On the surface, The Great Gatsby seems like an unusual choice for a 3D movie. But that's precisely the kind of film that director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) is making. At first, devotees of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic — about a tangled web of New York social climbers in the Jazz Age — raised their eyebrows upon learning that the literary masterpiece was getting the 3D treatment most closely associated with Avatar and Transformers. But after a recent New York Times outline of Luhrmann's motivations and aspirations for a 3D Gatsby, skeptics aren't just on board — they're excited. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby will be released in December 2012. Here, three reasons it could change how 3D films are made:

1. Gatsby could prove that 3D enhances actor-driven films
If it succeeds, says Michael Cieply at The New York Times, The Great Gatsby would usher in the use of 3D technology for an entirely new genre of films. Luhrmann's movie will serve as a litmus test: Can 3D "actually serve actors as they struggle through a complex story set squarely inside the natural world," as opposed to the spectacular fantasy landscapes of animated and action films? Luhrmann won't use 3D to portray scope and action — he wants to create intimacy to "help audience members feel like they're in the room with the characters," says Margaret Lyons at New York.

2. Luhrmann could put 3D front and center at the Oscars
Recent Academy Awards seasons have been missing "the heat of a film that breaks a barrier," says Cieply. It's been years since a Best Picture truly altered the face of cinema like The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, "the first Oscar winner to be anchored in its make-up for fantasy effects. No 3D film has won Best Picture, perhaps because none has found the right balance of Avatar-like scope and sophisticated, intimate drama. Luhrmann's ambitious project could change that.

3. It could encourage more 3D literary adaptations 
A worthy film adaptation of Gatsby has long "seemed to elude filmmakers," despite several tries, says Cieply. But considering the book's "strangely operatic plot," 3D might just finally "unlock the movie potential." A mammoth $125 million budget also hints that this will at least be a Great Gatsby adaptation unlike any other, says S.T. Vanairsdale at Movieline. It's an "insane amount of money" to spend on a story "that you can probably read faster than you can watch." But it also proves that the studio has faith that this really could "turn out to be the greatest literary adaptation since The Godfather," and could inspire future adaptations of historically tricky source material.