Jean-Pierre Jeunet has never been a subtle filmmaker. From his early career collaborations with Marc Caro on the dazzling Delicatessen and the equally sumptuous The City of Lost Children, he has always set his stall out as a visualist first and foremost, and if you can follow what’s going on in the meantime then that’s a success. When he broke out on his own and achieved worldwide recognition with the fantastic Amelie, he took one (impressive) step into something more serious with A Very Long Engagement, before reverting back to his usual manic energy with the more recent Micmacs. His latest film touches on his usual quirky storytelling beats, but is the first time he has filmed anything in 3D. And when Jeunet does 3D, he really does 3D.

People like to moan about it, but 3D is only ever as good as the directors who are handling it. A lot of the time, it’s lazily implemented and adds little to the film you’re watching, but this is a fault of the filmmakers rather than the format itself. Most animated films do a terrific job with it, but in terms of live action it’s usually not made use of properly or converted into 3D afterwards, which often means the director did not have 3D in mind while shooting. Respected directors like James Cameron, Werner HerzogWim Wenders, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Marc Webb, Ang Lee, Peter Jackson, Baz Luhrmann, Bryan SingerMatt Reeves and Jeff Tremaine (ahem) have all done wonders with it when given the opportunity – all it needs is proper commitment and talent.

Jeunet has both in spades, and subsequently the 3D in his new film is amazing – probably the best use of the format anyone has seen so far. His use of colour and composition is visually stunning, which suits the film’s childish fable tone perfectly. A movie about a child’s imagination is the perfect vehicle for all this, which makes the shortcomings something of a real shame. There’s none of the satirical edge of his earlier work, instead we get what amounts to a pretty cheesy American yarn, and for all the aesthetic flourishes there is very little story being told here, and what’s there is eminently shallow stuff. This total lack of substance makes the visual onslaught tiresome, as there’s little else to go on – few characters to care about, and a wafer-thin plot that doesn’t sustain interest. All of which is a great shame given the exemplary use of the format.

THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET
Possibly the finest use of 3D we've seen so far9
Jeunet's usual colourful and energetic visual style8
Still lacking that edge he used to have with Marc Caro5
A story you could summarise on a matchbox3
At least somebody is still using 3D properly8
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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