The 1960s and 70s introduced the world to 3D movies, a cinematic attempt to gouge our eyes out with gimmicks and a disorienting red/blue picture.
Has anyone seen Jaws 3D? It’s pretty bad. You waited 75 minutes for some in-your-face shark snacking and they give you one scene of Jaws coming through glass in slow-motion. Laaaame.
Not surprisingly, the fad quickly died out as people did not want to sit with cardboard glasses on their faces and have the color of the film be distorted out of recognition.
Fast-forward 25 years and the craze had returned. 3D started re-assaulting our eyeballs in the early and mid-2000s with notable segments in films such as Superman Returns — although the return of Superman was F-ing pointless because he was still a total pansy.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago the technology advanced enough to do away with gimmicks.
Can the effect stick around this time or will it go the way of its predecessor, the 3D of old?
The idea of 3D being used as an enhancement and not a special effect for us to gawk at was a revelation to the film industry. Sure, there were some gimmick films like My Bloody Valentine 3D but those films never pretended to be anything other than a fun trick.
Most notably, computer animated films have used the technology to great effect. Up, Coraline and Monsters vs. Aliens, to name a few, used 3D to help the viewer feel more involved in the action. Up and Monsters worked well because the films and 3D were done completely with the computer, and camera angles and shot lengths can be manipulated to fit the effect.
Live action 3D films, on the other hand, have been hit-or-miss. One cannot talk about the idea without mentioning Avatar. Regardless of your views on the film, it is without a doubt the best example of 3D that has ever been done. The film is always lush and vibrant, without ever seeming out of focus or confusing. Audiences loved it.
Oh, and it made a bajillion dollars.
But Avatar raking in the dough may have been the worst thing to happen to this technology.
Studios look at that film’s success and say, “3D sells. Let’s make everything 3D.”
As a result, studios do not care about all the hard work and attention that went in to making Avatar the spectacle it was.
Avatar’s technology took more than 10 years to perfect and the idea of 3D was to be included from the very get-go. New cameras and power systems were created for the sole purpose of that film. James Cameron studied what made 3D work and work very well. The entire film was shot with 3D-specific cameras and it was edited to make sure the effect worked to its fullest extent.
Most other film projects do not have the budget, time or patience to do this — which brings studios to the newest and biggest evil in filmmaking today: post-converting into 3D.
Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, Hollywood’s newest 3D adventures, were not filmed in 3D, and the difference is glaring.
With Alice, a good portion of the film is computer generated which makes the 3D more bearable. But when viewing that film, did you notice that small headache you were developing? How about feeling the need to focus on a small portion of the screen because you knew you were not seeing it right?
And why did Crispin Glover look like a misshapen catfish?
When you were not seeing something that was created by the computer, the 3D faltered and mistakes and discomfort took the forefront. Alice was largely post-converted into 3D and it shows.
As for Clash of the Titans, Louis Leterrier did not make that film for 3D. He went to the ends of the Earth to find the most beautiful locations to film and edited it specifically thinking of 2D. The studio then decided they would make more money by completely post-converting the entire film.
I have heard nothing but complaints from reviewers. Some even watched it without the glasses because the blurred screen was better than the 3D one. Does this post converting really make a difference to casual filmgoers? It should.
Shots that are shorter than two seconds cannot fully be taken in by the eye when viewing in 3D, resulting in that need to turn away and coax the vomit back down your esophagus. Added to the technical difficulties, studios are fast-tracking these conversions, which makes the work sloppy.
Oh and I almost neglected to mention the conversion process costs an estimated $30,000 per minute. That adds about $30 to $40 million to the film’s budget.
The studios are betting that they will make that money back and then some because of the premium that is on 3D right now. Judging from Clash and Alice’s box office receipts, maybe they are right. Maybe the American public is willing to accept shoddy, lazy work.
Film studios will keep shoving 3D hacka down our throats as long as we keep paying for them.
All we have to do is hit the studios where it hurts most: their wallets, because bad 3D hurts ours enough as it is.