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Breaking Up with 3-D

July 6, 2010

I’ve pretty much decided that I’m completely over the whole 3-D fad. Aside from the fact that it gives me a headache for the first 15 minutes, I don’t think it actually enhances the movie going experience. It looks a little cool for about 5 minutes, but then the constant refocusing of my eyes and having to shift what I’m looking at every second makes my eyes and head feel like they’re going to ‘splode.

It all started with Avatar. I saw Avatar with some family members over the Christmas holiday in regular D (regular D?? What the hell are we supposed to call it anyway??) Aside from the fact that the movie was obviously FernGully, I really enjoyed it and thought it was gorgeous. Cut to about a week later, I went to see it again with the FH and some friends, this time in 3-D. Aside from it looking well… a little more 3-dimensional (ha) I don’t really think there was much to write home about. The scenes on Pandora were interesting in that we really felt a part of this new world, but the (what shall I call them, regular human scenes?) regular human scenes seemed a little lost in the perspective. I felt as if I was watching things that were at the same time too close yet too far away, like when cinematographers quickly change the rack focus for dramatic, “our hero is getting dizzy” effects. Avatar was already a visually stunning film, did it really need this? I preferred the first viewing.

I gave 3-D another shot with Toy Story 3. Many folks had told me that animated films really use the 3-D technology to a much greater advantage, so we decided to try it out. Result: The FH and I had headache for the first 15 minutes, and though the animation looked cool in 3D, I don’t think it warrants the headache, or the five extra dollars that comes along with it. Thus, I hereby end my viewing of 3-D movies.

Now, I know you must think I am crazy. You must be saying, “3-D movies are becoming the norm these days, CBC and soon 3-D TV’s will be in every living room.” To that I say, really? Because I really can’t imagine myself sitting around to watch say The Tudors in my living room with silly, headache-inducing glasses on. As much as Jonathan Rhys Myers can be all up in my face any day, 3D TV just doesn’t sound enjoyable. Also, take a look at the picture below and realize that 3-D DOESN’T DO THAT. The images extend in front of and behind the 2D space, but the image will never extend past the boundaries of the rectangular image. I was so annoyed when I realized this.

So is this whole thing a gimmick? Studios are obviously clamoring to make up the losses they’ve experienced in recent years due to declining ticket sales (here’s a suggestion: make better movies) hence the $5 surcharges. Films not originally shot in 3-D are now being formatted in post production, and terribly at that. Though audiences seem to be eating it up, I can’t help feel we’re being duped, and I’m not the only one.

In a recent article for Newsweek, famed critic Roger Ebert put forth his disdain in an article titled “Why I hate 3-D (And You Should Too)” I’d like to address a few of his points here, the one’s that really mesh with my opinion.

  • IT’S THE WASTE OF A DIMENSION. When you look at a 2-D movie, it’s already in 3-D as far as your mind is concerned…Our minds use the principle of perspective to provide the third dimension. Adding one artificially can make the illusion less convincing.

True. I felt like I was watching two different planes of action, and had to keep switching my focus back and forth to see what was going on. Leading to Mr. Ebert’s point #3:

  • IT CAN BE A DISTRACTION. Some 3-D consists of only separating the visual planes, so that some objects float above others, but everything is still in 2-D. We notice this. We shouldn’t. In 2-D, directors have often used a difference in focus to call attention to the foreground or the background. In 3-D the technology itself seems to suggest that the whole depth of field be in sharp focus. I don’t believe this is necessary, and it deprives directors of a tool to guide our focus.

Word. Next.

  • THERE’S MONEY TO BE MADE IN SELLING NEW DIGITAL PROJECTORS. These projectors are not selling themselves. There was initial opposition from exhibitors to the huge cost of new equipment and infighting about whether studios would help share these expenses. Some studios, concerned with tarnishing the 3-D myth, have told exhibitors that if they don’t show a movie in 3-D, they can’t have it in 2-D. Although there’s room in most projection booths for both kinds of projectors, theaters are encouraged to remove analog projectors as soon as they can. Why so much haste to get rid of them? Are exhibitors being encouraged to burn their bridges by insecure digital manufacturers?
  • 7. THEATERS SLAP ON A SURCHARGE OF $5 TO $7.50 FOR 3-D. Yet when you see a 2-D film in a 3-D-ready theater, the 3-D projectors are also outfitted for 2-D films: it uses the same projector but doesn’t charge extra. See the Catch-22?

Yes, seriously, it’s becoming more and more evident why this is happening. I’m starting to get annoyed now. Am I not permitted to see a movie regularly if it is also out in 3-D? Will they simply stop making films in both 2-D and 3-D so that one must see the 3-D version or nothing? James Cameron, the so called father of 3-D plans to re-release his cash cow Titanic in 3-D. Because we need Kate Winslet’s boobs hurdling toward us in the audience? Not likely. Finally:

  • 9. WHENEVER HOLLYWOOD HAS FELT THREATENED, IT HAS TURNED TO TECHNOLOGY: SOUND, COLOR, WIDESCREEN, CINERAMA, 3-D, STEREOPHONIC SOUND, AND NOW 3-D AGAIN. In marketing terms, this means offering an experience that can’t be had at home. With the advent of Blu-ray discs, HD cable, and home digital projectors, the gap between the theater and home experiences has been narrowed. 3-D widened it again. Now home 3-D TV sets may narrow that gap as well. What Hollywood needs is a “premium” experience that is obviously, dramatically better than anything at home, suitable for films aimed at all ages, and worth a surcharge.

Sigh. The sad part is that the film industry is declining because of all of these home advantages, it’s true. Yet I still LOVE going to the movies (on a weeknight that is, see my Toy Story 3 review) and always will. Granted, I myself reserve my movie going funds for things that I declare need to be seen on a big screen, i.e. the visually enhanced, big action or “beautiful” looking films. It’s unfair, it’s biased, but I guess that’s where things are heading. Along with the rest of his points that I didn’t address, Ebert goes on to describe some new processes and 3-D films that he is excited for and approves of. For now, I’m right there with his final thoughts, “I’m not opposed to 3-D as an option. I’m opposed to it as a way of life for Hollywood, where it seems to be skewing major studio output away from the kinds of films we think of as Oscar-worthy. Scorsese and Herzog make films for grown-ups. Hollywood is racing headlong toward the kiddie market… I have the sense that younger Hollywood is losing the instinctive feeling for story and quality that generations of executives possessed. It’s all about the marketing. Hollywood needs a projection system that is suitable for all kinds of films—every film—and is hands-down better than anything audiences have ever seen. The marketing executives are right that audiences will come to see a premium viewing experience they can’t get at home. But they’re betting on the wrong experience.”

3-D, I’m sorry, but we need to see other people. Here’s a box of your stuff.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mikey permalink
    July 8, 2010 12:26 pm

    I have only seen one movie in 3-d, and it was Michael Jacksons awesome-production at Disney Land (World? Whatevs, the one in Florida). I was also all of 8 or 9. While I would enjoy seeing this again as an adult (yay nostalgia). I would pay to NOT have to see a movie in 3-d. 3-d is akin to sparkly vampires.

  2. July 10, 2010 2:41 am

    1. Mikey — I TOTALLY remember that crazy 3D Michael Jackson movie! Awesome.

    2. Casey, did you see? The most recent edition of Time Out New York is in 3D. What do you think of THAT?

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