We're five years into Marvel's massive onscreen cinematic universe, and on to our fifth Marvel Studios movie to be presented in 3D. So far, the track record hasn't been great-- we gave both Thor's and Iron Man 3's 3D a weak 20/35, while handing Captain America: The First Avenger an acceptable 28/35. Even The Avengers, a fantastic movie by all counts, only got a 27/35. So can Thor: The Dark World finally prove that Marvel superheroes really are best seen in 3D?
That's what we're here to prove with the latest installment of To 3D Or Not To 3D, in which we pick apart the movie's use of 3D to find out whether it's worth paying that extra ticket price for the third dimension. For information about the quality of the film itself, you can click here to read our review. Thor: The Dark World opens in theaters everywhere this Friday.
Does 3D Fit? As a giant action movie heavy on CGI and featuring multiple fantastical worlds, Thor: The Dark World is the kind of movie modern 3D is made to capture. Hammers are thrown, lasers are shot, giant machines come crashing to the earth-- there are constant opportunities for 3D effects, and that's without even talking about the depth that 3D can bring to fictional places like Asgard. Even if not all of the Marvel movies have used 3D well, they've at least had good enough reasons to try it.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort? Director Kenneth Branagh had no idea his movie would be in 3D when he shot the original Thor, and Dark World director Alan Taylor didn't have a whole lot more warning-- the movie was only confirmed for 3D midway through shooting, and Taylor said from the set that he deliberately didn't change his style at all even after he learned it would be in 3D. Not only is this post-conversion 3D, something that works well only rarely, but it's 3D that the director was actively against. .
Planning & Effort Score: 1/5
Before the Window? "Before the window" is the part of 3D that can be the most gimmicky but also the most fun, a change to use the extra dimension to fling things out at the audience, or "before" the window of the theater screen. As a relatively realistic and gritty superhero movie (yes, even including the Dark Elves and all that), Thor: The Dark World doesn't really have much interest in before the window moments. There are a handful, enough to make you realize how much potential there is for it a movie willing to get a little goofier-- but they're quick and small enough that you might not even notice if you're not looking for them.
Before the Window Score: 2/5
Beyond the Window Even a director like Taylor with no interest in 3D can use the format to excel in this category, which we use to describe the feeling of depth that 3D can give you, as if you're looking through a window into a world, uh, "beyond." There are a decent number of moments in The Dark World that do this, particularly in one big, moving scene in Asgard and in the big final battle in London. But the depth effect isn't' nearly as dramatic or impactful as it could have been if, say, the director had actually wanted to use it.
Beyond the Window Score: 3/5
Brightness?Even the most thoughtless 3D adaptations generally do OK on the brightness front these days-- studios, especially studios as big and careful as Marvel, have learned to jack up the brightness of the screen to compensate for the dimming effect of 3D glasses. Thor: The Dark World doesn't take place in nearly as much darkness as you might guess from the title, and even in its dimmer scenes there's not a problem seeing what's happening. We may not have learned to stop doing needless 3D jobs, but we've at least learned how to make them visible.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test This is the part of Thor: The Dark World that drove me crazy over and over again. To do this test I removed my glasses at several moments in the film to see how blurry the image was without them-- in general, the more blur you see, the more 3D depth will be there when you put them back on. Every time I did it in this movie, the blurriness was minimal-- even in moments that could have had fantastic depth. It was proof positive that the 3D in this movie is merely decorative, as inessential as the popcorn you eat along with it. Actually, the popcorn is probably a better use of your money, come to think of it.
Glasses Off Score: 1/5
Audience Health? Here's the only other upshot about modern, sloppy 3D: it's generally not sloppy to the point that it will make you ill. When 3D is done badly and tries to add too much depth it can force seasickness, but lucky for you, Thor: The Dark World barely has depth at all! You could probably watch the whole thing without the 3D glasses at all and never feel ill. Then again, you could skip the glasses entirely and be fine, too.
Audience Health Score: 5/5