It's a modern dilemma. You're standing on line at the movie theater, excited to see the latest big-screen blockbuster. But when you get to the front of the line, which big-screen experience do you want? With the most massive movie of them all hitting theaters this week, the question on many a moviegover's mind will be, is Infinity War in 3D and IMAX worth it? Or should they save their cash for more snacks?
Today, most big-budget action films offer 2D and 3D options simultaneously, causing film fans a headache trying to suss out which is the "best" way to spend their cash. There's a few easy metrics to look for that will help determine whether a film's worth the extra dimension: Was it shot in 3D? Was it shot in HD (High Definition)? Was it shot with 3D in mind?
The first question's pretty self-explanatory. If a film was shot using a 3D camera, one that takes in two separately-spaced frames simultaneously, then you should probably see it in 3D. It's the format the filmmaker intended, and the footage offers true perceived 3D through parallax (the slight difference in object placement mimicking the same spacing of human eyes that allows us to see dimensionally). Infinity War was not shot in 3D, likely for the same reasons a lot of movies that eventually screen in 3D don't: it's expensive, since you're basically processing 2x the footage for each shot, and the equipment is bulky and awkward compared to normal cameras. But that doesn't completely knock a film out of the 3D running.
After all, the more information and detail each frame has to work with, the more can be done with that detail after the fact. As mentioned, true 3D is prohibitively expensive, even for tentpole features with multi-million dollar budgets. Pioneering 3D film Avatar even relied partly on a process called stereo conversion, where 2D footage is turned into separate images for each eye to create an illusion of dimensional depth (ie, 3D. More on that in a bit). Infinity War was shot entirely on the latest IMAX camera, the Alexa 65. The camera shoots in 65mm digital format (standard non-digital cameras use 35mm film), and means every shot was set up ready for IMAX projection. Plenty of films shoot great high-def footage that looks amazing scaled up, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll look good in 3D.
And so we come to the most important question: Was Infinity War shot with 3D in mind? Movies are complicated, large-scale productions involving hundreds of people, years of time, and innumerable decisions. If the film's producers decide from the start that a film will be screened in 3D, that affects a lot of choices down the line that will ultimately make for an amazing 3D experience, even if the film was shot in 2D. If the stereo conversion's a mere afterthought, there are loads of problems that can crop up, including poor parallax alignment (where your brain can "read" that the 3D isn't natural or exaggerated, usually resulting in nausea and headaches), awkward filling in of areas left uncovered by the dimension shift (this can result in a fake "cutout" or weird patchy effect, and framing issues where body parts or images are cut off due to needing extra space to create depth).
Conversely, many 3D productions end up shooting at least some 2D footage, due to the limits of 3D cameras (including inadvertently making some elements "pop" when they're not supposed to, and not being able to get up close without ruining the dimensional effect). In an IndieWire interview, Infinity War directors the Russo Brothers said they deliberately shot with the Alexa 65 not only to be able to capture close-up dialogue scenes (previous IMAX cameras were far too loud to allow that intimacy), but that the camera fit their "active, aggressive" style. They've thought carefully about what the film was going to be, so it's likely they shot keeping 3D in mind down the line.
So what does it all add up to? With the medium, intent, and thoughtfulness behind its creation, Infinity War should definitely be seen in IMAX at least, and if you want to splurge for the extra dimension, you're not likely to be disappointed with the results.