Dusty Crophopper soars back into theaters this weekend with Planes: Fire & Rescue. This time, instead of racing for the gold, he's flying into the fray, battling wild fires in an action-packed new adventure.
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 Planes: Fire & Rescue.
CG animation is generally a great base for 3D, as filmmakers have unparalleled access to manipulate layers. And as much of the action of Planes: Fire & Rescue takes place in the skies--and at the hands (or wings) or a stunt-loving plane--there's plenty of opportunity for the 3D device to dazzle.
Planning & Effort Score
Disney has been making a mint with 3D animation releases and re-releases, so by now they have plenty of technicians who know their stuff. And as the first Cars spin-off Planes was in 3D, Planes: Fire & Rescue would have been intended for the format from the earliest stages. The shot choices of the film's action scenes prove this, offering a POV perspective of the planes as they dive into fires or climb into the clouds. Planes: Fire & Rescue was clearly conceived to be one part family entertainment, one part ride.
Before the Window Score
This is 3D's most gimmicky element, the one where the movie seems to extend out into the theater. Unfortunately, there's little use of Before The Window in Planes: Fire & Rescue. A few parts of planes, perhaps a few flames, but overall the action didn't penetrate into the theater in a thrilling way.
Beyond the Window Score
Conversely, this aspect of 3D is the one that enhances the depth of field, making the world behind the character feel like its stretching out far past the flat movie theater screen. With much of the movie set in a lush national park rich with trees, mountains, and wildlife, Planes: Fire & Rescue had plenty of opportunity to use this element of 3D. There's also a cavernous lodge that gets some enhanced depth and grandeur thanks to the 3D. However, the film's color palette is low-contrast, which washes out some of the backgrounds to the point where they read as a bit further back, but flat. It reminded me of the painted flats of backdrops you'd see in old movies, distance is implied, not felt. But Beyond The Window does offer some stand out scenes, thanks to the POV perspective that puts audiences in the action for brief and sometimes truly thrilling moments.
3D glasses by their very nature make the projected picture dimmer, so 3D prints need to compensate accordingly to prevent the action from being lost in dark corners or shadows. As mentioned Planes: Fire & Rescue has a very light color palette, so most of the movie is at no risk of being lost in the dark. But actually, the most dynamic action scenes happen at night, where the dark corners enhance depth, and add the drama and scares of a raging wild fire. Nothing is lost to the darkening effect of 3D glasses.
Glasses Off Score
This is an extremely rudimentary test to show in the basest terms how much 3D you're getting on screen. Take the glasses off, and observe the blur. This will show you where different perspective is being manipulated to create the 3D effect. Every time I tested Planes: Fire & Rescue, the movie was making ample use of the 3D. It's just a shame it wasn't more spectacular.
Audience Health Score
Bad 3D can be bad for you, causing nausea, headaches, or eyestrain. Thankfully, Planes: Fire & Rescue caused none of the above. However, as there is much simulated motion--with POV shots coming straight from the cockpits of spiraling planes--people with motion sickness issues might want to skip this Disney 3D release. I don't suffer from motion sickness, but did get slightly dizzy at points of Dusty's rockier rides.
3D SCORES RECAP
P & E
Before The Window
Beyond The Window
Glasses Off Test
Final Verdict: The 3D of Planes: Fire & Rescue is competent; not great. It adds a bit of oomph to the sprawling surroundings of its high-flying heroes, but is at its best when they are in the thick of fire and sky. Kids will likely thrill at the feeling of being in the cockpit of Dusty Crophopper as he soars high; but they'll also be strapped in when he crashes hard. So, consider your kid's own sensitivities before buying the 3D ticket.
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Staff writer at CinemaBlend.
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