Friday, November 28, 2008

3D is no longer a gimmick

Last weekend we went to the premier of Bolt in 3D and have to say, this is a whole new era for animation. Unlike previous 3D movies such as the dreadful Chicken Little and the cheesy Journey to the Center of the Earth. Bolt doesn't stick the technology on as a gag or an after thought but instead is crafted entirely as an immersive world that plays an essential part in the storytelling. 
I was blown away by how realistic the settings were, especially a quiet scene between Bolt and his cat companion, Mittens, in the Nevada desert. Every blade of yellowing grass and dirt covered hill is perfectly rendered with depth and movement. I found myself fully immersed in this world like nothing before it. And the best part was that it wasn't distracting but enriching.
Unfortunately this fantastic, fun movie debuted opposite the teen sensation Twilight, so it missed its mark with audiences. But don't let a disappointing opening weekend keep you away from the theater, this is an experience worth having.
Bolt is essentially Toy Story with dogs. It's about a white German Shepherd puppy who grows up in Hollywood playing the part of a canine superhero until one day he escapes from the fantasy world and into reality where special effects and stunt men don't exist thus robbing him of his specialness. Half Buzz Lightyear and half Woody, Bolt's on a mission to get back to his "person" and does so with a cast of wacky sidekicks including a cynical cat and a very overstimulated hamster named Rhino (voiced brilliantly by animator Mark Walton). 
But comparison's aside, Bolt has a wonderful script, some exciting, hilarious and heart-wrenching scenes and some of the best dog vs cat jokes this side of Bloom County.
Perhaps the saddest part of the experience was that we went at 8pm on a Saturday night and the theater was maybe 30 percent full. Sure, Twilight was one factor but another clearly had to be the price - $13.50. Theaters are charging $2-3 more for the 3D film. 
Personally I'm having a hard time justifying $10.50 for most movies these days but I think this new immersive 3D experience is worth the price. It actually brings back a unique value of the theater - until this 3D experience comes to Blu-Ray, that is.  
Before the film were a string of previews for upcoming 3D animated films including the hilarious trailer for Pixar's latest coming next summer, called Up and the predictably black humorist Ice Age 3D. It's a short imaginative story - as we've come to expect from John Lasseter's crew (he had a hand in the writing of Bolt, too, BTW). The best part of the Up preview, is the joke at the end. I was laughing out loud.
Dreamworks has a 3D feature on its way too, called Monsters vs. Aliens. Judging by the preview it seems to lack the heart of Bolt or Up but the rendering appears to be equally as engaging.
Here's hoping for more 3D animated films in the future - and a home version.

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