3D Throwdown: Reviewing September and October 3D Blu-rays

3D Throwdown: Reviewing September and October 3D Blu-rays

Oct 05, 2011

In honor of the growing affection – nay, obsession – that moviegoers have developed with watching 3D films, welcome to “3D Throwdown,” Movies’ spanking-new monthly column dedicated exclusively to examining in which dimension viewers should watch their favorite films once they hit home video. I know, I know, you’re already saying, “well, of course, we want to watch every film in 3D – we even want you to convert the 2D ones into 3D!” And given the enormous success of movies like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Clash of the Titans,” it’s pretty much indisputable that 3D makes any movie better, whether it’s a special effects-laden odyssey through the twisted imagination of Lewis Carroll, or a special effects-laden odyssey through the commercial ambitions of Louis Leterrier. Hell, even girls’ internal organs look sexier with an extra dimension, evidenced by Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha 3D.”

Sadly, however, the entertainment industry has thus far failed to report in any way, shape or form on the fact that some 3D presentation is better than others, and that as a result, a miniscule percentage of moviegoers are now beginning to consider the possibility that 3D isn’t worth the difference in cost between it and 2D presentation. As such, we’re here to take a look at all of the latest high-definition home video releases and report back on which ones are the best in 3D. (For future reference, although we’re focusing on titles that were released in just the past month or so, if you have questions about older releases, please let us know and we’ll try to track them down and tackle their merits in upcoming installments.)


Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) (October 4)

Native Or Conversion: Conversion

How Does It Look: Okay. One of the flagship titles in Disney’s 3D re-release campaign, the 1991 Oscar nominee joins The Lion King as an example of the studio’s conversion work. Unfortunately, it’s not as seamless, or unobtrusive as the 3D in Lion King: while the sweeping CGI shots of the chandelier in the “Beauty and the Beast” number look gorgeous, clean and clear, other shots have the distinctively distracting look of post conversion, where hand-drawn characters have odd layers  to add dimensionality – “something there that wasn’t there before,” indeed.

Showcase Sequence: Probably the “Beauty and the Beast” scene in the ballroom, as much because the environment was computer-generated (making the conversion cleaner and easier) as the general fluidity and elegance of the scene.

What Else Is There To See In 3D: There are a couple of trailers, including for Cars 2, but otherwise there’s no real bonus content in more than two dimensions.

See It In 2 Or 3D? 2D.

The Lion King (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) (October 4)

Native Or Conversion: Conversion

How Does It Look: Really good, actually. Although there are occasional instances of the layering that 3D converters use to give characters and objects dimensionality, for the most part the film looks gorgeous and immersive, using the foliage and ancillary characters to populate the world in three dimensions without calling too much attention that, yes, it’s in three dimensions. Building on the picture quality of the consistently immaculate remastering jobs Disney has done on many of their more recent releases, this film looks sumptuous, vivid and clear, and it doesn’t waste energy – or risk eye strain – on 3D flourishes that break the proscenium.

Showcase Sequence: The opening “Circle of Life” sequence, by far. It’s basically a music video tribute to the scope of the film already, so the way that directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff design the convergence of every species of creature in Mufasa’s kingdom is basically an orgy of beautiful dimensionality.

What Else Is There To See In 3D: Nothing but a trailer for Toy Story 3. So nothing.

See It In 2 Or 3D? This film is absolutely worth watching in 3D, but as the film was converted from a beloved and eminently more familiar 2D version, it’s inessential. (That said, the new 4-Disc combo pack includes the 2D version and all of the standard bonus content as well, so it’s a worthwhile purchase if you don’t own the film already.)

Thor (Paramount Home Entertainment) (September 13)

Native Or Conversion: Conversion

How Does It Look: Wildly uneven. The action scene that takes place early in the film where Thor and his buddies fly off to fight the Frost Giants is so dim that the 3D is almost invisible, meaning it’s unnoticeable. On the other hand, the scene with Destroyer is markedly better, but that might be the case just because it was photographed in the daylight. But the 3D in general in this film is implemented in such a mild way that it seems sort of pointless; while I’m no fan of things flying out of the screen every five seconds, if I’m watching a 3D movie, I want to notice the 3D, and in Thor I barely do.

Showcase Sequence: The Destroyer sequence is probably the film’s best action set piece, if only because it’s the one that’s most clearly visible. The human and CGI characters are both rendered in three dimensions without there being a bunch of distracting layering, and the light levels and clarity is consistent and strong.

What Else Is There To See In 3D: Nothing, although there’s a looping menu screen that takes viewers through a wormhole-like voyage through the cosmos, and that’s pretty cool one or two times.

See It In 2 Or 3D? Two D’s are more than enough.

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