seem to promise that the movie "must" be experienced in the 3D. But we've all been burned enough by crappy 3D transfers and flat scenes to know better. When is a big fantasy movie-- or any 3D movie, really?-- worth the ticket price?
That's what To 3D or not to 3D aims to find out, and today we're tackling Jack the Giant Slayer, the enormous fantasy epic from once and future X-Men director Bryan Singer. The film delayed production so Singer could get the effects right, and with giants right there in the title it seems to demand being seen big to appreciate all the effects. But is 3D really necessary on top of all that? Read below to find out, and if you want to read our review of Jack, click here.
Does 3D Fit??A big-scaled fairy tale story, Jack the Giant Slayer is the kind of movie that studios green light solely for the purpose of marking up that 3D ticket (OK, maybe not solely), but you get the idea. And because it's a movie aimed at children, with more deliberately plotted action scenes and sillier gags, it allows for more obvious use of 3D than something like, say, Clash of the Titans.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort??According to some reports, director Bryan Singer actually had to ask the studio to consider using 3D-- far from the dreaded situation where a studio shoves 3D down the throat of an unwilling director. Singer used the RED EPIC camera not only to allow for better 3D production, but to accommodate the motion-capture used to create the giant characters. Singer's been at the forefront of new effects technology in blockbusters since the first X-Men, and by all accounts he was eager to incorporate 3D as well.
Planning & Effort Score: 5/5
Before the Window??When we talk about the "before the window" moments in 3D movies, we're talking about those times when an object onscreen seems to be popping or even flying out at the audience. Yes, it's gimmicky, but used well and in the right movie it can be a delight, and the light-hearted Jack the Giant Slayer does well with, allowing giant faces and swords and (of course) the beanstalk to pop out and give the audience a bit of a jolt. Honestly, I think they could have used it a bit more.
Before the Window Score: 4/5
Beyond the Window?For "beyond the window" we actually look to the stuff that expands beyond the screen, giving you a sense that you're not just looking at a flat screen, but peering through a window that looks out into a world that stretches out endlessly. Jack the Giant Slayer is all about depth, emphasizing not just the size difference between the humans, but the height Jack and company must climb to reach the top of the beanstalk. There are some thrilling moments of vertigo during the beanstalk climb aided greatly by the 3D, and then a big epic battle scene near the end that gets a lot of its tension from how well you can sense the depth of field. The pop-out 3D gags are fun, but these are the scenes where you can really sense why Singer wanted to use 3D so badly.
Beyond the Window Score: 5/5
Brightness?We've been burned by the brightness of 3D fantasy movies in the past, since these films can be prone to dark forests or muddy action scenes that feel far too dark. But Jack the Giant Slayer is distinctly aimed at kids, with a ton of scenes happening in bright daylight and even the big scary monsters lit well enough to keep them from being out and out menacing. Making 3D movies too dark at this point is kind of an amateur move-- everyone knows 3D glasses are basically just sunglasses!-- but Singer and company go above and beyond in keep the brightness up.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test?We use this test as a pretty rough way of estimating just how much 3D is going on in the frame. When you remove your glasses during the film, check for how blurry the image becomes In general, the more blur, the more 3D. Though Jack has some impressive moments of 3D, its quieter moments-- i.e., the ones when you'll actually remember to remove your glasses-- tend to be a little flatter. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you want your movie crammed with 3D effects to top to bottom, you might be disappointed.
Glasses Off Score: 3/5
Audience Health? Apparently it takes someone to think of the children to help the rest of us keep from vomiting in the middle of a 3D action scene. 3D applied poorly to big action scenes like the ones in Jack can make you lose your lunch, but luckily Jack's action is laid out clearly and deliberately, both for the sake of the kids and adult audiences sick to death of shaky cam. You may debate whether or not it's worth buying a pair of pint-sized 3D glasses for your kid, but at least you can be assured you won't be running for the bathrooms either.
Audience Health Score: 5/5
Final Verdict: Thanks to deliberate planning and a tone that lends itself to fun 3D gags, Jack the Giant Slayer is pretty much the best example of how 3D ought to be used in the fantasy genre-- engaging, bright, willing to get a little silly but adding resonance to the biggest scenes. If you're going to the trouble of seeing this big movie on the big screen, you may as well splurge for the 3D that the director intended. As a bonus, Ewan McGregor's impressively coiffed hair looks extra-special in 3D.
Will you see Jack the Giant Slayer in 2D or 3D?