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Giant robots vs. giant monsters. That's how Guillermo del Toro has been selling his sci-fi epic Pacific Rim since it was first announced, and that's surely the logic that went into putting it in 3D. When you're paying to see giant things smash each other, why wouldn't you pay for the extra dimension? But not all giant robots are created alike, and not all films that seem perfect for 3D at first actually wind up making the most of it. So which is Pacific Rim? Does it deserve your extra expensive ticket?
That's what we're here to answer in the latest installment of To 3D or Not To 3D, in which we break down a film's 3D effects into separate components and help you decide which ticket is worth the cash. Check out our analysis of Pacific Rim's 3D effects, and vote in the poll at the bottom to let us know how you'll be seeing it this weekend. You can also read our review of the movie here.
Does 3D Fit??Plenty of different kinds of movie will look good in 3D, but in general, the more CGI they've got, the better they look. And though Pacific Rim is technically about people, the real stars of the show are the robots-- a.k.a. jaegers-- and monsters-- a.k.a. kaiju-- who do battle on the streets of Hong Kong and under the ocean. They're not 100% CGI, but the jaegers and kaiju are digitally manipulated enough that they could really pop in 3D. Add that to the action scenes that have been promoted heavily in the trailers, and you can see why the 3D pick made sense-- not a slam dunk like a totally animated film, but perfectly reasonable. .
Fit Score: 4/5
Planning & Effort??Guillermo del Toro may have spent years designing the creatures of his movie and assigning them all names, but he was never imagining them in 3D. When Warner Bros. decided to convert the film into 3D last fall, it was months after production had completed, and even after del Toro himself had said that he didn't want to convert the film. Here's what he said when Eric visit the set: "The thing with 3D is when you have a creature the size of the ones we have, you really have no palate. You have no depth. If you see a building fighting another building at 200 feet you don’t get the exciting depth that you’re going to get – and if you force it then they look like miniatures or they look like guys in suits, they don’t look big. So part of the language of the movie was to not include the 3D. " Deciding to do the conversion a full 10 months before release ensured they'd have enough time to do the conversion right, but it's still the kind of 3D you never really want: not only unplanned by the director, but totally unwanted.
Planning & Effort Score: 2/5
Before the Window??It's pretty tricky to pull off the "Before the window" tricks in 3D when you're not planning for it, because to get that effect of something popping out of the screen, you need to position the camera and stage all of the action to make that happen. There's a moment or two in Pacific Rim that have a bit of that effect-- there's a lot of rain and ash flying around that moves toward you, and one of the jaegers has a sword that flies toward the audience in the middle of one scene. My guess it those were done after the 3D announcement, to try and justify the conversion a bit more. But for the most part this, the most fun element of 3D that you can imagine del Toro having a field day with, is barely present. It's a shame.
Before the Window Score: 2/5
Beyond the Window?
So if the stuff popping out of the screen is "before" the window, "beyond the window" refers to the sense of depth you get in watching a 3D movie-- really, the main reason to pay for the extra ticket. Pacific Rim does a better job than most post-conversions I've seen of conveying that depth, especially in scenes that sweep along the length of the jaegers, giving you an idea of just how large these skyscraper-sized buildings are. But when the action actually starts, the depth of field is disappointingly minimal, largely because all of the scenes take place at night and under water. You can imagine just how incredible a robots vs. monsters movie would be when planned for 3D, constantly giving you a sense of the massive scale. Pacific Rim isn't it.
Beyond the Window Score: 3/5
Brightness?You ought to be on high alert going into Pacific Rim and putting on those 3D glasses, because movies like this one-- with lots of scenes in the dark and the rain-- are highly susceptible to the dimming effect of 3D, which basically requires you to wear sunglasses indoors. Pacific Rim avoids all of these pitfalls… to a point. When I took my glasses off I didn't notice a huge difference in the brightness, and the moments where it seemed too dim to make out the action, that was apparently intentional, 3D or not. But psychologically, when you're watching a movie that's already dark, the 3D glasses feel like they're getting in your way. They may not actually make a huge difference, but it feels that way, which is nearly as bad.
Brightness Score: 3/5
The Glasses Off Test?When I wasn't removing my glasses to see if it helped the movie get less dim, I took them off for this little test, which is a rough way of telling you how much 3D you're getting. Blurrier with the glasses off? You'll get more 3D pop when you put them back on. Looks basically the same? You're getting ripped off, friend. As in any movie Pacific Rim varies from scene to scene with its level of blur, but there's an impressive amount in scenes with any amount of depth (that you can see through the darkness, at least). Post-conversion isn't known for doing great on this test, but Pacific Rim did OK-- further evidence that they at least took care with the conversion.
Glasses Off Score: 4/5
Audience Health? Movies not planned for 3D that get post-converted face serious danger of making you nauseous in their biggest action scenes-- sometimes the camera just moves too fast for your 3D-enabled brain to follow. Pacific Rim didn't cause me to actively hurl, but the 3D definitely didn't help make sense of some of the bigger action scenes. It's not a disaster, but it might be the final straw in making you wish you could rip off the damn glasses and see it on a flat screen instead.
Audience Health Score: 4/5
Final Verdict: Pacific Rim's 3D is thoroughly mediocre-- not good enough to make you marvel at it, not bad enough to make you actively resent it. Then again, I saw it for free. If you're given the choice to shell out an extra few bucks to experience 3D that may as well not be there at all, you're much better off spending that money at the concession stand, or investing it, or pretty much anything else. The giant robots and giant monsters will look just as gigantic and impressive without that unnecessary third dimension.
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Will you see Pacific Rim in 2D or 3D?