To 3D Or Not To 3D: Buy The Right Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Ticket

Rocket Raccoon sitting in a ship's cockpit in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Showtime, A-holes! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is finally in theaters, with all of the laughs, tears and explosions you could hope for. Writer/director James Gunn’s big sign-off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to take us all for a ride. But just as it’s important to ask which playlist goes well with fighting someone as ruthless as The High Evolutionary, it’s just as important to ask one of our other favorite questions: To 3D or Not To 3D?

If you want to see how our own Sarah El-Mahmoud thought of the film, you can head to CinemaBlend’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review. As always, if you’re looking to see if you should spend the extra ticket money, or save up for a brand new Zune, you’re in the right place. Let’s step aboard the Bowie, strap in and slip on those cool 3D shades, as we’re about to fly together into the forever and beautiful sky!

Fit Score - 5/5

At this point, Marvel could simply rest on its laurels and claim that its films are always a good fit for 3D. The studio has stuck with the format through thick and thin, and the results have shown that for better or worse. When it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, however, a gold standard has been set, so much so that I’m going to have to reconsider the Fit Score even more carefully. 

James Gunn’s would-be blockbuster grabs hold of this premium format and never lets go. I shouldn’t be surprised, as Gunn was outspoken as personally tweaking Guardians of the Galaxy’s 3D for the 2014 release, and that same spirit feels very much present here. But the results speak for themselves, so clearly the 3D feels like it’s as natural an enhancement as the kickass soundtrack. The Guardians are absolutely a hand in glove fit for 3D, and I think I enjoyed the movie even better seeing it presented in that format. 

Planning & Effort - 5/5

Ever since Kevin Feige’s comments on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ 3D conversion, it’s a good idea to pay attention to whenever a member of the Disney/Marvel team starts talking up the format. Which is why when Evan Jacobs, Disney’s VP of finishing and stereo, told THR that the 3D-enhanced version was “really cool,” my ears perked up.

As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has hundreds of versions heading out to theaters, Jacobs noted that traditional and select Dolby-enhanced screens will show a version that triggers different aspect ratios being in play on the screen. That’s allegedly where the “really cool” part Jacobs seems to have promised comes into play, which sounds like Planning & Effort talk if I’ve ever heard it.

So did Planning & Effort pan out in this Guardians of the Galaxy adventure’s favor? Yes, it definitely did. However, that aspect ratio tweak didn’t exactly show up in my version of the film. Even without that extra flourish, there are shots and sequences in this movie that really show how much the P&E from conversion house SDFX stand out with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and that love and care only heightens the overall experience. 

Before The Window - 5/5

Before the Window thrills literally pop out at the audience, breaking the imaginary barrier between the action and the viewer. Other than Brightness, this segment feels like it’s one of the most inconsistent when it comes to the world of 3D movies. Most movies do a decent job of employing this effect, but very few truly stand out. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 absolutely stands out.

Yes, there are quite a few guns that get pointed at the camera, and those stick out beautifully in some high-caliber action scenes. Also, something as simple as Pom Klemintiff’s Mantis pointing in dismay, or the Bowie entering and exiting hyperspace, both get to stand out through this effect as well.

What's most impressive is the fact that there’s one aspect that bridges both the Before and Beyond the Window factors in beautiful detail: facial features. In particular, the CGI creations like Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) stand out rather well in this field, as you could be tempted to try and pet his forlorn face in some scenes.

Beyond The Window - 5/5

Crossing over to the Beyond the Window factor, the depth of picture is reflected in the facial features mentioned above as well. Deep close-ups of faces see a special dimension added that really make those features pop. But, of course, the Beyond section is more than just depth in a close up, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s steady-handed conversion doesn’t forget that for a second. 

Not only are spacebound scenes drawn with the proper depth to display an endless field of stars, but in cases like the Orgocorp break in, there are gorgeous shots of the Guardians floating in space with stellar spatial reasoning. At one point, we see our heroes floating about in a scattered line, and everyone’s super easy to pick out from their environment, as well as each other. 

But if you want a scene that merges both the Beyond/Before realms perfectly, it has to be the third act standoff set to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 uses this scene as its top tier action set piece, and the third dimensional enhancements that result could be one of the best 3D scenes I’ve seen in quite a while. A fast-moving action scene that moves quickly, but allows the audience to see everything clearly, while mixing effects of depth and projection? It’s here, it’s spectacular and it’s another sterling credit to the 3D conversion team’s work on this picture. 

Brightness Score - 4/5

We all knew this was coming, didn’t we? Here comes the only field that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 lost points over. But even in this usual pit of darkness, the movie doesn’t succumb to this factor as much as other projects have, especially in the realm of superhero movies. In fact, it’s only a little dimmer than I would have liked, but is still exceedingly watchable.

Your standard caveats still apply: quality of Brightness will vary between theaters, as they don’t all calibrate their rigs properly. Not to mention, I knew how colorful this movie was going to be, as I’d previously screened it in IMAX 2D. It’s safe to say that even with that slight dimming behind the 3D glasses the colorfully vibrant world of James Gunn’s Marvel threequel was never robbed of its joy. 

Which is especially important in the brighter variant of the now Guardians-controlled Knowhere, the shiny red tinted office of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) and the ‘60s/’70s sci-fi influenced offices of Orgocorp. All of those settings exhibit a wide swath of pigmented fun, and you won’t be robbed of that no matter what format you choose.

Glasses Off Score - 5/5

Whether your eyes get tired or not, you’re always going to be tempted to remove your 3D glasses when watching a movie in that particular format. It’s a given because we naturally want to know what’s going on beyond the glasses we have to wear. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 takes full advantage of this facet, though you may have some hesitation to try and check out the goods for yourself when watching something as visually striking as Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) slamming Rocket Raccoon through walls.

'Blur' is the word when you slip those grey-tinted frames off of your eyes. Your usual shift between 2D anchor points and blurry 3D embellishments are present, as the rule of thumb is that the blurrier the image, the more 3D manipulation is present. Even those 2D anchors blend in rather nicely with their more enhanced aspects, allowing for destruction, armed combat and tearful goodbyes to stand out as dynamically as they do.

Audience Health - 5/5

 A 3D movie can be physically taxing on an audience member if not properly crafted. Eye strain can lead to a general sense of fatigue, and sometimes there are even shots that wonk out the 3D effect to the point where your eyes feel confused. Coincidentally, I first discovered the latter effect myself when seeing the 3D presentation of The Avengers in 2012, as one shot of the Chitauri army invading Earth was visually confusing.

Marvel Studios’ 3D has come a long way since those days, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is not straining in any sense of the word. The picture is smooth and fluid in its movements, with action sequences shining through brilliantly. Not even the slight dimness noted in this screening impacted how it “felt” to watch this movie during this premium presentation. So you don’t have to worry about needing eye drops or a nap after watching this trilogy-wrapping phenomenon.  

Final Verdict - 34/35

It pains me not to be able to give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 a perfect 3D score, as it’s truly one of the best conversions I’ve seen in quite a while. I’d even go as far as saying it’s worth looking into whether or not your local theaters have one of those increasingly rare IMAX 3D showtimes. This is merely based on speculation, as my experience with the sound in the IMAX 2D press screening, combined with the 3D ride I took at a local theater, feels like a formula for a mindblowing experience. 

And with that, we close the book on another To 3D or Not To 3D mission, designed to play guardian to your wallet and the money that’s still in it. It shouldn’t be too long before we reunite, as if plans work out as they should The Little Mermaid should be our next third dimensionally-enhanced adventure. But until our next adventure, be sure to keep your glasses clean and recycle your 3D specs in the bin in the lobby. You don't want to disappoint Groot, do you?

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.