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Jan 30, 2012

3-D Movies: Next Level or Gimmicky?

Since the booming financial success of James Cameron’s 3-D venture, Avatar, it should come as no surprise that Hollywood has been jumping on the extra-dimensional bandwagon with its other projects. Some of the most recent blockbusters have been in 3-D, in particular, animated family films and horror movies.

There may not be an apparent correlation; perhaps both genres are meant purely as thoughtless entertainment, intended to seduce the viewer to sit back and let the screen come alive, no matter how little substance the film exhibits. The horror series, Saw, has hopped on board the stimulating wagon of visual indulgence, but so has the Harry Potter series, and even Toy Story has stepped up to the prerequisite for the ADD-era audiences. While it’s true that Toy Story 3 does convey meaningful messages, one has to ask, must the viewers be spoon-fed these messages by characters popping out of the screen?


Effective or Detracting?


It is hard to determine whether or not 3-D technology is contributing to the theater going experience more than it is taking away from the film making experience. It is no surprise that Jackass would take up the 3-D challenge, but what might surprise you is how well 3-D worked for their endeavor. It seems that what makes this technology work for Jackass is the fact that there is really nothing else to focus on but the bizarre visual spectacle happening before you, so clearly 3-D is effective on the visual-stimulation end of the entertainment spectrum, but can 3-D be implemented in a meaningful way to the storytelling of a film?

3-D Can Be Used Meaningfully


At some point Werner Herzog must have thought to himself, does it really make sense to make a documentary about ancient cave drawings, a 3-D experience? And yet, Cave of Forgotten Dreams was certainly one of the most unique theater-going experiences for anyone who went to see it. While the film is mostly Herzog’s self-indulgent quandaries on the nature of everything, as usual, the bizarre director does not fail to bring us into the cave with him. Cave of Forgotten Dreams implements 3-D graphics in what can be described as a natural-feeling and appropriate manner: not so much to launch objects at you, but to give you a sense of the caverns’ shape. We are given a chance to see a place that human eyes may never get to see again, while also feeling like we are inside the cave. Surely this documentary is indicative of how 3-D technology can be utilized meaningfully, and not just for ‘scare tactics’ and ‘attention whoring.’ 

Can 3-D Be Lucrative?


Martin Scorsese’s Hugo wowed its’ audiences as a deeply moving film with profound historical reflections, while simultaneously implementing the newest 3-D technology. Props are certainly due to the senior filmmaker taking on such a unique project and making a worthwhile film out of it. However, positive reviews and wowed audiences were not enough to make up for the films’ lofty budget, as the picture suffered a heavy financial loss. Is this a sign that the 3-D going audience is more interested in just getting their visual kicks, so they can put their annotative minds aside for the roughly two hour ride? Maybe. 

Repurposing Classic Films in 3-D: Perfect or Ploy?


As the film industry embraces new technology, studios have innovated visual effects to the point that those effects alone are capable of keeping an audience stimulated. Audiences are now even able to view 3-D from the comfort of their home theater if they choose to invest in 3-D blu-ray media. Given these innovations, older films, even classics, lose their appeal to the will of time. But for those money-making masterpieces, reissuing, remastering, remaking, and/or adapting isn’t enough; now the studios have got to go back to your old favorites and bring them to you, in 3-D! Now we have to consider whether or not the 3-D enhancing of a movie really contributes to making a good film better, or is this just another moneymaking ploy to repackage something old as something new?

Some Films Just Weren’t Meant To Be In 3-D


Not too many people would argue that the recent sequels to Tron and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were valuable stories that just had to be told. The stories seemed more like convenient concepts to build upon with vast potential for impressive visual effects and a guaranteed attendance. In 2011, The Lion King was re-released in theaters in 3-D. Though some may have thought it refreshing to see such a classic brought back to the theater, many viewers were overwhelmingly disappointed with the 3-D enhancement, for it didn’t actually bring anything new to the film. Nothing was emphasized by it, and if the 3-D effects did anything to the story, it detracted from it, bringing the audience to focus on the nearby grass more than on the profound speech dictated by Mufasa to his Simba.

Uh Oh: 2012 Will See Many Movies Re-released in 3-D 


Other classics are being brought back to theater in 3-D formats. Notably, James Cameron’s Titanic will be revisiting theaters with the hopes of whetting our visual appetites. Could it be that Titanic will be made a better movie with 3-D enhancements? In February the Star Wars saga will return in 3-D, and in 2013 we can look forward to The Little Mermaid being re-released in 3-D, and no doubt, we can expect to see a whole slew of Disney films and other classics being re-released in 3-D as well.

Is this the next step in the movie industry? Are studios no longer interested in new developments? Will there be earnest efforts to implement 3-D in a more meaningful ways since it has yet to prove to be successful in doing so? Perhaps this is just the next phase in movie-evolution, but we have to ask, is re-releasing old masterpieces with new technology a sign of moving forward or is it indicative of our need to hold onto the past? Might even be a bit of both.


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