I actually went to see this
movie in a theater yesterday. Mostly because it’s the first
3D movie I’ve heard of that I really cared about seeing. I did
because it was on the Hugo awards ballot, but I
certainly didn’t expect to like it $15 worth.
Since the incremental cost of most of the movies I see is $0,
since I get them on my Netflix subscription, I’m
usually just telling you whether I think the movie is interesting
enough to be worth the
time you spend watching it. In this case, however, I will also address
whether it’s worth the time, money, and trouble to go to the movie
theater and see it in 3-D, instead of just getting it on Netflix
when it comes out.
Well, first, if you’re interested in any of archeology,
anthropology, film-making, or Werner Herzog, you do want to see
the movie. It isn’t as tightly put together as the best of the
Herzog documentaries (e.g., Grizzly
Man), but you aren’t going to be able to actually see that
cave, and you do want to.
I went with a bunch of friends, and one of the first things we
talked about after the movie was all the topics that could have
been covered in more detail. For instance, one of the friends is an
anthropology professor, and he had been hoping to use the film in
his class about the origins of religion. The people who have been
researching the cave are in fact working on the light these
discoveries shed on that topic, but the movie has only a 5 or 10
minute segment about it. Another friend wanted to know more about
the actual process of making the paintings than we saw.
Of course, there’s only so much you can cover in 90 minutes,
but it surprised me how random the topics covered seemed to be.
Another of the friends, a rock musician who has made movies, said
that he was sure the sequence with the albino crocodiles at the
end only happened because there was this film crew that could only
spend four hours a day in the cave, so they had time to see the
tourist attractions in the area, and they saw the crocodiles and
said, “Wow! We have to put these in the movie.”
That was probably the most gratuitous insertion, but there was
a lot of stuff about German archeologists working on similar
periods that didn’t really relate to this particular cave at all.
It was fun to hear the bone flute played, though.
Now for the 3-D. I’m glad I saw it. There were some
absolutely spectacular shots, which would still be beautiful in
2-D, but not as impressive. On the other hand, when you’re
interviewing a talking head in front of a window onto a scene of
snow-covered trees, it’s a little distracting to be able to see
the trees that well. And although the camera lingered lovingly on
the cave paintings, there were still times when you wanted the
coffee table book so that you could look at what you wanted to see
in the lighting you wanted to use.
On the whole, you can probably get a lot of what I got out of
the movie without the 3-D, but if it’s not a terrible
inconvenience or a major expense, it’s worth seeing.