After a bit of a lull since the likes of James Cameron and Martin Scorsese opened the door to showcasing how 3D can be used to dramatic effect in movies, top directors are back at it this week. A day before Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” opens on large format and traditional screens Oct. 1, Robert Zemeckis offers a 3D tour de force today, Sept. 30, in “The Walk” utilizing IMAX 3D.
The second film in a few weeks to literally take 3D to new heights in a dramatization of a true-life event on the heels of “Everest,” “The Walk” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, who walked a wire strung between the former World Trade Center towers in New York in the 1970s.
In fact, it is the logistical effort in designing and hanging the cable (illegally and thus without getting caught) which takes up the majority of the two-hour running time and which is nearly as amazing and impressive as the actual wire walking.
Similarly, it is Petit’s carefree manner of walking and climbing precariously on the edge of the top of the building as he sets up the cable and connections that induce more nervousness and fear of heights from the audience than the actual walk itself. This is seemingly to do with the edge and top of the 110-story towers popping in front of the screen and thus presenting a more dramatic and cringing effect of depth and distance that will put even the strong-hearted a little on edge,
The story itself is engaging enough, even if it feels a little precious and ham-handed at times, with the character of Petit narrating his own story with little effort to be humble or gracious, and seemingly embellishing some moments that only he and perhaps a couple of his unlikely band of collaborators would be able to corroborate.
The large format IMAX is always an enhancement to any film, but here it is the 3D that is the real star attraction.
It should be noted that it feels a little weird throughout the film as all of this takes place in buildings we can’t help but associate with a couple of horrific tragedies, including a van of people about to do something illegal sneaking fairly easily past security guards in the parking lot of the same World Trade Center that would allow a bomber in a truck to enter the building’s parking garage in 1993. And the knowledge of the terrorist attack that took down both towers in 2001 becomes a distraction during the otherwise poignant ending in which Petit’s character refers to a permit he was later presented as an honor to have access to the observation deck of the towers for life.
Zemeckis (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Back to the Future,” “Cast Away”) was also one of the A-list director pioneers of 3D (as well as many other envelope-pushing technologies) with films such as the motion-capture animated movies “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol.”
But here he makes an even bigger impression in his seamless integration of visual effects in live-action to create one of the best demonstrations yet of the power of restrained and strategic effective use of 3D.
— By Scott Hettrick