By Russel D McLean
When we went to see Peter Jackson’s Hobbit lately, both myself and the Literary Critic were rather taken with the idea of seeing it in Imax. That huge screen, that incredible sound system. But in the end, we didn’t, not because it wasn’t on, but because it was in 3D. In fact, we had a hell of a job finding a regular screening at a decent time.
And its not the first time this has happened of late.
3D is probably one of those tools that movie creators think are amazing. It allows you create something “immersive”. Except 3D is rarely immersive. And more than that its headache inducing in a lot of people (myself included).
The only 3D film that had my jaw drop was Judge Dredd. Yeah, I never thought that would happen either, but there you go. The Slo-Mo sequences (Slo Mo being the drug that is the movie’s MacGuffin) were great to watch and absolutely stunning. But, yeah, that’s about it. For the most part, 3D is a distraction because the planes of depth feel wrong. For me its more like watching various layers slatted together - - yes there’s a sense of depth, but its artificial and not at all real, more often that not taking you right out of the movie. And, sure, once or twice you shrink back because something comes at the right angle to scare you, but overall, its adding nothing to the movie going experience and if anything makes the world presented on screen seem even more artificial. Although I won’t deny that one day they may overcome the problems of slatted-layers and headache-inducing glasses, I still wonder if theres any point. Do 3D movies tell stories better or do they merely disguise the poorer qualities of the stories being told by blinding the audience with spectacle? You’re so busy thinking, “cool, that meteor just flew past my head” that you’re not thinking, “Hey, that meteor had no business in the story other than flying past my head”
I watched Prometheus in both 3D and 2D. The 2D experience was better. The frights were there, and I wasn’t spending the whole time aware that I was watching a movie (although I concede it wasn’t a great movie; in fact, there was an awful lot wrong with it given the pedigree) so much as I was just allowing myself to sink into the story and the characters.
3D is something that should be used sparingly. Its something that should be used in the service of the story. Its not something merely to be applied because it will look “cool”. That most movies come in a 2D version tells you how superfluous the technology really is. They’re saying, “Hey, the story works even without the 3D”, and its true. Although the 3D serves as a distraction from the fact the story is mince whichever way you see it.
I’m sounding like a curmudgeon here about 3D, but enough is enough. Its not enough to merely make a film in 3D. It has to have a reason for existing as such. It needs to be a damn fine story on its own terms. If you can make a film that makes it worth the headache, I’ll see it. But frankly, all of the efforts so far seem pointless. Yes, even The Hobbit, which worked just damn fine in 2D on the big screen.