- If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Watch a 3D Movie
Should You See a Movie in 3D?
Don't: Animated Kids Films
Though there have been some rare exceptions — notably, 2009's Coraline, which gained spiraling-down-the-rabbit-hole visual depth from its glasses-required effects — most animated kids films profit little from 3D. While some include token stuff-flying-at-the-screen gags to justify the extra cost of 3D, most animated films are made with an eye toward home video, where they'll be re-watched ad nauseam by children who, in their living rooms, aren't apt to sit around wearing 3D glasses. In other words, animated films play just as well (if not better) in 2D — which also doesn't require parents to struggle to keep the glasses on their squirmy offspring.
Don't: Post-Conversion 3D
The 3D revolution that James Cameron originally touted specifically concerned movies shot natively in 3D (i.e., with actual 3D cameras), which boast truly rich, compelling three-dimensional effects. Yet when films are shot with 2D cameras and then converted to 3D afterward via computer, the results — as confirmed by notorious duds like 2010's Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender — can be downright dismal, lending material no greater image depth and significantly decreased visual brightness. Unless a film was created from the ground up in 3D, it's a good bet that it's a post-conversion job that doesn't merit its inflated price, and finding out whether an upcoming release is "real 3D" is as easy as checking out this regularly updated website.
Do: IMAX 3D
IMAX is itself something of a controversial cinematic format, since so many theaters now feature certified IMAX screens that (though boasting increased sharpness) are only ever-so-slightly larger than their non-IMAX ones. However, if you can steer clear of such "Lie-MAX" fakers and get to a legitimate gigantic IMAX screen (this website features a handy state-by-state listing), seeing a native-3D film is a definite upgrade. Providing a truly enveloping experience, genuine IMAX 3D is something that simply can't be duplicated at home, and — when coupled with the fact that it's a relatively rare thing to find, given Hollywood's preference for slapping non-IMAX-shot films onto IMAX screens — consequently warrants a few extra bucks.
Don't: Horror Films
You know what's not scary? Blatant, in-your-face gimmickry — which is what 3D amounts to in most horror films. Again, there are exceptions in which 3D is used for either sumptuous stylishness (the most recent, action-oriented Resident Evils) or self-conscious tongue-in-cheek laughs (2010's over-the-top Piranha 3D). But in most situations, horror films utilize 3D as a dim device for moments in which spears, blades, hatchets, and chainsaws look like they're coming right at you! As established by duds ranging from Amityville 3-D to Shark Night 3D to Texas Chainsaw 3D (and their legion of crummy genre brethren), horror is never less frightening than when indulging in silly special-effects stunts.
Do: Films by Auteurs
Most award-winning filmmakers have chosen to ignore 3D. Nonetheless, those that have experimented with the technology have done the most to legitimate its potential. While Tim Burton's ugly Alice in Wonderland and Sam Raimi's equally off-putting Oz the Great and Powerful somewhat disprove this general rule, Cameron's Avatar, Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin — a motion-capture animated film, no less — and Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity all demonstrate the creative possibilities afforded by 3D when employed by skilled hands. Even Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby showed that, when used as an integral part of a film's overarching aesthetic design, 3D can even be an enlivening format for dramas (albeit ones with considerable spectacle). Like their 2D counterparts, 3D movies made by illustrious directors are often the best of the lot, and the most convincing reason yet to plunk down additional money at the multiplex.