Saturday, June 21, 2014

How's the 3D in Edge Of Tomorrow?


Background:

Following hot on the heels of Top Gun's 3D re-release, Edge Of Tomorrow gives audiences another change to see Tom Cruise's million-watt smile in 3D. The film is based on a Japanese novel called All You Need Is Kill, though it deviates somewhat from the story's plot. The tale itself is a hodgepodge between Groundhog Day, Looper and director Doug Liman's own The Bourne Identity, while also calling to mind the rewards-based repetition that modern video games offer their players. More importantly than all that though, how is the 3D in Edge Of Tomorrow? Read on in our 3D-focused review to find out all you need to know!

Post-Converted 3D:

Edge Of Tomorrow was post-converted from 2D to 3D by Prime Focus World. Their approach to this film seems to be unique in 2014's crowded slate of post-converted films. Rather than hide the technique with a 'native lite' approach, they appear to have been directed to dial up the stereo at pivotal moments and dial it down in others. The beginning sequence is seemingly intentionally dull, before the visuals are dramatically opened up in a chaotic battle scene. We've seen visual 'kicks' before (think of the difference in The Wizard Of Oz between Kansas' monochromatic colours and the Technicolor world of Oz) but this is the first time we can recall one being initiated by a post-conversion team so strikingly.

The beginning sequence of Edge Of Tomorrow has 'flat' feeling 3D

The key to their success appears to be, perversely, how much of the opening sequence is kept close to its native 2D source. This lulls the audience's eyes into a relaxed state, before the post-conversion team shockingly uses scaled negative parallax to literally yo-yo soldiers in and out of the frame. It's a refreshingly brazen technique, and serves the narrative well; our anti-hero is being thrown from a comfortable world into a stark and gruesome reality. The shock is appropriate, and not as gaudy as it could have been in other contexts. The post-conversion team served the narrative well here, and it's likely the shock they were able to convey could not have been achieved if the film were shot in native 3D.


How's the depth of the 3D?

The depth varies wildly throughout the film. The battle scenes opt for a 'deep focus' that allows you to see for miles into the distance. Or, at least, you could if the camera kept still for long enough. The battle scenes are the most interesting visually, in that they provide an arresting focal point for each of Tom Cruise's character's (Cage) loops. One character dies as an object drops from the sky on him, and then in Cage's next iteration through the loop Cage saves the man before the object drops, and then the next loop Cage doesn't bother. Knowing the exact geography of the scene is important for Cage, and it's incredibly important the audience knows the impact of a character standing even a metre from their 'usual' position.


The film-makers attempt to show Cage's growing confidence grow with each new iteration. The camerawork is shaky and chaotic in his first few attempts at battle, and then slowly grows more steady and assured as he begins to learn the ropes. Unfortunately, this also means that the audiences eyes are expected to context-shift with each new iteration of Cage's battle. Your perception shifts from loop to loop; progressing from only seeing a few feet of depth behind Cage in his first loop, through to being eventually able to see for miles behind him as his skills develop. After enough rapid-fire edits and changes to the way the action is filmed, your eyes might wary and tire from all this visual change.


Does the 3D 'pop'?

As mentioned earlier, the opening battle scene is the primary example of negative parallax being used. Soldiers are thrown from a moving plane into a battle field below them, and some are accidentally suspended to the plane by rope. As the plane descends, they're flung at the audience in a yo-yo like technique that we wished had been included in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The remainder of the film uses this type of technique relatively rarely, with the only 'popping' elements usually being restricted to debris and out of focus guns aimed at the camera. Again, this kind of inconsistency can contribute to some amount of eye strain, as audiences eyes attempt to process the inconsistently applied visuals.

Dull night-time visuals, with a lack of background contrast

Did it make sense to add 3D to Edge Of Tomorrow?

The film-makers made a lot of good choices when considering the idea of Edge Of Tomorrow as a 3D film. The action is largely set in daylight, and the characters contrast well against their backgrounds. However, they made a few missteps once the second act is over. The climactic set piece is largely set in the evening, and it's very hard to differentiate the dark-suited soldiers from their background. Their enemy is cloaked in shadow and similarly hard to pick out visually. Without the kind of bright neon offered in films like Prometheus or Tron: Legacy, these night-time scenes suffer visually, particularly if your local multiplex hasn't adjusted the brightness of their projector to accommodate 3D projection's light loss. Just in case you hadn't noticed a recurring theme in our review; this narrative and visual choice can also lead to eye strain in audiences.


The film itself

Edge Of Tomorrow is one of the most arresting and relentlessly entertaining blockbusters to have been released in recent years. Simply put, it's a gem of a sci-fi/action film. If you're a fan of shoot 'em up video games, this is the film for you. If you're a fan of the enigmatic and interesting stars, then this is further proof that they're A-list talent. If you've ever bemoaned the influx of comic book movies and sequels in the American Summer movie-going season, then you'll find Edge Of Tomorrow's originality refreshing. If you ever watched an action film and wished the female lead were tougher and more heroic than the male, then Emily Blunt's steely performance is going to make you feel better about Hollywood. It's a joy of a movie, let down only by a somewhat anti-climactic final minute of footage. If there were Oscars for crowd-pleasing films, this would be nominated in several categories.

If we had to archive one version, should we save the 2D or the 3D?

If you have the choice, see Edge Of Tomorrow in 2D. Buy the 2D Blu-Ray. Avoid the 3D version unless you're really curious. It's disappointing for us to say, but the 3D version is a noble failure. There's a bunch of great examples of stereo on display, but the eyestrain we suffered while watching can be traced back to several poor visual choices that other film-makers would do well to learn from. Just because you can post-convert from 2D to 3D, doesn't mean you should.

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