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Despicable 3D

I know, I know—I'm a little late to the party. I just saw Despicable Me, even though it's been in theaters for three weeks. I rarely see a movie on its opening weekend—I really hate waiting in line only to get a lousy seat right in front of a fidgety kid—but I don't normally wait this long for such a hyped 3D title. So how was it?

The movie itself is wonderful—a classic tale of evil transformed into good by the unconditional love of children (and minions), told in a very creative way with lots of laughs. My favorite part was the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers), which extends loans to super-villains for their nefarious plans with the expectation of huge returns. And the loan officer looks exactly like the boss from Dilbert!

However, the 3D was another story. All the promo for Despicable Me says, "In eye-popping RealD 3D!" Okay, that means circular-polarized glasses and a silver screen. (Interestingly, the ArcLight theater in Hollywood, CA, says it's showing the movie in XpanD 3D, which uses active-shutter glasses. I was shocked to hear this—I haven't seen active glasses used in a commercial theater for many years, and then it was Imax.)

I saw the movie at the AMC 16 in Burbank, CA, and it was indeed in RealD. When I looked back at the projection window, I noticed that this presentation was using a Sony 4K projector. Great, this would be the first time I've seen that particular system outside of a demo at Sony Pictures Studios.

How did I know it was a Sony 4K? Because I could see two rectangular filters, one on top of the other. The Sony 4K projector uses one 2K section of its imager for the left eye and another 2K section for the right eye. These two sections are positioned vertically with oppositely polarized filters, so there is no fast alternating between left and right as there is with switching polarizers and Dolby 3D's filter wheel.

Unfortunately, the 3D in this movie left a lot to be desired. For the most part, I thought the use of 3D was largely irrelevant—most scenes didn't even look all that 3D. When there was some obvious depth in the image, it was for totally gratuitous shots, such as the minions trying to bridge the gap between themselves and the audience during the end credits—a clever idea, but gimmicky nonetheless. And as usual, objects placed way out "in front of the screen" were plagued by motion blur and stuttering.

Another problem was the softness of the image—it certainly didn't look as sharp and crisp as other animated 3D I've seen. This could have been a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers, or it could have been in the projection system—there's no way to know for sure without seeing it again on a different system.

I highly recommend the movie, but from what I saw, there's no compelling reason to shell out the extra bucks for 3D. And if the softness was a stylistic choice, I don't have much hope that the Blu-ray will be an Ultimate Demo, at least in terms of the video.

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