Useless Dimensions of the Third Kind

With the widely-spreading phenomenon of the “IMAX Experience” hitting almost every major theater in the country, it’s starting to become common place to be given a pair of 3D glasses as one purchases a ticket. Where once the domain of 3D was solely reserved for schlock movies who made use of the third dimension in the most cheesy ways possible, it’s now becoming the new way for the blockbuster fantasy movie to be seen. As a cultural voice, we’ve said that we want more 3D based on things like Avatar; a movie that’s so wickedly third-dimensional that it give people the spins and could induce nausea.

Funny, I thought it was the cheesy effects and lack of plot that did it, but I’m not a doctor. I’ve also not seen more than just clips of the movie because watching Night Elves vs. Power Armor just isn’t really something that appealed to me, even though I am an uber-nerd.

Is 3D really a storytelling necessity? Is there some aspect of adding the elusive third-dimension to a movie which is going to make or break the plot?
My gut strongly screams no.

Special effects technology has come quite a long way to help us suspend our disbeliefs. We can still tell when something is computer animated most of the time but, when you have a 2-foot-tall flying character that isn’t represented by Verne Troyer with a pair of pipe-cleaner fairy wings strapped to his back and is instead represented by a fully-expressive computer animated creature, it really helps.
Green-screening and motion capture technology has helped to elevate filmmaking to the point where absolutely anything can happen and be relatively believable. At the very least, it can make things look as though they’re actually happening around the characters involved. Take Davy Jones for instance. Until I watched a making-of, I had no idea that it was mo-capped computer-animated Bill Nighy instead of a make-up covered, live-action Bill Nighy in costume. I mean, he was there and all, just wearing a body suit covered in little white dots.

3D, however, seems rather superficial when it comes to a theater experience. I’ve seen at least two new-generation 3D flicks. I could have seen the same movies in flaccid old 2D and they still would have been the same movies. I’m sure the same goes for Avatar. No matter how much the vox populii (and to a larger degree, the vox medii [ed. note: sorry if that’s not an actual phrase]) may try to persuade me to see this flick in 3D, I’m sure that, when I do finally break down and watch this “cinematic triumph”, it’s going to be in the same old two-dimensional manner that I always have. I’m fairly positive that any review I would give about said movie would be the same, regardless of the amount of Ds.
Tim Burton’s recent Alice in Wonderland pushed to add 3D effects during post-post-production (that’s two posts) as a way to put butts in $15-$20 seats rather than $8-$12 ones. Your prices may vary.
It’s a smart way for Hollywood to get one over on the general viewing public. By hyping up marketing and using the word “experience” to describe a 3D flick, it makes audiences feel like they’re missing out on something if they see it in boring old 2D.
A movie “experience” from my stand has always been about the smell of popcorn, the darkness of the theater, the previews, and the realization that, even though it feels like it’s just you and your specific viewing party in the theater, there are dozens of others taking the ride with you. There are some who will find things within any given movie that make them experience different emotions than the rest of the crowd but could help others find the comedy or tragedy in the same nuances.
I’m sure the entire theater was thrilled that I laughed until I couldn’t breathe for ten straight minutes after the “pencil trick” in The Dark Knight. Everyone cringed, I found it hysterical. Still do.
Granted, there will be more oohs and aahs in the 3D theater than the 2D one, but if a movie is good enough, that part shouldn’t matter in the least.

Avatar “legitimized” the 3D phenomenon by getting an Oscar nod. Of course, the nod was (in my opinion) based largely on grosses and popularity rather than quality of motion picture. This means more movies will have more 3D sequences and may be legitimately influenced and cinematographed to include the third dimension. This can only take the industry as a whole to dark and evil places. If you’re going to do this, Hollywood, remember: less gimmicks, more substance. That probably won’t stop you, though.

With the legitimacy of the 3D movie, so begins the march toward the legitimacy of 3D television. What fresh hell is this, I ask you? With most of the country finishing up their purchases of HDTVs in the wake of one sweeping TV revolution, so sweeps in the next-gen technology to clear out the old and keep the consumers churning out money.
At least, that’s what they’ll want you to think. I’m sure 3D channels will start popping up on cable lineups. I’m sure that some are rushing to the stores as we speak in an effort to be the first on their block to require special glasses to watch. Hell, the New York Rangers became the first hockey team to incorporate a 3D jumbotron, displaying their game and other (only slightly less sickening to the stomach) effects to make the crowd coo for the new technology. Though, why you would be concerned with watching a hockey game in 3D on the jumbotron when it’s happening in actual-D right in front of you pushes me to a near stroke.
Do we need 3DTV? No. With the types of shows dominating television right now – those being legal or medical dramas and reality shows – it’s unnecessary and unimpressive.
While it may be the next “logical” step toward the inevitable holographic television, we do not need it. If your mother ever told you that sitting too close to the TV would mess up your eyes, imagine what wearing glasses that essentially make you cross-eyed will do.

Though, 3DTV for gaming purposes… now, that’s a different story. I think my opinion might still fall within the same range as my opinion on 3D movies. We didn’t need it to have a great game before, why do we need it now?

Maybe I’m just showing my old-man style resistance to change but I don’t want to see anyone get rooked by buying into the hype.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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