2010 3D Movie Preview

In some cases, the success of a major 3-D movie like Avatar has emboldened filmmakers to push the technology further and further. They have made going to the movie theater an immersive experience that finally delivers something home theaters cannot (yet). For others, 3-D is a cheap accessory tacked on in the hopes of squeezing out a few more box office dollars.

CLASH OF THE TITANS

Release Date: April 2

This remake of the 1981 movie about Greek (and oddly placed Norse) myths replaces the old-fashioned stop-motion creature effects of industry demigod Ray Harryhausen with state-of-the-art CGI. Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) has clearly used the freedom afforded by computer effects to expand the original story to include a host of creatures and characters - including swarms of Harpies and the Underworld god Hades - that would have severely taxed both Harryhausen and the original's budget.

Pushing the Envelope or Hopping the Bandwagon?
Clash is a textbook example of a studio rushing to hop on a craze rather than a filmmaker testing his limits. Traditional 3-D movies were filmed using an expensive technique involving slightly offset, tandem cameras that capture the action simultaneously. However, a similar effect can be achieved by creating duplicate frame layers on computers during post-production. It's more time consuming, but otherwise much cheaper. In this case, Leterrier was all but finished with the movie when an eleventh hour demand for 3-D sent him back into the edit room. Obviously this was a cash-grab since Leterrier seemed perfectly content to keep the Kraken's tentacles out of your popcorn when he started.

Success or Failure?
Clash will likely ride a wave of nostalgia (as well as a sizable chunk of the God of War-playing gamer public) to decent box office take, with or without the added dimension.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Release Date: March 26

A Shrek-like tale of a Viking boy who discovers a baby dragon and, well, trains it (there's no new technology for crafting creative titles yet), Dragon turns to 3-D to ensure that its various scenes of swooping and dogfighting lizards live up to the subtitle: A 3-D IMAX Experience.

Pushing the Envelope or Hopping the Bandwagon?
You can pretty much expect every animated feature to be in 3-D for the foreseeable future. Animation has been a comfortable home for 3-D for a long time, since most 3-D animated movies don't suffer from the clunkiness of their live action counterparts. Before Avatar showed that 3-D could be used to add depth and subtlety, it was most often employed to shove sticks or chuck balls at the audience.  Early impressions of the film and its use of 3-D are somewhat encouraging. Still, Dragon probably wouldn't exist if not for the potential to exploit IMAX 3-D flying sequences.

Success or Failure?
Again, seeing as it's built almost exclusively to show off IMAX 3-D, Dragon will likely be at least a satisfactory theatrical experience. Whether it can break any ground, we will only know for sure as we're dropping off our glasses into the bin outside of the theater.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER

Release Date: May 21

A Shrek-like tale of a monster named Shrek who discovers that there are still some obscure fairy tale jokes that need to be made.

Pushing the Envelope or Hopping the Bandwagon?
With three successful 2-D Shrek movies behind it and, from the looks of it, no major thematic or stylistic changes in store for the fourth, there doesn't seem to be any creative reason to force the cantankerous ogre into the third dimension other than, well, it's an animated movie (see: Dragon, How to Train).

Success or Failure?
Considering the diminished returns of Shrek the Third, there's no reason to expect 3-D to suddenly salvage this tired franchise.

TOY STORY 3

Release Date: June 18

Pixar returns to the world that launched it as Hollywood's premiere animation factory. If anyone can stave off the dreaded "threequel" curse, our money would be on these guys.

Pushing the Envelope or Hopping the Bandwagon?
We would expect a company with the creative energy of Pixar to be much more on the cutting edge of cinema tech. However, despite the amazing visuals they are able to conjure up with digital animation, they seem content to keep one foot in traditional storytelling. The consensus on their Oscar-winning Up was that you could take or leave the 3-D-the movie worked just as well without it. By the same token, Toy Story's heart has always been its strength, not its visual wow factor.

Success or Failure?
At this point, it's pretty safe to assume that nearly all upcoming animated movies-including Despicable Me (July 9), Alpha and Omega (October 1), Megamind (November 5), Tangled (November 26), and 2011's Cars 2, Kung-Fu Panda 2, and Happy Feet 2-will fall into the same category. That is to say that 3-D will be little more than a polish on top of what are, at their core, traditional 2-D movie experiences. It definitely won't hurt the overall experience, but movie goers shouldn't expect to be transported to worlds so immersive viewers get depressed they don't actually exist.

STEP UP 3-D

Release Date: August 6

A movie franchise that is, itself, a gimmick (come for the dancing, stay for the...well, dancing.) embraces 3-D for its third go-round.

Pushing the Envelope or Hopping the Bandwagon?
Step Up 3-D is, for all intents and purposes, a concert film. Sure, there are some efforts made at story and characters, but these movies live or die on their dance sequences alone. In this case, 3-D is being used as a respirator in the hopes of jolting one last spasm of life into a franchise that barely consists of actual movies.

Success or Failure?
There may be some who can't wait to see high-kicks in 3-D, but we don't see a general audience being all that excited to join in.

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