'Avatar' & 9 Other Films That Capitalized On The "In 3D" Trend – Collider

With ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ releasing this month, let’s take a look back at some of Hollywood’s grandest 3D efforts.
When thinking of 3D imaging, fans may recall a paper pair of red and blue glasses that made images leap off of books and cereal boxes, and out the screens of our favorite childhood films. But those mushy red and blue images are merely the tip of the 3D iceberg.
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Believe it or not, 3D technology has been around for nearly one hundred years and has been used by more filmmakers than we can count. With the highly-anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water premiering on December 16, it's time to look back on some of film history's most successful uses of 3D imagery.
Looking past The Terminator, Aliens and Titanic, Avatar is James Cameron's singular masterpiece for modern-day cinema. With CGI becoming a cinema necessity, and 3D reaching a plateau, Avatar managed to heighten the game by pushing these technologies to their limits and becoming the highest-grossing film of all time.
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With a perfect blend of visual effects and real-life action, Avatar's technological efforts managed to shift 3D away from obvious screen-popping objects and closer to fully immersive experiences. With advanced motion capture and newly developed 3D cameras, Cameron applied a more subtle approach that made his characters and creatures feel tangible and full of texture.
The second sequel to one of Stephen Spielberg's best movies, Jaws, Jaws 3D is a staple of the third dimension sub-genre. The film follows Michael Brody, the son of famed Police Chief Martin Brody from the original film, as he and his compatriots try to spare a sea-life amusement park from the terror of yet another murderous great white shark.
Jaws 3D has a lot of technical quirks that make the film not-so-horrifying, but the 3D element was a huge attraction in 1983. With various layered imagery, the shark would come swimming right at the audience, actors would leap off the screen, and deep sea shots felt more immersive. Technology has certainly skyrocketed since its release, but fans must never forget this leap in 3D success.
The dream world viewers wished they could've visited in 2005, Planet Drool is filled with all sorts of eye-popping bubbles, molten lava, snow monsters, and… George Lopez. Created by the minds behind Spy Kids, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is the pinnacle of early 2000s 3D tech.
The film follows Max, accompanied by Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl, as they try to save Planet Drool from the wretched Mr. Electric. Every scene is filled with computer-generated props and projectiles that shoot across the screen, making kids dodge and weave their way through this 3D classic.
Yet another Brendan Fraser blockbuster worth watching, Journey to the Center of the Earth is the mind-bending 3D adaptation of Jules Verne's epic sci-fi novel of the same name. Trevor Anderson (Fraser) seeks his long-lost brother, and takes his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) deep down into the – you guessed it – center of the Earth.
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On their journey, Trevor and Sean encounter physics-bending obstacles such as floating rocks, dinosaurs, upside-down pools, and a hefty amount of falling stalactites, each of which is engineered to fly off the silver screen and touch the audience. Mixed with real-life props and on-location shots, these 3D elements managed to wow viewers and take this technology to the next level.
As honorable mentions, Kiss Me Kate and Creature from the Black Lagoon were among some of the very first films to use 3D and have a wide-scale release. With even more limited technology than Jaws 3D, these two features ushered in a wave of 3D popularity – not to mention breaking a few extra special effects records along the way.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, which introduced a classic horror movie monster, obtained major acclaim for its costume and makeup artistry on the monster, and for using eerie underwater cinematography of the likes fans wouldn't see again until Jaws. And Kiss Me Kate succeeded in using 3D to highlight dance and musical numbers in an eye-popping way never seen before.
Originally established as a Tim Burton project, these Alice in Wonderland adaptations are saturated with computer-generated characters and landscapes, and are filled with 3D effects. In both films, Alice finds herself unexpectedly transported to Wonderland, encountering many flying objects and spiral effects on the way.
Considering the source material, Wonderland is mystical by nature and certainly needed a magical flare. Smoke, birds, playing cards, and other projectiles are shot toward Alice and the audience in classic 3D fashion while also trying to achieve Avatar-level immersion. Regardless of whether these Alice films were successful, they do exemplify the ever-growing uses of 3D as a marketing tool.
Another wonderful adaptation of a novel, Life of Pi tells the harrowing epic of Pi, a young man who, after a storm sinks his ship, becomes stranded at sea aboard a small dingy with a tiger as his only companion. Arranged with thoughtful narration and stunning cinematography, Life of Pi manages to use 3D to its advantage at every turn.
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Directed by Aang Lee, this film shows Pi swimming with whales, avoiding slashes from tiger claws, and witnessing glowing celestial events. In a way, this movie is the perfect companion film to the upcoming Avatar: The Way of Water if fans are looking to fix their eyes on an aquatic third dimension.
One of Martin Scorsese's best films, this book adaptation was filmed using James Cameron's very own invention of 3D cameras, allowing Hugo to burst with vibrancy and tangibility. The film depicts the life of a young orphan, Hugo – played by Asa Butterfield – living illegally in the clock tower of a bustling train station, and befriending a solemn old toy-maker.
Hugo, who inadvertently antagonizes passersby as he scavenges for food, causes multiple outbursts of police chases and magical explorations of London, all of which are recorded with 3D cameras to superb success. Scorsese manages to achieve an appetizing balance of immersion and classic 3D pop-ups as Hugo runs through the station, avoids police dogs, and fiddles with a famed automaton.
As if destined to befit this era, Gravity is a heart-stopping film that is propelled by its use of 3D technology. This iconic Sandra Bullock movie takes place entirely in outer space as Bullock tries desperately to save herself after her space station is demolished by hurtling space debris – it's a nerve-wracking film.
In a dark theater, the contrast of Bullock against a black void made for shocking 3D effects that made viewers feel as if they were right alongside her at the edge of Earth's atmosphere. Juxtaposed with a film like Avatar, Gravity uses subtlety instead of vibrancy to immerse audiences.
Everything is awesome in this Lego-themed hit! A movie created entirely in the digital space, The Lego Movie shines above other animated projects due to its hyperrealistic plastic characters and set decoration, and its blasting Lego bricks at viewers in nearly every scene.
Depicting the prophecy of the "master builder," this film is full of various Lego contraptions, vehicles, and characters, and promptly demolishing a city's-worth of construction. Fans get up close and personal with the Batmobile, Mr. Business, and a lot more 3D screen-popping moments that dare to break the fourth wall. With a product as tangible as Legos, a 3D film was the obvious choice.
NEXT: Top Lego Movies Ranked Worst to Best, According to IMDb


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