Another week, another 3D release. Every single weekend in May has featured a brand new 3D movie, including Thor, Priest, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. On the docket this weekend is Kung Fu Panda 2, the sequel to the Dreamworks Animation smash hit from 2008, so let’s ask the big question: is the 3D worth the extra price?
Those that already read my review of the film know that it’s a deep, energetic, entertaining, action-packed feature for all audiences, but how does it stack up against our seven category test? Read on below to find out if you should be shilling out a few extra bucks to see pandas and peacocks do battle in the third dimension.
Does It Fit?
There are many reasons why a film would or wouldn’t be appropriate for 3D, but Kung Fu Panda 2 may just be the perfect specimen. For starters, it’s an animated movie, a genre which has resulted in some of the best 3D we’ve seen thus far. Next, it has action film elements that provide plenty of moments for things to leap out of the screen at the audience. Then there’s the beautiful rendering of ancient China, which, with the third dimension, draws the audience in even more. The technology doesn’t only fit the project, but it’s perfect for it.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort
As mentioned above, animated films tend to have a higher success rate in the 3D medium. This is because every single angle and every single element in every single frame can be constructed, altered and moved to appear perfectly in the third dimension. This was the path of Kung Fu Panda 2, which, from its inception, was planned as a 3D film (Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of Dreamworks Animation, has previously mentioned that every single one of the studio’s films from here on out will be utilizing the new technology). As a result of this planning every single frame of the new film is beautifully rendered and sculpted to fit 3D, even avoiding the horrific “cardboard cutout” appearance that so many movies suffer from. The animators put everything they had into the 3D and it has paid off handsomely.
Planning & Effort Score: 5/5
Beyond the Window
There are two types of experiences one can have with 3D: “Beyond The Window” and “Before the Window.” While I will get into the latter in a bit, the former refers to the sense of depth that the 3D experience delivers; the idea that you’re not looking at a painting but rather into a different world. Because animators can do practically whatever they want when constructing said different world, this feature is typically a hallmark of animated films and Kung Fu Panda 2 doesn’t disappoint. Peering behind the characters audience members get the sense that they are actually looking into ancient China. Outdoor shots extend all the way to the horizon and indoor scenes give you the sense that you are inhabiting the same space as the characters. Simply put, the film aces the “Beyond the Window” experience.
Beyond The Window Score: 5/5
Before the Window
Remember how I said that there are two experiences to be had in 3D? Well, now that we’ve discussed the first, let’s talk about the second: the “Before the Window” effect. This is when the movie actually makes an effort to extend beyond the limitations of the screen and instead of having you enter the movie, has the movie enter your world. This is where Kung Fu Panda 2 being an action film comes in. Over the course of many fight sequences, the audience is constantly ducking and dodging kicks and punches that fly towards their face. The movie even has some fun with projectiles, as Lord Shen’s kung fu destroying weapon regularly firing into the crowd. But even beyond the action the movie finds ways to utilize this part of the 3D experience, finding elements in the environment – such as dust and snow – to blow into the theater. It never feels gimmicky or forced, but is quite beautiful.
Before The Window Score: 5/5
Welcome to the bane of 3D’s existence. Until technology advances to the point where we won’t have to wear glasses in the theater it’s a problem that we’re going to have to keep dealing with. While films may do their best to compensate, the truth is that we’re all still wearing sunglasses indoors which, in addition to making us all look like Corey-Heart-loving douchebags, negatively affects the experience. Unfortunately, this is where Kung Fu Panda 2 suffers the most. Playing with a dark color palette and featuring many scenes set at night, a good portion of the movie is made murky and dim due to the lenses. While not totally devastating, it certainly doesn’t do the film any favors.
Brightness Score: 2/5
The Glasses Off Test
Some of our more rebellious readers out there may have thought to themselves at one point, “Screw 3D, I’m not watching a movie through some stupid glasses!” Well, thinking this way could severely influence your ability to enjoy a quality 3D film. After all, those that take off their cheap plastic frames during a movie with high-quality 3D will notice that a great deal of the scene is made blurry by the technology. Typically, the more distortion you see this way, the more thorough the application. During Kung Fu Panda 2 I occasionally looked over the rim of the glasses and was amazed by what I saw. Every frame featured high levels of blurriness that made the film unwatchable without the specially-designed lenses.
Glasses Off Score: 5/5
Some people never get sick while watching 3D movies, others always get sick. Everyone reacts to the technology differently, so it’s a fairly hard category to nail down. Much of what causes motion sickness and headaches in 3D is the fact that some movies aren’t successful in guiding your eyes to the action, which leaves audience members searching for the focus point in the frame and getting disoriented. At no point during Kung Fu Panda 2 did I find this to be an issue, director Jennifer Yuh always successful in guiding your eye. I should also mention that I am a member of the unlucky group that is forced to wear 3D glasses over corrective lenses and I walked out of the theater with zero health complaints.
Health Score: 5/5
Will you see Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2D or 3D?
Final Verdict: In these kinds of tests 32 is a ridiculously high score, and, if you haven’t figured it out already, means that you should be seeing Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D. The movie fully capitalizes on its animation advantage and is easily one of the best 3D movies that I’ve ever seen. Take the money that you didn’t waste on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last week and spend it watching kick ass animals perform some wicked martial arts.
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.