Baltasar Kormákur, director of the mountain-climbing drama “Everest,” says it took a location-scouting trip halfway up Mount Everest, to a snowy base camp in Nepal, for him to appreciate that it might make sense to have his movie’s audience put on 3-D glasses. “I had a moment standing there where the volume of the mountain was just so immense, and I was thinking: How can I possibly get this on film? How can I give people at least some of this feeling?” he recalls.
Until recently, simulating three dimensions on theater screens had been a trick primarily aimed at kids in fantasy, sci-fi, and animated movies. Think “Avatar,” “Jurassic World,” “Marvel’s Avengers.” Nobody can question the financial success of those blockbusters, but they also gave 3-D a particular kind of reputation for many filmgoers and filmmakers, as a gimmick best suited for simulating fantastical worlds that don’t really exist.
Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” in 2011, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” in 2012, and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” in 2013 showed that 3-D could draw adults into emotional films, though those movies still depicted imagined environments.
Mr. Kormákur thought 3-D could help tell a true story about the real world, the ill-fated 1996 Everest climbing expedition. The optical effect could help convey the gargantuan scale of the highest mountain on Earth, and, in turn, heighten the emotional impact for audiences by highlighting the risks the climbers confronted. Combined with the large-screen IMAX format, the 3-D depth could serve the movie’s narrative right along with other filmmaking elements: its ambitious camera work, sound, visual effects, and performances from a cast including Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin.