Our 3D TV articles so far have been pretty popular, most likely because the technology is so new and people are curious to learn more about it before they enter the holiday shopping season. Posts on our Facebook page, inquiries via Twitter, even individual emails from readers have all asked for more of our impressions with 3D Blu-rays, 3D games and even things as simple as the 3D glasses. Seek and ye shall find, folks. This — our first 3D Blu-ray review — is appropriately also for the first 3D movie we watched on a 55-inch 3D Bravia: Monster House 3D.
Monster House is a four-year-old movie, so Sony’s decision to make it one of the studio’s debut 3D Blu-rays was a bit puzzling. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs made sense as a 3D Blu-ray, because the film itself was still relatively new on the home-entertainment scene. But a film 48 months old? Don’t worry; the decision to bring Monster House to the world of 3D Blu-ray was overall a wise move, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its hiccups.
As an older film, Monster House proves that even “catalogue” movies can be updated with 3D, which is as much a positioning statement from Sony as it is a testament to the film’s original visuals. Sony needs to prove to Warner Bros., Universal, Disney, Paramount, Fox and others that just because a movie wasn’t filmed in 3D doesn’t mean it can’t make a good 3D release. And a good 3D presentation is exactly what Monster House offers.
The story of a house coming alive and raising Cain in the lives of a nosy 12-year-old and his friends presents several opportunities for “gotcha” moments. And “gotcha” moments are what 3D films stereotypically rely on. When the camera zooms across the street in the film’s opening scene, the motion inspires a sense of movement that can be attributed to the active-shutter technology. When the main characters shoot hoops in the driveway, the ball clangs off the rim with a level of depth akin to watching the game unfold before your very eyes. When the kids venture into the house and are ingested by possessed floorboards, the 3D effect leaves the impression that the kids (and camera) are literally passing by demonic wooden beams.
Other effects on the Monster House 3D Blu-ray are a bit more subtle, such as the depth of field in long-distance shots or the simple sensation that each character’s nose really is jutting out from his or her digitized face. Even something as simple as the opening scene, in which a leaf blows down the street a la Forrest Gump, has a new level of depth and immersion when coupled with a 3D TV and active-shutter glasses. A leaf, people. A leaf. Simple but effective, that’s what it is.
With that said, simplicity and subtly are generally what you get with Monster House 3D, which is somewhat disappointing considering the film’s target demographic and its technological demands. Monster House 3D certainly entertains adults, as it did even upon its release four years ago, but its bread-and-butter viewers fall in the tween and teen category — just like its main characters. Remember those “gotcha” moments above, the ones that 3D films generally rely on? While Monster House 3D has them, they’re few and far between, leaving most of the 3D legwork to be done by noses, fingers and depth of field. That’s not particularly flashy, although to be fair, it’s more than a 2D film offers. Still, considering the newness of 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray, it would’ve been nice to see more of the “gotcha” moments leveraged in Monster House, perhaps through the addition of small embellishments in some of the original scenes to drive home the 3D effect.
I have a feeling that some of the “underwhelming” 3D effects may simply be par for the course with CG films. So much attention is paid to creating a sense of depth in computer-animated films — particularly those from 2006, when Monster House first released — that the older CG graphics may simply have been optimized for a 2D presentation, thus making a 3D evolution troublesome. For instance, the foreground images were designed to be crisp while the backgrounds were designed to be blurry to indicate depth. Maybe the “artificial” depth stands in the way of delivering “real” 3D depth. This certainly isn’t the case with modern 3D theatrical releases such as Toy Story 3, but older CG films such as Monster House may have a few cards stacked against them.
If that’s the case, then even with a partial deck, Monster House 3D manages to do a good job when it counts. It’s just that the counting takes place less often than I would’ve liked. I understand the fear of being “too cheesy” with 3D embellishments, particularly when Sony’s trying to show the rest of the world just how “serious” 3D Blu-ray and 3D TVs should be taken. But sometimes the novelty of 3D technology itself warrants a little Velveeta. The Monster House 3D Blu-ray is an enjoyable entree into the world of 3D Blu-rays and 3D TV, and since you “never forget your first,” Monster House 3D still guarantees a fond memory. But having watched several other pre-release 3D Blu-rays since Monster House, I can say that the upgrade from 2D, while admirable, doesn’t represent the best 3D Blu-ray presentation in store for would-be 3D TV buyers. For a technology this new, I just shouldn’t have to skip several chapters to find “a better 3D scene,” but I did with Monster House.
If you’re eager to see Monster House in 3D or having trouble finding it in stores (we did), click here to get the best deal on Monster House 3D Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
- Score: 7.8
- The visuals are great and the 3D effects *can* be, but I expected a bit more oomph and “gotcha” moments from a movie of this ilk and with these target demographics. It’s a good one to pop your 3D cherry, but there are better 3D Blu-rays out now or coming out soon.
— Jonas Allen