FORREST ROBINETTE ’16
Ever since James Cameron’s wildly successful “Avatar,” Hollywood has thoroughly and foolishly embraced the 3-D movie. Today, the average movie theatre is almost always playing at least one 3-D film and more often theatres feature two, three or even four 3-D movies at any given time. As of this very moment, a sizable theatre is likely to be playing some or all of the following 3-D films: “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “The Croods,” “Oz The Great and Powerful,” and “Jurassic Park.” And it is likely that the number of 3-D films will only increase over time because they have proven themselves to be so profitable.
“Avatar” changed the 3-D game because it made the technology more accessible, mainstream, and impressive than ever before. Since then, big budget blockbusters have sought to recreate Cameron’s stunning box-office receipts. My question is this: what is so great about 3-D? What does it add to the essential movie-going experience that makes it so much better than the now inferior “2-D?”
First, tickets to a 3-D movie are typically six to seven dollars more expensive than a 2-D counterpart. So what makes the $11.00 ticket so worth it? Roger Ebert beautifully wrote about how a film does not need to jump out as us to engage us. He said that a great 2-D film “completely engages our imaginations.” Ebert went on to think about what “Fargo” or “Casablanca” could possibly gain from being shot in 3-D. The entire notion of 3-D film insults the moviegoer. It’s a gimmick, plain and simple. Novels and short stories rely completely on the reader’s imagination and we don’t feel a need to technologically renovate the novel.
Many critics of 3-D have also noted that movies already exist in 3-D in our minds. When we look at a film, the characters and the set do not exist in a two dimensional space. For me, the term “2-D” conjures the image of the early Super Mario games in which Mario could move left, right, up, down and in no other direction. I think it’s clear that “2-D” characters such as Gandalf and Buzz Lightyear are not similarly limited. In 2-D films we see and experience depth, perspective, closeness, and distance in a completely sufficient and enjoyable way. 3-D films attempt to bridge a gap between the audience and the screen that never needed bridging.
It’s not just that 3-D doesn’t add anything substantial. In my opinion, it actually degrades and detracts from any movie going experience. First of all, the brightness is severely reduced in 3-D films. The technology currently being used for 3-D doesn’t allow for the same production quality that is always the standard in 2-D film. Lenny Lipton, considered by some to be the inventor of modern 3-D technology wrote about today’s digital projectors saying they are “intrinsically inefficient.” Half the light goes to one eye and half to the other, which immediately results in a 50 percent reduction in illumination.” A 3-D film, despite any massive budget, is dimmer and less vibrant than a 2-D film.
For me, 3-D makes my head hurt and makes me a little queasy. And I know I’m not the only one who has had such an experience with 3-D. By its very nature, 3-D is an unnatural visual experience. Our minds can easily become strained attempting to process it, resulting in frequent headaches. Critics of 3-D have noted that the technology is not calibrated in the same way that our eyes are. The way that 3-D movies force us to experience depth and perspective are foreign to how our own eyes are designed to experience those sensations.
Countless movies are being retrofitted with 3-D, which is probably the most horrifying thought imaginable. Movies that were not originally made in 3-D are being degraded in an attempt to update them. The most recent victim of this sick practice is Steven Spielberg’s visual masterpiece “Jurassic Park.” I refuse to go see this newly imagined “Jurassic Park” because all I can imagine is how the awe and absolute terror of the original will be degraded and bastardized in this cheap, gimmicky, money-grabbing rehash.
The “reimagining” of classic films into 3-D exposes the blatant commercialism of Hollywood that has been present for many years now, but seems to now be reaching new heights of artistic corruption. Hollywood has always had the goal of making money, but few times before has that goal so maimed the artistic integrity of the industry. Great films are being refitted with this new technology and are being passed off as “better than ever before.” Stunning Disney classics such as “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” have reentered theatres in a downgraded and subpar fashion. But imagine the moneymaking potential of this recent marketing ploy. Why spend the money to create anything new or original when you can just degrade something great by presenting it in the latest gimmicky and inferior medium? Remaking old movies into 3-D is a crutch for an industry that is struggling to remain meaningful and valued.
The current 3-D situation is not that bad for people like me who hate 3-D movies. I thankfully still have the option to just go see the 2-D version. However, my fears are as follows. First, big budget 3-D action films are becoming par for the course for the movies these days. The comic book film has reigned supreme for the last several years because the superhero premise is an excellent way to justify a two or three-hour special effects show.
Can you imagine a meaningful drama shot in 3-D. I’m trying to imagine a version of “The Social Network” in which the characters jump out at me. The more that audiences encourage the 3-D action film trend, the harder it will be for serious filmmakers to find funding and support for their projects.
As of right now, audiences are flocking to special effects showcases, which often sacrifice a strong script, interesting characters and creativity for shock and awe. If this trend continues, directors who want to make meaningful (but less flashy) films will find themselves at a disadvantage as Hollywood will only want to support huge special effects shows that they know will pay off at the box office.
Hollywood seems to have turned to this new artless practice as a crutch for its inability to create meaningful art. As movies fail to attract audiences with great stories and artful direction, they turn to tacky technology to make up for their weaknesses. I do not take issue with the notion of 3-D as a side option for those who are interested. My fear is that it will continue to grow and come to consume an already flagging film industry. 3-D signals an increase in commercialism and sacrifice of quality across the board. Everyone has the right to go see a 3-D movie if they want to, but I will be horrified if ever a film is offered only in 3-D and not in 2-D. As for now, I hope audiences come to their senses about 3-D and stop encouraging it. And I submit the following message to the rehashers who are destroying classic films in 3-D remakes: If anyone touches “The Lord of the Rings,” there will be blood.