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If you see Shark Night this weekend you'll be stuck choosing between buying either a 2D or a 3D ticket. We're here to help you decide whether 3D's worth all the extra money.
This isn't a review of Shark Night as a movie, if you're looking for that check out my full Shark Night 3D review here. For the record, I thought it was terrible, maybe one of the worst movies of the year. But that doesn't mean the 3D was bad. Out goal with To 3D Or Not To 3D is to strip out the opinion and give you an unbiased, factual guide to whether or not the movie's 3D is any good.
To do that, we'll break Shark Night's 3D in our patented, 7-point system and come up with a final score which will help you decide how to see Shark Night, should you choose to see it. Let's dive in…
Does It Fit?
Horror movies have a long history in the 3D format, unfortunately that history is almost universally bad. Part of the problem is how dark horror movies are, the darker the movie the less it works in 3D, usually. Since Shark Night has the word “night” actually right in the title, that suggests something even darker than normal. Still, sharks leaping out of the screen in 3D sounds like a fun proposition and you can't really go wrong with hot girls in 3D bikinis. There's at least some level of 3D potential here.
Fit Score: 3/5
Planning & Effort
Shark Night was planned as a 3D movie right from the start. They knew they were planning to use it, and worked from that premise all along. The film was shot in 3D too and all that extra effort and expenditure shows on the screen. In particular they spent a lot of time finding ways to shoot 3D in the water. Director David R. Ellis has experience with 3D too, having been at the helm of the 3D movie The Final Destination. Ok, The Final Destination wasn't a good 3D movie, but at least he has experience with the format.
P&E Score: 5/5
Beyond the Window
One way to use 3D is as a method to create the illusion of depth. Shark Night does that and does it well. All the effort they spent planning for the format and shooting in 3D really pays off. The 3D works brilliantly. Water glistens beyond the screen as if you're looking out the window at a beautiful lake view. There are some particularly great shots of boats skimming across the water, with the camera looking back, that really feel deep and alive. Shark Night never feels flat or listless, it does exactly what good 3D is supposed to do.
Beyond the Window Score: 5/5
Before the Window
3D can also be used to create the illusion that things happening on the screen break the plane in front of you to extend out into our reality. Done improperly it can be a terrible gimmick, done right it can add more to the overall experience. Shark Night tries mightily to make full use of this aspect of the technology, but ends up being only partially successful. Water splashing towards the camera and out towards the audience is pretty successful and the movie uses some pretty neat tricks to make it seem as though light beams reflecting off the water are actually shining out into the audience. But when it tries to throw the film's badly CGI'd sharks at the camera it just ends up looking silly or worse, their attempts to create leap out of the screen effects fall flat entirely and you're left imagining what it's supposed to look like instead of what it actually looks like. They try, and in the movie's more subtle visual moments it works, but this isn't a subtle film and whenever Shark Night tries to go big it all falls apart.
Before the Window Score: 3/5
Putting on a pair of 3D glasses is like watching a movie with shades on. To compensate good 3D movies stick to sharply defined images and bright lighting. Much of Shark Night takes place during the daytime, and when it's out in the sun, the movie's 3D looks brilliant. But it is called Shark Night and the latter half of the movie takes place almost entirely by moonlight. Director David R. Ellis tries to compensate for this by making it the most brightly lit moonlight night in the history of moonlit nights, but it's still nighttime, and nighttime shots (especially mixed with bad special effects and murky water) just don't work at all with 3D, even good 3D.
Brightness Score: 3/5
The Glasses Off Test
Take your 3D glasses off while watching a good 3D movie, and you'll see that the screen in front of you is mostly an incomprehensible blur. The simple way to explain that is to say that the blurrier the image is without your glasses, the more use they're making of the movie's 3D. To test that I took my glasses off periodically during Shark Night and examined the screen. What I saw was generally a blob of blur, even in night scenes where they might have been tempted to cheat as a way of overcoming 3D's problem with low-light filming. Nothing special here, like varying 3D depth within a shot, but the 3D seemed to be doing its job.
Glasses Off Test: 4/5
Some people can't see 3D at all or always get sick when they see it, but most of us are fine unless there's something really being done wrong. This score is aimed at the average, hardy moviegoer who doesn't normally throw up when a shark gets thrown at the camera. For the most part Shark Night does a good job, especially in those more subtle, bright moments when the 3D as it its best. But some of the movie's special effects are pretty low-rent, so low-rent that when it tries to do too much, combined with the 3D things can get a little disorienting. While I was fine for most of the movie's running time, a couple of the film's more chaotic 3D shots actually made me a little dizzy. It passed quickly as soon as the camera moved somewhere else, but that could be a problem for anyone who's more sensitive than I am.
Health Score: 3/5
Final Verdict: It's almost a shame that Shark Night's such a completely terrible movie, because most of the 3D is actually pretty good. Far better than you'd expect in such a low-rent, throwaway horror flick, particularly one directed by the guy responsible for the awful 3D on The Final Destination. If you must see Shark Night, you might as well see it in 3D.
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.