It’s the future, or so we keep being told, but while every second movie seems to be getting the 3D treatment in the wake of Avatar‘s world-conquering success in the format, when you see Pixar’s forthcoming Toy Story 3 — which makes outstanding use of the third dimension, in service of a great story — it’s easy to see how the horizons of cinema as we know it could well change to embrace the technology. To mark the release of the Disney-Pixar film, Rotten Tomatoes put on the 3D goggles and took a look into the near future, to bring you a preview of 10 of the must-see movies on their way over the next year…
Despicable Me is the first feature co-directed by Chris Renaud, who was Oscar-nominated for his short No Time For Nuts, which starred prehistoric saber-toothed squirrel Scrat from the Ice Age series. Realizing that such supporting characters — think also the penguins of Madagascar and the Little Green Men of Toy Story — often steal the show, much of Despicable Me appears focused on Gru’s relationship with his overall-wearing popcorn-a-like minions. These creatures are sure to be a hit with the kids, while the stellar voice cast, which includes Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride and Ken Jeong, ought to keep parents amused. The crazed scenario, which lends itself to dozens of minion-launched rockets and roller-coaster 360-degree spinouts, should ensure the 3D is used to maximum effect.
If you’ve never seen Tim Burton’s 1984 short, do yourself a favor and watch it on The Nightmare Before Christmas extras. Shot in beautiful B&W that anticipates the classic Hollywood horror flavor of his later Ed Wood and offering the graveside humor of Beetlejuice and Nightmare, this has modern-day schoolboy Victor Frankenstein inspired by his science teacher’s (cult legend Paul Bartel) frog-zapping experiments to use electricity to bring back to life his dearly departed doggie Sparky. Sympathy for the monster/outsider and terrifically droll dialogue (dad Daniel Stern says to mom Shelley Duvall: “I guess we can’t punish Victor for bringing Sparky back from the dead”) are other Burton trademarks that emerged fully formed. All that said, Frankenweenie is a linear 29 minutes and didn’t reflect the filmmaker’s original intention to make it in stop motion. Now, though, Disney is giving him creative control to design the characters and expand the story so that other schoolkids learn Victor’s secret and start re-animating their dead pets. An uprising of zombie goldfish, iguanas, cats and dogs, conceptualized and made by Burton, in 3-D and in glorious black and white? Sold.
Nic Cage chews the scenery and unveils absurd bouffants with pleasing regularity. But no matter how crazy his excesses in Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans or Knowing, we have a feeling we haven’t really seen the full magic of his facial frenzy and follicular follies until they’ve been realized in three dimensions. Here’s what you need to know about Drive Angry: He plays a dad tracking down those responsible for killing his daughter. It features a ’69 Dodge Charger and a ’71 Chevrolet Chevelle. Eye candy Amber Heard appears. So do David Morse and William Fichtner and a dollar’ll get you two that they’ll be playing bad guys. Tom Atkins shows up but we’re betting he’s too goddamned likable to be anything other than an old pal of Cage’s character. And just to amp up the guilty-pleasure must-see vibe: Cage told MTV in April that a) this time he “dyed the hair [our italics] lighter because I think that’s what the character should look like” and b) “There’s a supernatural element to it as well, which is keeping with what my interests are right now.” So, it’s Ghost Driver, as conceived by Patrick Lussier, director of the My Bloody Valentine remake? Schlocktastic!
We didn’t include Avatar 2 on this list because — duh — it’s a given we want to see it. But before that we’re keen to venture into the Sanctum, whose production James Cameron has been overseeing in Australia this year. The lean $30m film, which uses the Avatar cameras, is based on the real-life experience of Andrew Wight, an Aussie adventurer who led an underwater caving expedition that got trapped in a subterranean hell-maze for two days after a flash flood blocked the entrance to the system. Wight has since produced Cameron’s Aliens of the Deep and Ghosts of the Abyss and is producing and writing Sanctum, with the film directed by compatriot Alistair Grierson, who proved his action and suspense chops with low-budget WWII flick Kokoda. RT saw some 3D proof-of-concept footage a few months back and can testify that visual immersion in the dark depths triggered all sorts of spine-tingling fear.
We love the 1978 original but recognize it as a cheap-ass cash-in on Jaws that just happened to be awesome because Roger Corman put Joe Dante behind the camera with a script from John Sayles. While it’d be a bit much to hope for the same winning combination of scares, schlock and spoof from director Alexandre Aja (High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes weren’t exactly laugh riots) and writers Josh Stohlberg and Peter Goldfinger (Good Luck Chuck, Sorority Row) what is guaranteed are a lot of in-your-face piranha attacks. And with Eli Roth playing the MC of a wet T-shirt contest, you can count on at least some bad-taste laughs with the carnage. A couple of fun facts: the first Piranha spin-off was sequel Piranha II: The Spawning, which was the feature debut of 3Dmeister James Cameron, and there was a 1995 TV movie remake called Piranha, which marked Mila Kunis’ first major role.
Have stunt pranks gone out of style? Before you answer, think right back to the start of cinema. Okay, so Mack Sennett and Buster Keaton seldom upended themselves in full portable toilets to get a laugh. But the point is that stupid stuff that might kill people always has an audience. The Jackass crew, led by Johnny Knoxville, have reunited for this, perhaps the final frontier for the franchise — at least until technology is developed that actually beams the madmen into your living room so they can spray you with bodily fluids or drive a nail through your scrotum. So, embrace Jackass 3D, we say. Having Johnny, Bam and the gang figuratively in your face might be the safest way to vicariously experience a lot of otherwise pretty painful stuff. As for the aesthetics of the thing, director Lance Bangs told TimesOnline a few weeks back: “It’s utterly crazy. Everything in 3D looks as brightly coloured as candy. I’m a cameraman on it, and it’s amazing to watch the footage being turned 3D, like watching everything through a viewfinder.” For those who’d sniff that acclaimed music-vid director Bangs and Jackass co-creator Spike Jonze should have — you know — grown up by now would do well to note they’ve made this while also creating The Lazarus Effect, an HBO documentary about Aids patients in Zambia. Make sure you see that, too.
It’s not quite Dylan goes electric, but The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret of The Unicorn sees Steven Spielberg finally embrace digital. That he’s doing it at WETA in 3D motion capture with Peter Jackson producing and with a beloved period comic character makes the possibilities of the playground all the more intriguing. The cast features Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig but also Gollum hisself Andy Serkis and Britcom stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The scriptwriters include Edgar Wright and Dr. Who and Coupling‘s Stephen Moff. All this means there’s the distinct whiff of Belgian-American-British-Kiwi comedy-action genius at work. If you factor in that Spielberg and Tintin creator Herge fell for each other back in 1981, and that the latter believed the former was the only filmmaker who could do his creation justice, this will be 30 years in the making when it premieres late next year.
Flawed supervillains are the new black for 3D animation in 2010. Following Despicable Me‘s Gru comes the titular baddie, voiced by Will Ferrell, whose claim to be an evil genius is somewhat laughable given his every plan to take over Metro City has been thwarted by Metro Man, a superhero with the voice of Brad Pitt. Megamind’s goofy attempts to be more than a clichéd nogoodnick — alligator pits are sooooo last year — and show-downs with the insufferably right-on superhero promise fun visuals. Same goes for a Superman-mocking opener which sees eight-day-old Megamind jettisoned from his home planet just before it’s sucked into a black hole. Having Tina Fey and Jonah Hill on board for supporting vocals adds to the expectation of a breezy good time.
Back in 1982, the last 3D revival was getting underway, with in-your-face gimmick adding to the schlocky fun of Parasite and Friday the 13th Part III. But that year’s truly inventive visuals — even above and beyond the towering likes of Blade Runner and The Thing — were showcased in Tron. It was the first movie to make extensive use of computer animation — primarily in scenes involving the light vehicles — which was interspersed with backlit animation and an ingenious new take on rotoscope techniques. The technology and distinct look of Tron anticipated the revolution we’ve experienced recently thanks to digital effects, motion-capture and 3D. So, it’s only fitting that Tron: Legacy will most likely set the post-Avatar benchmark for visual immersion. The storyline — Kevin Flynn’s son disappears into the same virtual world that claimed his dad all those years ago — feels unforced and the seamlessness continues with the return of key cast members Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. What has changed in the record-setting 28 years between original and sequel is the ability to realize filmmakers’ wildest imaginings in three-dimensions. Strapping yourself in before the light cycles start racing may be a good idea.
We’ve steered clear of 3D conversions with this list because experience has so far shown that movies conceived and shot in the format work better than those that have it applied in retrospect. That said, Zack Snyder’s films are perhaps in a class of their own. No matter whether you loved or hated it, parts of 300 had astounding visual depth and the same goes for Watchmen. You can imagine were those films converted they’d look as though they’d been conceived for 3D. Which brings us to Sucker Punch. This action-fantasy gives riot-gal Baby Doll five days in which to escape a mental asylum with her posse of kick-ass femmes or otherwise face lobotimization. That this “Alice In Wonderland with machine guns” is set in the 1950s and blurs the lines of reality with parallel world narratives means that Snyder’s got a huge palate with which to work. Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish (pictured), Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino represent for the chicks, while Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, Robin Hood’s Oscar Isaac and Black Dynamite‘s Michael Jai White hold down the fort for the dudes. Sucker Punch is a six-year labor of love for Snyder and it marks the first time he has worked on a feature that he originated (along with writer Steve Shibuya) so we look forward to seeing what the man does when freed of the confines of remake or adaptation.