Jul 02 2010
I had a choice this past week when I went to see Toy Story 3. I could have gone to a four o’clock show, and paid $7.50 for a matinee. Or, I could have gone a bit later, and spent $15 to watch it in IMAX 3D.
I thought hey, I’ve been waiting for this movie for ten years, I might as well spring for the total package right? I plunked down $15 and headed in.
I loved the movie, absolutely loved it. It’s currently my number one for the year and I thought it was perhaps one of the most touching films I’ve seen in a long while.
A week later, I was visiting some friends in Chicago who hadn’t seen the film yet. “What?” I said, “Oh, you have to, it’s amazing.” But due to a friend who claimed 3D made her dizzy, we skipped that option and went and saw it in 2D.
Guess what? Everyone loved it. My friend, his wife, my girlfriend, even me a second time. Now the question is, did they love it any less than they would have had they seen it in 3D? And to that I have to say, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, in order to get my money’s worth, I would have had to enjoy the film a full 100% more than I would have otherwise, to make my double priced ticket worth it. And was it? Not even close. And that’s the day I decided I was done with 3D forever.
3D is currently the biggest scam being pulled in Hollywood. Every studio releasing any movie that remotely resembles a kids’ animated adventure or a blockbuster action flick is now either filming or converting their movies into 3D. This was all sparked by Avatar, which became the number one grossing film in the world by far, helped in part by 3D ticket sales which range from anywhere between a 30-100% increase on the standard price of a ticket.
When I walked out of Avatar, I thought I was sold. The 3D revolution was here, and it was glorious. That was misleading however, because James Cameron spent the better part of ten years inventing and perfecting technology to give us the greatest 3D experience anyone’s ever seen. But today, 3D movies use either entirely different tech, or mere pieces of Cameron’s system, and none of it even comes close.
3D today is not like the 3D of old. When I was younger, I remember going to Universal Studios where there was a stage show/movie of Terminator. Stuff actually came at you, so much so that you often felt like you had to duck. The same happened years later, when the 3D Spider-man “virtual coaster” used 3D tech to do the same thing. It was pretty blurry yes, but things were hovering directly in front of you like a hologram.
But that’s not what 3D is like anymore. The only purpose 3D really serves these days is giving the picture a bit of depth to it. No longer does stuff hover inches from your nose, rather everything simply receives a 3rd dimension, a cool effect, but hardly one worth the money.
I notice this most in animated films, as I’ve seen both Up and Toy Story 3 in 3D and 2D. Toy Story’s IMAX 3D was pretty good, but you forgot about it about ten minutes into the film, and only remember you were watching the film in 3D when the glasses you were wearing tickled your nose. Up in RealD 3D was much worse. Despite the depth the film now had, it was much darker and blurrier than its 2D counterpart, and I felt like 2D was actually a better experience for less money.
It’s even worse with live-action. I walked out of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland completely convinced that the 3D I’d paid extra for had actually made the film worse. It was blurry, shaky, and off-putting, since the film had been converted hastily to 3D after it was shot, a process that is sloppy and jarring. I’m told something similar happened to Clash of the Titans, but I was wise enough to not fall into that trap twice.
Now every action movie ever is either being converted to 3D, or filmed in 3D, but I don’t care, I’m done. Once upon a time, I majored in economics, and the economist in me is telling me that the amount my ticket price goes up and the amount my enjoyment of the film goes up are in no way equal, and actually sometimes it can be an inverse correlation. It’s just not worth it.
But the problem is, I can’t even blame the studios for this. As a 3D movie makes 20-30% more on average than a 2D one, the technology is simply a license to print money for them. If I sold you a rock for $15, does that make it my fault that you’re stupid enough to pay $15 for a rock? The blame lies not with them, unfortunately, but with us, the audience, who are dumb enough to play their little game. But not me, not anymore.
I’m sure that I will break my new vow once either James Cameron makes another film (hopefully in under a decade this time), the technology is so advanced it’s worth the extra ticket price, or when ticket prices normalize, as 3D becomes the industry standard for all film. Which of these things will happen first, I have no idea, but all I know is that for the time being, two dimensions will work just fine.
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