You might think Sleeping Beauty told you all there is to know about the grand dame of villainy that is Maleficent. But Disney's latest live-action fantasy, Maleficent, will dare you to think again. Angelina Jolie stars as the titular bad fairy, headlining a fairy tale that challenges our perceptions of this iconic villainess.
Our theatrical review will weigh in on whether or not this new release is worth your time, while this column will focus solely on the film's use of 3D. Considering seven separate categories, To 3D Or Not To 3D evaluates the full scope of the 3D viewing experience. Think of it as a consumer's guide for your movie-going, complete with a viewers poll where you can weigh in on how you plan to see Maleficent.
Note: This reviewer screened a Real D 3D version of the film.
On paper, Maleficent seems well-suited to 3D. As a fantasy adventure, it has action sequences, sprawling landscapes, and towering castles that could all be made more awe-inspiring with some well-executed 3D. Plus, the promise of flying fairies and fire-breathing dragons suggests Maleficent could have some great Before The Frame moments.
Planning & Effort Score
Disney has made a lot of money with 3D, between offering 3D versions of new releases like Frozen and re-releasing their classic hits with 3D makeovers. So we can safely assume 3D was in the mix well before production began. However, Maleficent was shot in 2D with the help of a 3D consultant, then post-converted.
Maleficent cinematographer Dean Semler has shot movies like Heaven Is For Real and Grudge Match, but has no eye-catching 3D titles to his credit. While first-time director Robert Stromberg has worked on 3D films like Avatar, Alice In Wonderland, and Oz The Great and Powerful, he did so as a production designer. So we have no reason to assume he has experience with the intricacies of shooting for this device.
Before the Window Score
Before The Window refers to the element of 3D that appear to reach out through the screen and into your theater. You'd think with fairies, dragons, pointy thorns and Jolie's sharp cheekbones, there'd be plenty of places to make things pop. But I saw none actually protrude.
Beyond the Window Score
Alternately, Beyond The Window refers to 3D's ability to enhance the depth of field, making it seem like you could step right through the screen and into a fully fledged world. This is clearly where Maleficent is meant to shine, with its flowing landscapes of forests and thorns, its grand castles with deep halls, and battlefields studded by soldiers. In scenes like these, Maleficent does dazzle, adding depth of field and a bit of wonder to the works.
A tool of 3D that can trip up a movie is those darned 3D glasses that by their very design make things look dimmer. To counteract this, conversions need to be sure to accommodate so audiences who see a film in 3D aren't losing the details for the depth. Maleficent is throughly draped in grey tones, so the addition of the 3D glasses is a major problem. Night-set scenes will definitely have you squinting, and as Maleficent brings literal darkness with her wherever she goes, there are a lot of them.
Glasses Off Score
For a simple test to essentially see how much 3D you're getting in a given scene, remove your 3D glasses. Observe the blurs. Put them back on and see the images pop anew. While Maleficent has a lot of 3D flaws, it passes this test with flying colors. Every time I ran this test, the screen was a mess of blurs for all the layers built in post-conversion.
Audience Health Score
Bad 3D can actually be bad for you, causing nausea, headaches or eyestrain. For all the squinting through night scenes, I didn't experience major discomfort in Maleficent. However, Stromberg made several shot choices that are jarring to the eye.
For one thing, scenes of Maleficent flying has her soaring fast and furious, but she's going so fast, it's actually difficult to focus your eye on her. Similar issues arose for me during battle scenes. Quick pans defy your eyes to focus as they zip across sword-swinging soldiers and branch-wielding tree monsters. Plus, one particular scene of dialogue cut so quickly between its two characters that my eyes fluttered trying to find focus. Irritating yes, but none of this was actually painful. So that's something, I guess.
3D SCORES RECAP
P & E
Before The Window
Beyond The Window
Glasses Off Test
Final Verdict: Don't see this in 3D. There are moments where the device offers some added dazzle, but by and large, the 3D post convert makes Maleficent dimmer and darker, distracting instead of enhancing. Save the money on the padded ticket price, and treat yourself to some candy instead.
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Staff writer at CinemaBlend.