Ever since Avatar made all the money ever, Hollywood has had a passionate and problematic love affair with 3D, converting pretty much every major tentpole release to the stereoscopic format to squeeze out as much extra revenue as possible. Audiences, in turn, have increasingly looked askance at 3D releases — we’ve gotten good at smelling out when a 3D ticket is nothing more than paying for eye-strain and headaches. According to The Wrap, two films this summer, Turbo and The Wolverine, notched record low 3D ticket sales, and several others did not fare much better.
On rare occasion, however, a movie actually is worthy of putting on those 3D glasses and shilling out a few extra dollars, largely because the filmmakers behind them — like Martin Scorsese with Hugo, and Ang Lee with Life of Pi — approached making the films in three dimensions from the start. In these uncommon cases, the 3D format (when the screens are bright enough, and the glasses are calibrated properly) really does enhance the movie-going experience.
Case in point: Gravity. Director Alfonso Cuarón dropped audiences in orbit along with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and 3D added to the thrilling scope of floating in space. Audiences responded in kind: 80% of ticket sales for the film were for 3D showings, besting Avatar’s 3D numbers.
Still, there are precious few upcoming movies in the next 12 months that look like they are truly worth seeing in 3D. And, without further ado, here they are:
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Like James Cameron, Peter Jackson is a sucker for the latest in film technology, and shot all three films in The Hobbit trilogy with specially rigged 3D cameras. But it’s the second film, featuring the giant dragon Smaug (as performed by Benedict Cumberbatch), that promises to make the most of three dimensions, especially when he breathes fire directly into the audience.
Release date: Dec. 13, 2013
2. The Lego Movie
Playing with Legos is an innately three-dimensional and tactile experience, and 3D should bring that feeling to this animated Lego movie starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Morgan Freeman.
Release date: Feb. 7, 2014
One of the best things 3D can convey is size, and the title monster in this reboot is as big as they come. But if director Gareth Edwards doesn’t include a scene where Godzilla’s head pokes through the screen, then he shouldn’t release his movie in 3D.
Release date: May 16, 2014
4. How to Train Your Dragon 2
More dragons! Anyone who saw the first of DreamWorks Animation’s planned How to Train Your Dragon trilogy understands that the experience of flight also gets a huge boost from 3D. Hopefully, there are plenty more scenes like the one above.
Release date: June 13, 2014
5. Transformers: Age of Extinction
Say what you will about Michael Bay and the Transformers movies — they’re loud; they’re incomprehensible; they’re tantamount to the degradation of the art of cinema itself — but if you’re the sort of person who digs these movies, then you should dig them in 3D. Bay is a rabid film technologist — he actively campaigned theaters to properly light and calibrate the 3D showings of his last Transformers movie, and he cajoled Imax into letting him use their brand new digital 3D cameras for the new one.
Release date: June 27, 2014
6. Jupiter Ascending
Andy and Lana Wachowski have never made a movie in 3D before. That fact alone makes their first original story since The Matrix, Jupiter Ascending — about a Russian janitor (Mila Kunis) who learns from a genetically engineered ex-solider (Channing Tatum, pictured above on set) that she’s next in line to be Queen of the Universe — at the very least visually intriguing.
Release date: July 25, 2014
7. The Boxtrolls
The stop-motion animation company Laika Entertainment, the studio behind this adorable-seeming story of an orphan adopted by boxtrolls, has a great track record with 3D. Both Coraline and ParaNorman looked spectacular in the format, especially since the animation itself is genuinely three dimensional.
Release date: Sept. 26, 2014