Why 3D Stil Matters: "Doctor Strange"

Once in a blue moon I see movie where the 3D is so essential to the storytelling, so important to the overall experience, that I feel sorry when people don't experience it that way.  "Doctor Strange" is one of those movies.  I saw the movie a second time last night with my dad at a cheap theater.  It wasn't in 3D and it was at a theater that was old, had a small screen, and was in a mall that was practically falling apart, but for $4 and an excuse to leave the house for the night I figured it didn't matter too much.  It should still be a good movie, after all.  And it was.  "Doctor Strange" was still a good movie and we enjoyed ourselves.  I admitted afterwards though that having experienced the movie in both 2D and 3D formats, I walked away from the 2D version very disappointed and almost underwhelmed.  I re-read my review I wrote of the film and discovered I had awarded it four stars.

Four stars?  For "Doctor Strange?"  After watching the movie again a second time I could have sworn I have only given it three and half.  What on Earth was I thinking?  Then it dawned on me: the first time through I saw it in 3D.  The 3D makes such a world of difference for a movie like this, that I forgot my own advice that if a movie is shot with 3D in mind, seeing it without the intended effect will result in a lesser experience for the viewer.  The second time through I found the action a little less exciting.  A little more routine.  Sure, the special effects were still more than worthy of their Oscar nomination, but it didn't feel as special to me.  What was missing was the third dimension, which transported the viewers out of their theater seats and into the vast ocean of space and time itself.  Without the 3D, viewers simply observed action sequences.  With 3D, they were pulled into the world and got to experience the action as if they were sitting right there.

An IMAX screen helps, of course, but standard 3D would have also been just fine.  To remove it entirely resulted in a movie that simply wasn't as good or as exciting as it was when I first saw it.  I understand that some people will look at me and tell me that 3D makes them sick.  Some will say they hate the feeling of motion in a movie theater.  Some can't see the 3D at all because of medical reasons.  I understand all of this.  Some people really can't enjoy 3D and I understand their dilemma.  I can't go to many concerts because sensitive hearing would result in a really painful night to follow.  And in all fairness, "Doctor Strange" is not a bad movie without the 3D.  It still has many thrills, jokes, and visual effects that are more interesting to view than they are in similar movies I've seen.  The difference between the 3D version of "Doctor Strange" and the 2D version is half a star.  The difference is the action scenes don't have the extra punch it should.

Because some people can't view 3D they don't understand why I write about a format that seems to be dying more and more each day.  They don't understand why I fight for what seems like a lost cause.  I fight for 3D because I fight for things that make movies better.  3D doesn't always make a movie better.  I think it would have worked well for "La La Land" but would have likely been a distraction for "Moonlight."  For a movie like "Doctor Strange" it makes a huge difference and totally changes the film going experience to such an extent that it is a lesser film when watched without it.  And if this can happen with "Doctor Strange," then imagine a really good movie like "Life of Pi" and "Avatar" without it.  3D still matters, and "Doctor Strange" is one of the reasons it still does.


  1. KCW0LF said...:

    You should do a write up on the upcoming re-release of T2 in August...in 3D! Go James Cameron!

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