The seaweed may usually look greener on somebody else’s plate, but I’m unconvinced that 3-D movies are going to be better than 2-D, at least not anytime soon. Putting my technologically conservative notions to the test, I was invited to attend a screening of the new IMAX film Deep Sea 3-D.
On entering the theater I was handed a pair of red plastic 3-D glasses with gray lenses. (Apparently the classic kitschy blue and red lenses with white frames have been 86’d. Who called the fashion police?) Being ocularly challenged myself I spent the first ten minutes in my seat trying to figure out which goes on my face first: my corrective lenses or my 3-D ones. The glasses are one-size-fits-all, which is perfectly true if your head is the size of a cantaloupe. While I could physically fit the pliable plastic glasses on my face with ease, the lenses never covered my full range of vision. I had to train my eyes to look through the two-sizes-too-small lenses, which wasn’t hard, but I never have to futz around like this with 2-D movies.
But oh, it was worth it.
Nature films are tailor made for the 3-D IMAX format and Deep Sea 3-D is an eye-popping 41-minute survey of strange and exotic sea life seemingly brought inches in front of your face. It’s one of the few times where the 3-D effect feels like an organic part of the film. The image always has a marvelous illusion of depth and objects are only jumping out at you when it’s appropriate.
Indeed, the idea of three-dimensional movies is part and parcel of the tao of IMAX: to completely immerse the viewer in the film. And I think Deep Sea succeeded in that respect. I sat in my seat grinning like an idiot during the opening shots where a swarm of jellyfish seemingly swam at me from all angles to gently pulse around my head. The corals were also pretty spectacular, as were the fighting squid and screaming sea scallops. Heck, the whole thing was a lot of fun.
As much as I enjoyed the film, I have to say that the 3-D process still needs some work. 2-D movies still provide higher fidelity images. In some of the 3-D shots, there was ghosting and other minor image distortions—technical issues that need to be ironed out if 3-D is to avoid going the way of Cinerama. Oh, and I'm still not cool with the glasses.
Deep Sea 3-D is great family entertainment and should also be of interest to 3-D enthusiasts. (During a post-screening lecture given by film producer Toni Myers, I saw a guy a few rows ahead of me snap a picture of her with a 3-D digital camera. I thought that was pretty awesome.)
Deep Sea 3-D opens to the general public on September 26 at the Johnson IMAX Theater in conjunction with the grand opening of the Natural History Museum’s Sant Ocean Hall.
Where do you think the future of theatrical film presentation is going? Will 3-D save movie theaters from the Internet? Some people have their doubts, like movie critic Roger Ebert in his movie blog. Take our poll or discuss the topic in the comments area below!