And I haven’t even seen a 3D film yet. I’d been holding out for a film that I wanted to see, and so far pretty much everything has looked like crap. No, I haven’t seen Avatar. No, I don’t intend to. It doesn’t look like a good film. I’ve spent too much money at the cinema seeing bad films over the years and I’ve heard nothing about Avatar that makes me want to see it as a film, not as a gaudy spectacle.
The 3D craze obviously isn’t aimed at the likes of me. I don’t much care about films having eye-popping visual effects — give me the subtle model work of Moon over George Lucas’ rainbow CGI vomit any day — but I still get a sinking feeling every time I see a film advertised as being in 3D, or I hear that a film has been delayed so it can have some naff 3D effects hastily bolted on by a film studio.
The whole thing is just so bloody cynical, almost exclusively about trying to get people to return to cinemas. People don’t want to return to cinemas, though. Cinemas are shit. They’re expensive and full of morons and adverts. People weren’t staying away because the films were in boring old 2D, they were staying away because cinema is effectively dead. Home cinema has eclipsed it, by and large. The convenience of postal rentals and on-demand services delivered through iTunes and games consoles, plus the growing affordability of high-definition sets and media — one-off spectacles like Avatar aren’t going to instill a cinema-going habit in anyone, nor is bolt-on 3D — particularly as 3D TVs are basically with us now anyway for those that care about such things.
I’m prepared to accept that I may be on the wrong side of history here. When anyone writes about how 3D seems like a useless gimmick there’s always a few people putting forward the YEAH THAT’S WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT SOUND AND COLOUR LOL argument, and perhaps they’re right, though that wouldn’t make them any less cretinous. Eventually maybe we’ll move away from the bolt-on model and 3D camera technology will be affordable and portable enough for anyone to use, and film makers that make their film in 2D will be seen in the same light as film makers today that shoot in black and white; I just can’t muster up much enthusiasm for that world. As suggested in this L.A. Times article, focussing too heavily on 3D effects doesn’t leave room for much else:
“You build sequences differently when you know things have to pop out and jump at you,” says Kieran Mulroney, who with his wife, Michele, is writing the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel, which has been the subject of a number of 3-D conversations at studio Warner Bros. “I fear that if every movie becomes spectacle for the sake of spectacle, where does that leave the intimate conversation across the dinner table?”
The announcement that any film will be made in 3D implies a visual style that’s all about lobbing stuff at the camera and hoping the crowd will duck (see this trailer for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland for instance). Only today I’ve discovered that Ridley Scott plans on filming his two Alien prequels in 3D; I was already feeling sceptical about those anyway, but now I suppose we can look forward to lots of shots of the Alien leaping toward the camera and OMG OUT OF THE SCREEN SORT OF.
What else can you do with this technology? If a film’s selling point is that when you watch it with special glasses on then some objects that were formerly on the screen are now sort-of hovering in front of the screen if you’re at the right angle then it doesn’t bode well. When a film trailer triumphantly announces that the film is in 3D, all I take from that is is that the film’s story, the characters and performances weren’t good enough to sell the film. It marks the film out as one to miss.
Fortunately, not everyone is leaping on board. Samuel Bayer, the director of the upcoming A Nightmare on Elm Street remake fought successfully to avoid retro-fitting his film with 3D effects, Darren Aronofsky went on record to say he would rather abandon his Robocop remake than succumb to studio demands that it be filmed in 3D and I’m heartened to read that Christopher Nolan plans on shooting his third Batman film not only in 2D but on film as well. I’m sure it will look amazing.