3D or not 3D?

I’ve had to defend my dislike for 3D movies a number of times recently. Here in Vietnam, only the biggest releases generally get shown in the cinema and, more often than not, these releases are in 3D. Consequently, I have recently been exposed to 3D a number of times (Arthur Christmas, John Carter of Mars, The Lorax). Prior to this, all I had seen of this emerging new art-form were a couple of films at the IMAX that had 3D sequences in them.

Now, I’m not saying that 3D is a completely redundant technology. I’m sure that it could be carefully utilised by very experienced film makers to enhance the cinematic experience when dealing with certain appropriate topics or genres.

Though I have seen neither in 3D, I suspect that this is the case with with Martin Scorcese’s Hugo and James Cameron’s Avatar (though I’m certain that the latter’s re-release of Titanic in 3D is entirely unesseccary).

That said, it is clear to me that with the majority of releases, the 3D technology is shoe-horned in with the hope of increasing the audience’s desire to see the film in the cinema. These efforts are both a symptom and a side-effect of the industry’s increasing reliance on tent-pole pictures to prop up viewing numbers. In other words, there isn’t an artistic incentive for making films in this way.

So, apart from the ulterior motives of movie producers, what is my problem with 3D films? Well, its partially because the glasses make the picture darker, and also because I just don’t like wearing then. But, the main reason only recently dawned on me when I read an interview with director Christopher Nolan.

Here are Nolan’s thoughts in his own words:

I find stereoscopic imaging too small scale and intimate in its effect. 3-D is a misnomer. Films are 3-D. The whole point of photography is that it’s three-dimensional. The thing with stereoscopic imaging is it gives each audience member an individual perspective. It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you’re looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace.

I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life. When you treat that stereoscopically, and we’ve tried a lot of tests, you shrink the size so the image becomes a much smaller window in front of you. So the effect of it, and the relationship of the image to the audience, has to be very carefully considered. And I feel that in the initial wave to embrace it, that wasn’t considered in the slightest.

You can read the full article with Nolan here.

I feel the same way as Nolan. The 3D image, brought down from the screen and rendered in-front of your eyes as if it were being shown just for you, takes away from the grand nature of what can be achieved on a huge cinema screen.

Take a film like John Carter of Mars, for example. I believe that it would have felt more grand and epic were the 3D taken out of the equation and the landscape and cinematography allowed to speak for themselves.

Yet it would appear that 3D is here to stay, at least for the short-term. I’m sure that the occasional film will come out that takes advantage of the technology and successfully enhances the cinema-going experience (click here to read about some films that Paste Magazine is looking forward to). There is no concensus on whether 3D films are tailing off in popularity (some think they are and some think they aren’t). But I for one remain skeptical as to the reasons the technology is being employed and whether it genuinely enhances our enjoyment of going to the movies.

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2 responses to “3D or not 3D?

  1. I have mixed feelings on 3D, some films I had seen recently were great with 3D, others left me asking why it needed to be 3D at all. ‘Wrath of the Titans’ had only 2 or 3, ‘3D’ gotcha’ moments, barely worth the extra cost of the glasses and sitting through the whole film misjudging where the popcorn bucket was. ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ on the otherhand was a great 3D experience.

    • I agree that there are most likely some films that justify the use of 3D technology, but I do think that that doesn’t include the majority of 3D movies. I can imagine that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs would be pretty awesome in the 3D!

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment!

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