Since I had to review Beowulf this month, I reasoned that I should see the "flat" version that most people would go to. I hadn't had many pleasant 3D experiences in the past, and who would pick that over a conventional viewing anyway. I changed my mind when a local critic recommended the new-fangled Digital 3D, so I went for it. I'm glad I did.
When I bought my ticket, the first thing I noticed was the extra two bucks you have to shell out for the polarized glasses. This was good news in that the glasses are of high quality (opposed to the cheap red/green paper crap) and work well. The specs are oversized, which allows those who already wear glasses (me) to watch comfortably. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer inspired design doesn't hurt either.
I asked the box office guy if they had to install anything special for the 3D effect and he told me it was a built-in feature of the new digital projectors. This is impressive, as manufacturers are obviously forward thinking this technology right into the multiplex before there is even a demand for it. Something special must still be done to the film, but with the delivery device already in some theaters (with more to come), you're going to be seeing much more of this technology.
After too many commercials, the cue finally came on the screen to put the glasses on for some 3D trailers. Wow. The effect was impressive and ads ran for a Brendan Fraser live action adventure (Journey to the Center of the Earth) and a concert film (U2 3D). It looks like this process may be around for awhile, with mainstream fare such as this and big directors like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron getting involved.
As for the effect in a feature length film, it was amazing. Spears protruded from the screen, vistas had real depth, and characters existed on their own planes (not to mention more effective "boo!" moments). A real sense of scope was created, and the effect integrates seamlessly into the story, instead of feeling like just a gimmick. I think it helped that this was a fantasy, as the 3D helped the already fantastic imagery to feel that much more otherworldly. It does demand more from your brain, but doesn't give you a headache the way the old glasses did. Another perk was that Beowulf was actually a good movie to boot.
When 3D tried coming back in the 80's, it was a complete washout. You had incredibly bad movies (Comin' at Ya, Metalstorm, Treasure of the Four Crowns) that seemed created only to cash in on a fad. Now we've got quality filmmakers and refined technology that can transform this old idea into a storytelling enhancement that really works. As for the glasses, they are yours to keep when the film is over. Pop the lenses out and give them to your kids, I always say.