By Gary Murray

Lately, I have not been an advocate of 3D films, especially live action. Where the effect works wonders in the animated world with films like How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me, the live action ones haven't fared well. It has more to do with the control of the image. In a animated film, the focused image can be controlled better than on a live action film. Simply put, the effects just look better when controlled by computer.

Avatar set a very high bar that few have come close to. Over the years, we have had The Last Airbender, The Green Hornet and Clash of the Titans, none of which worked at all with the 3D technology. The problem with all the above-mentioned films was that they were forced 3D, not designed for the technology but added on at the last minute to make more money. Except for Tron: Legacy and Piranha 3D, every film using this technology has been a cinematic failure.

James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, is also the innovator of the technology. He believes that this is not some gimmick like it was in the 1950's but a new step forward for the cinema. While others have failed with these films, Cameron has been using the technology to capture documentaries about nature and the ship of dreams. These one hour IMAX flicks have been impressive displays of both cutting edge technology and cutting edge cinematography. He used it successfully with Avatar but that also was almost an animated feature, using motion capture technology.

The latest film to attempt 3D with live action is Sanctum, executive produced by Cameron and directed by Alister Grierson. Using the same technology and cameras that were used in Avatar, James is single-handedly trying to save the struggling format. To promote the new film and the technology, the studio is sending around the US a traveling theater on an tractor-trailer. Don't call it a drive-in theater but a drive-up theater. This giant home-theater style exhibit holds about 90, with fancy cinema seats. It was recently in Dallas at American Airlines Center, giving visitors to the Stars game a chance to see bits of the latest movie with the latest technology.

The preview started with James Cameron introducing the film and talking about the technology used in making the 3D effects. In his descriptions, it almost feels as if we were seeing this process for the first time. In a way, we were because after the event, it almost feels like that it true.

First we get the trailer. It looks great, with action bits and beautiful people in various degrees of danger. Everyone knows that the trailer is where the makers deliver their best shot, enticing movie patrons to see the flick. Yes, it did look great, but it was only a teaser.

There are three longer scenes about four minutes apiece and this is where the preview comes to life. We get an opening bit where two of the cave explorers take ropes down the mammoth crevasse and one free falls with a parachute. The effect of 3D makes the image feel like one of those old View Master toys from childhood, except that the image is more crisp and moving. The second takes place when a monsoon rain begins to flood the cave. The cascading water feels so real that one imagines getting wet by watching. One is just drawn into the scenes with the immersion technology. The final scene is underwater, with one of the adventurers struggling to find air pockets within the rock formations. It truly feels as if we are trapped in the underground world of Sanctum, fighting to make it back to the surface.

While no one has seen the entire flick, the makers are giving a massive taste of adventure by showing this 15 minutes of Sanctum. If the rest of the movie is as exciting as the few minutes shown, it should be a massive hit and the savior of the fledging technology. Once again it will put James Cameron on top of the world.

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