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A film that is viewed with 3-D Glasses

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Hollywood's New Toy

  • Jul 10, 2010
I'm in the minority here, and probably will be for quite a bit of time.  Movies have been coming out in 3-D for quite some time, but the trend didn't seem to really take off until around the time Avatar came around and 3-D became a big thing.  It helped to boost Avatar's box office gross and has gone on to help other films as well.  Films that were bad, but became financial successes because people were willing to pop down the extra money for it (such as Clash of the Titans).  I'm not very excited about 3-D to be honest with you.  And when I saw Avatar in 3-D I decided that it might not be for me. 

Movie goers fall into a lot of strange fads from time to time.  There was of- course, the bullet time action stuff in the late 90's.  When Die Hard came around it spawned several action movies to try and change that.  The special effects in Star Wars were a big "Holy shit!" moment for movie goers as well.  And, for the most part, we get over this.  Eventually the lightsabers in Star Wars we accept as just being special effects that don't really add a whole lot to Star Wars... they just look cool.  We know that special effects can't exactly save a bad movie.  It didn't work for the Star Wars Prequels and it sure as hell didn't help audience reception of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or War of the Worlds.  The original Star Wars trilogy isn't loved because of how "shiny" it is.  The story is incredible, the characters absorbing.  In short, Star Wars has a heart and soul.  Special effects fade.  The melting faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark still looks cool, but it's not exactly the reason you enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark now.

3-D has a different appeal.  At the moment we're still in that stage where 3-D is shiny because movies are now doing it better than ever.  Avatar wasn't any better in 3-D in terms of its story.  It just happened to look slightly prettier.  It's almost like a new type of special effect.  And like many new special effect it's something that's stimulating for the eyes.

There's nothing wrong with wanting something shiny.  There's nothing wrong with liking to be visually stimulated.  If 3-D movies is your thing that's fine.  I can't change your mind.  But I can present a few reasons as to why 3-D annoys the hell out of me and why it comes off as Hollywood's latest movie-making gimmick rather than anything else.  The difference between 3-D and the special effects of Star Wars or The Matrix or anything like that... is actually that 3-D is costing you more money and in some cases... it's not really enhancing the experience.  As Clash of the Titans showed us... it might sometimes make it worse.

It cost anywhere from 3 to 8 dollars to get those 3-D glasses (depends on the theater).  Going to the movies is an expensive endeavor these days.  The ticket prices are high, the drinks, popcorn and snacks are expensive as hell, and now you've got to pay an extra three dollars or so for those 3-D glasses.  You don't get to keep them.  You have to recycle them after the movie is over (it would be nice if you could keep them).  There are some movies, I will readily admit, that look good with the 3-D.  Avatar is one of them.  It's like why you might buy some movies on Blu-Ray or want to watch some of them in HD.  Sometimes epic movies like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark or the second half of Titanic just look good when you view them in the best quality possible.  Imagine watching Lord of the Rings in 3-D... the climactic battle at the end of the third film.  Or imagine watching the Death Star run in Star Wars in 3-D... or how about just about any adventure sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Or Cameron's incredible special effects in Titanic?  These are all moments in which 3-D can enhance the experience... probably.

Which is part of the reason why 3-D can be a little problematic from time to time.  As what happens with so much... the heart and soul of a movie doesn't really die.  But the special effects might eventually become old hat and dated.  It's a matter of just when 3-D will.  But one thing is for certain:  It does have it's downsides.

To begin, this one is not something that will apply to you all... but if you already wear glasses... then getting 3-D glasses means putting a second pair on your head.  If you're fortunate enough to be able to see without your glasses congrats.  On the other hand, I have to put those 3-D glasses over my regular ones.  It's actually a little uncomfortable.

There's also the matter of just how quality the 3-D in some of your movies are.  Movies such as Clash of the Titans just aren't that good.  Because they weren't exactly filmed in 3-D to begin with.  Clash of the Titans is one of the most notorious films for taking advantage of 3-D for the sake of inflating it's box office receipts.  Clash of the Titans was already a pretty bad movie... but the 3-D was even worse.  The difference was almost not even there.  There are some movies where 3-D can make things really pop out... but Clash of the Titans most certainly wasn't one of them.  And it was that 3-D that kept Clash of the Titans from being a financial flop.  Those extra bucks accounted for quite a bit of its box office.  The same for Avatar.  Avatar probably wouldn't have gone 7 weeks straight without the extra money garnered from 3-D glasses sales (no doubt Sherlock Holmes would've overtaken it) and Iron Man 2 might've had a lot of help had they done the 3-D thing.  In short, 3-D is good for making money.  Not exactly for making movies.

Things popping out is one thing... but what about the actual 3-D?  Well, most of us are seeing it without the glasses anyway.  Your brain, for example, knows how to perceive that you're watching something in 3-D.  The fact that the movie is live action and that human beings are three-dimensional as it is lets your brain perceive that you're watching a movie in 3-D.  In short, the experience may not be enhanced much.  The perception of what you're seeing is.  The point is simple... a live action movie is already in 3-D.

Yet perhaps the most annoying part about 3-D is how crazy Hollywood has gone.  Not just converting movies to 3-D but also in terms of what movies should be done in 3-D.  A movie like Toy Story 3 wasn't exactly enhanced by the 3-D effect.  It wasn't made worse either... it was just a movie where it didn't exactly help the visual experience much.  Hollywood has been talking about converting older movies to 3-D.  Movies such as Titanic and Star Wars.  But a conversion wouldn't be the same.  It's not going to feel like you're riding down the trenches of the Death Star or anything like that.  The movie was made before the technology.  People often forget that the reason Avatar is so eye-popping in 3-D is because it was filmed that way.  James Cameron made sure to film it that way.  Many of those movies that have to go through a conversion aren't quite as eye-popping.

3-D might work well for epic movies, but it definitely won't work for movies that lack a lot of flash.  Pirates of the Caribbean might be something people would be curious to see in 3-D but I can't imagine people would want to see say... Lost in Translation that way, or Little Miss Sunshine, or The Departed.  These are movies that 3-D wouldn't exactly help in any way, shape or form.  They don't have enough of an epic scope for it to happen.  No one is going to want to see a simple drama in 3-D.  No one is going to want to see people kissing in 3-D.  It doesn't really look any different than someone kissing in 2-D.

This is why 3-D just seems gimmicky.  If they can use it, they will.  It's there to make a movie more visually stimulating.  But even then... Avatar is pretty good eye candy even without it.  I guess what I'm saying is that movies such as Aliens, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, The Matrix etc... all became movies that were gaping successes even without the use of 3-D glasses (and they would give Avatar quite the competition if their grosses were adjusted for inflation).  These are also movies that had effects that were astounding to look at in some way.  But they didn't need 3-D to enhance the visual experience of what we were seeing.  And while it may seem to great to think of how eye-popping movies like Jurassic Park might be... that eye-popping effect is going to wear thin pretty soon.  For some people it already has.  Avatar was a good movie, sure, but what made it good had nothing to do with the 3-D at all.  The characters were just amusing, the world of Pandora was alive and the overall situation and the stakes were there.  The 3-D simply didn't enhance Avatar in anyway.  It made moments look prettier. 

And what of that "popping out" stuff?  Does 3-D really make things pop out?  Well, yes, when you put those glasses on.  But the reason stuff seems to "pop out" is because 3-D puts things on a different plane.  You probably noticed this when you saw Avatar.  In the moments where those flying jellyfish like things looked they were really flying in front of you... it was just on a different plane.  In short you were being subjected to an illusion.  The unfortunate thing is that those floating jellyfish still looked 2-D.  Avatar has a lot of those moments.  There are blades of grass that look like they're really popping out only because the planes have been separated.  You see what I mean?  Sometimes what you're seeing is only popping out because it's on a different plane.  So in essence it makes it look like certain objects are "coming at you."  Can you imagine watching that Boulder Chase this way?  Seems like it would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?  Except it would actually look... fake.  Because Indiana Jones would be on one plane and the boulder would be on another to give you the illusion that it's popping out. 

So is the visual experience really being enhanced?  Maybe the first time.  Because you're in awe at something that, in reality, you've seen before.  You're just seeing it in a different way.  Avatar would've been a good movie regardless of whether or not it was in 3-D (Avatar had other technology that made it amusing to see on screen, though).  3-D doesn't make the experience worse, really.  Well, it can.  As I said, I wear glasses already and it's uncomfortable to be wearing two pairs.  Second, there are certain health concerns.  People have reported getting motion sickness thanks to 3-D.  There's also the possibility of headaches (as I tend to get if I keep the glasses on for two long).  The problem is that to watch a movie on a 3-D projector WITHOUT the glasses might actually be worse.  You get a blurred mess on screen that can be far more headache inducing than the actual 3-D.

Beyond Avatar, however, most 3-D advertising has been used for the sake of making sure you pay extra money.  As I said, Clash of the Titans was terrible 3-D.  Even if you took off the glasses and had to deal with those blurs... you hardly noticed.  It's become one of those means that Hollywood can get a little bit more money out of you.  Unfortunately it makes going to the theater take more of a toll on your wallet.

3-D is Hollywood's current gimmick.  Like what they do with special effects... only the results are you paying more money at the ticket window.  Before, Hollywood's gimmicks typically meant they were making a bigger gamble on their movies.  Now they don't have to make as big of a gamble.  Clash of the Titans should've been a flop... and it should've taught Hollywood a lesson.  Well, Clash of the Titans wasn't a flop at all.  And it did teach Hollywood a valuable lesson:

3-D makes money.  It makes a lot of it. 

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August 04, 2011
Conveyed very well !
September 13, 2010
Great review. I'm right with you on 3-D being just one more gimmick for Hollywood. I particularly like the fact that you brought up about this gimmick actually costing the viewer more.  Oh, and about returning those glasses at the end of the film so that they can be recycled:  I've got two pair from when I took my daughter to see Despicable Me (which actually looked great in 3-D and was a wonderful film as well).  They way I see it, if I bought'em, I keep'em.
September 13, 2010
Yeah, that's the way I see it too when it comes to those glasses.  If I have to pay extra to get them, they're mine.  And I'm willing to bet "recycled" means "We repackaged them." 
July 13, 2010
Great break down, Sean! I thought I was in the minority :P I hear people raving about 3D all the time, and while it does look cool, it gives me a headache. Plus, it makes a movie cost like, $20. Not worth it in my opinion. Thanks for sharing!
July 12, 2010
I'm on the fence with 3D movies, but leaning towards the negatory. Movies coming out have bothered me awhile now (too many sequels, remakes, and just plain crap). 3D as a gimmick is annoying compared to those grievances. And I like the pretty when it's done well, i.e. shot in 3D or animated for it. Conversions are hopeless. I've seen a handful and now can pretty much tell if the 3D will be decent enough to even consider seeing it. But I'm a college student who's broke most of the time, so if I see a movie in theatres, it's a cheap $5 or less showing. Which completely excludes 3D. So, it's entertaining, but I wouldn't be heart-broken to see it gone.
July 12, 2010
I wouldn't be heartbroken to see it gone either.  Avatar had special cameras made specifically for the sake of giving you that eye-popping experience.  That's part of the reason it had such a huge budget.  Most other movies aren't filmed with that in mind and thus they're converted.  I think I'll just stick to the normal movies.  I like story, character and heart.  I can go for the visuals, but they look spectacular even without the 3-D.
July 11, 2010
quite a thought-provoking piece here, Sean. I am real peeved that it seems like 3D is indeed here to stay as with the evolution of HDTV's also--but God, it is just becoming such a gimmick. I saw "Despicable Me" yesterday and I thought that the 3D sure enhanced its experience, but I think this will be another excuse for filmmakers not to bring out a quality story and instead lean on a gimmick. (lots of directors did this in the 80's). You know me, I tend to lean towards storytelling than any gimmick so 3D doesn't do much for me. Thanks!
July 11, 2010
That's part of why 3-D bothers me sometimes. It's good for enhancing the visual experience, but its not something that would make a lasting impression. At least I don't think it tends to. A serious drama, for instance... there's no need for 3-D. And even then, I think about some of the more epic and action movies. The Lord of the Rings wasn't special because it was beautiful, for instance... there was an emotional investment from the audience that made it even more worthwhile. 3-D isn't going to give you that. It's not going to enhance what really matters in a particular film.
July 10, 2010
I have no problems with a 3-D film, but it's become such a predictable and gimmicky trend in Hollywood right now that I'm fairly annoyed with the very principle of it.
July 10, 2010
I just haven't found it as visually stimulating as most people.  When I saw Avatar in 3-D and then later in 2-D... I really couldn't tell the difference.  I just don't think it's really doing much to enhance or change the movie-going experience.
July 10, 2010
"Avatar" and "How to Train Your Dragon" are the only 3-D films I've seen in theatres and only with "Avatar" was it really that impressive. I wish I could have seen "Coraline" in 3-D.
More 3-D Films reviews
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
There's nothing wrong with wanting something shiny. There's nothing wrong with liking to be visually stimulated. If 3-D movies is your thing that's fine. I can't change your mind. But I can present a few reasons as to why 3-D annoys the hell out of me and why it comes off as Hollywood's latest movie-making gimmick rather than anything else. The difference between 3-D and the special effects of Star Wars or The Matrix or anything like that... is actually that 3-D is costing you more money and in …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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A 3-D ("three - dimensional") film or S3D ("Stereoscopic 3D") film[1] is a motion picture that enhances the illusion of depth perception. Derived from stereoscopic photography, a special motion picture camera is used to record the images as seen from two perspectives (or computer-generated imagery generates the two perspectives), and special projection hardware and/or eyewear are used to provide the illusion of depth when viewing the film. 3-D films are not limited to feature film theatrical releases; television broadcasts and direct-to-video films have also incorporated similar methods, primarily for marketing purposes.
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