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To 3D or Not To 3D is back, and it is an honor to be evaluating the 3D version of director Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old. Pieced together through actual footage shot at least a hundred years ago, with audio archives from soldiers who actually fought the battles themselves, this amazing retrospective gives a vibrant, living face to a conflict consigned to the realm of historical remembrance. But as such, hearing that a 3D conversion was added into the mix had us asking if this was worth the extra effort, or if audiences need not bother.
Which is why we’re here today to ask whether you should see They Shall Not Grow Old in standard 2D, or splash out for a 3D experience. If you’re looking for what we thought about the film itself, head on over to our official review. Otherwise, it’s now time to ask that famous question,”To 3D, or Not To 3D?”
On the surface, some might question why a historical non-fiction film like They Shall Not Grow Old should be presented in 3D. But seeing the results of Peter Jackson’s restoration of footage from a century ago, it’s not hard to see why this 3D version was put together. Immersing the audience in a full 3D setting helps keep the audience invested in a story that’s more typically seen as further removed from the history of today. It’s a classic case of using modern technology to give the audience a fresh perspective on history.
The limitations of the footage presented in They Shall Not Grow Old feel like more of a by-product that can be attributed to the age and condition of the source material. But the amount of love poured into the preservation and conversion of this footage is shown much clearer in this 3D presentation. While there’s still some aspects that are slightly shy of perfect, namely the Before The Window and Brightness aspects, the entire product shines with maximum effort. This is a well crafted product, with great intent showing in each frame.
There really aren’t any aspects of They Shall Not Grow Old that come off of the screen in a manner that we’d typically attribute to 3D. That being said, there’s still a consistent amount of visual assets that protrude towards the screen, stopping short of coming off of it. Explosions, firing cannons, and various horse driven vehicles coming towards the camera are good examples of projecting the visual elements towards the audience, but as far as breaking the window that is the screen, it stops just short of doing so.
One of the most impressive features involving They Shall Not Grow Old’s 3D conversion is the fact that the picture depth is used to great effect. Not only are persons and objects separated from their environments, those same environments are pretty deep in their depiction. Even in the bookending segments where the footage is purposely displayed in a more 2D fashion (reminiscent of the 3D conversion of Tron Legacy), there’s a depth added by using an old time film frame that adds layers to the film. Peter Jackson explains as much in the introduction shown with the film, and by time the picture expands and immerses the audience in the action of World War I, the 3D effect brings the film into a living, breathing display of humanity.
The colorization of They Shall Not Grow Old is so beautiful, that when the footage converts into a full theatrical experience it’s breathtaking. That being said, the typical issues with 3D glasses dimming the picture being displayed are still present with this film. Though that could vary depending on your screening of the film, as how a theater maintains their 3D projectors tends to have an effect on how bright a 3D film is shown. Even with that aspect in play, the colors and action are still bright enough to be made out clearly; they’re just slightly dimmed.
With a film that shifts between decorative and immersive 3D, there’s certainly a variance to the blur that is involved in They Shall Not Grow Old’s presentation. Through both bookending segments, the blur isn’t all that powerful, with a lighter extent being used to show a flatter picture than what you’ll be seeing during the majority of the film. Once the full 3D picture comes into play, the blur that’s used to display the level of manipulation used on the film increases. Again, there seems to be some limitations imposed by the age of the footage, but overall, the level of blurriness supports the amazing extent to which the picture is projected into 3D greatness.
There is absolutely no strain or nausea involved with watching They Shall Not Grow Old. In fact, this feels like one of the most impressive / easiest 3D conversions to watch. While it’ll take a little getting used to watching World War I footage in a 3D context, none of the adjustment will be of any physical effect. Your eyes won’t have a problem adjusting to the full 3D presentation of the film, and to a certain extent that’s probably because of the adjustment period that’s granted through the film’s opening bookend, which employs 3D to a lesser extent than the majority of the film.
While certain limitations exist when it comes to converting footage that's almost 100 years old into a 3D presentation, They Shall Not Grow Old is an exemplary example of why such undertakings are worth the effort. The immersive nature of this conversion helps drive home the case for proper usage of 3D in non-tentpole / dramatic non-fiction narratives. This is a fantastic example of using a deliberate, well-planned 3D conversion to draw an audience deeper into the story they’re watching on the screen; something that Peter Jackson always seems to excel at.
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