Why I’m Giving Up 3D for Good


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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  1. 3D = the Autotune of the movie industry.

    Pointless & gimmicky. My friend took me to see Avatar in 3D and while it was a great time visually, all the special effects in the world couldnt make me like that movie.

    I probably wont go see another movie in 3D unless it’s free, just a waste of money if you ask me.

  2. I’m with you 100%. It’s a money-making gimmick that people will see through eventually. Avatar did well at the box office, so Hollywood execs jumped (really really far) to conclusions that all movies should be in 3D.
    I recently had the opportunity to try out a 3D TV, and it was AWFUL.
    It’s only a matter of time before it goes the way of the Betamax.
    I wrote about the same topic a couple months back.

  3. The problem is – Clash of the Titans is an example – that the movies are shot normally and then turned into 3-D in post production. I don’t hate 3-D, and I believe it has a very, very strong future…it’s just that the rest of the world hasn’t caught up to what Cameron did, and so they’re kind of hastily doing whatever works in the meantime.

    3-D will have its day, but for now, you are absolutely correct.

  4. “…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”

    Where did you say you got your Economics degree from?

  5. I’m not anti-3D either but I think it is just not suited for most movies. I’ll only see it in 3D if I think it will in some enhance the experience or if it was a project specifically designed to be a 3D experience. I sure as hell won’t see any converted 3D movies. I’ve been saying that for months, long before it became apparent and that converted 3D movies look terrible and are only being done to cash in on the new trend. I don’t regret seeing Toy Story 3 in 3D, but you’re right I would have enjoyed it just the same.

    Paul, nothing wrong with your math. John, to enjoy something 100% more is to enjoy it twice as much, like the cost of the $15 ticket is twice as much as the $7.50 ticket.

  6. “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.”

    The question is, why the fuck isn’t the 3D being used is instead the ‘real’ 3D?

    I remember witnessing that terminator drone literally coming out of the screen and ramming into my skull. If that happened almost ten years ago, why haven’t we got to that stage with 3D in cinemas yet?

    I mean when I first found out about ‘3D’ coming back I was expecting THAT. Needless to say I was disappointed.

    My feelings now: 3D go work on your stuff and don’t come back until it’s right!

  7. i’ve been over 3D

    it was a lame gimmick in the 80s and its a lame gimmick now.

    and to charge so much extra for it? i’d be down with 3D if it cost the same as a reg ticket, but i am not paying the extra $5 for a stupid set of glasses.

  8. It depends on the movie.. it did indeed work great for Avatar. And after that some hastily converted crap came along.. it’s become a fad to rack up attention and extra money.

    But I will disagree the same applies to Toy Story 3. Here is a movie that was created in 3D, was “made” to be in 3D. It really made a difference to me! Toy Story 3 came to live in a way that 2D could not have done. And paying extra for IMAX 3D is worth it without any doubt. I don’t go to the movies every week so if I go, I’ll gladly pay a bit more to fully enjoy a movie that deserves it! 🙂

  9. @ Paul

    I believe John is just nitpicking. I think he expected you to say 200% as you have to enjoy the movie the full 100% of the 2D and then a full 100% more in the 3D. I hope that makes sense. I was never very good at math.

  10. Seen 4 movies now in 3D, hated all of them and didn’t feel that it added anything extra to them at all, and yes that included “Avatar” which I only thought was “meh” at best.

    With that in mind, I watched “Toy Story 3” and opted not to watch it in 3D and enjoyed every minute of it.

    3D, imo, is going to be one of those jokes that comedians use 10yrs from now, in regards to this era…..kinda like the “fanny pack” or “Lazer Disc.”

    And, am I the only one that hates the way Blu Ray or HD t.v. works? It’s too crisp….just kinda weird. I dunno, sports I don’t mind, but whole television shows and movies, it just doesn’t sit well with me (visually speaking).

  11. i bring up the terminator and spiderman rides when i talk about 3d too! today’s 3d is shit. its not even 3d. its more like -3d, cuz it goes away from you, not towards you. i hate it. even avatar wasnt that good in 3d. i enjoyed it 100% better in 2d, you got to see all the beautiful colours you were missing with the glasses on. i will however give it one more chance to impress me with “dispicable me”. but im going before noon, when the tickets are $6 + $3 for the glasses.

  12. Why should I pay more for the privilege to wear uncomfortable glasses? Give us more story, character development, and realistic effects! Forget this over prices, over processed junk. Its bad for our food and its bad for our movies!!

  13. I forgot avatar(oops, I mean the Last Air Bender[which makes me think of farts]) was in 3-D and popped in for a couple minutes without the glasses.. didn’t even notice. Spoiler alert: Bruce willis is a ghost!

    The preview of Despicable Me has a giant drill coming off the screen right in your face. And (The) Final Destination had stuff flying at you too.

    Other than Inception I’m really looking forward to The Other Guys. This has the potential to be the Rock’s best movie.

  14. oh yeah, I forgot. They’re making Starwars in 3-D. And this time Greedo doesn’t shoot first. And they completely replace Jar Jar with a herring. And the force is NOT tiny aliens. And James cameron make episodes 7-9. And samuel L comes back to life ghost-style.

  15. The problem with 3d, as i see it, is the following: Avatar was mostly rendered. Everything that was rendered was perfect in 3d. It had depth, and looked fantastic. But as soon as actors came along you could see that it wasn’t quite there yet. The actors where blurry or the 3d did not match the background.

    Whenever you render a 2d movie into a 3d image, it will automatically screw up, because you dont have the changes in side view that comes with the positional difference between eye 1 and eye 2. So anything that is not correctly 3d filmed (cameron’s movie) will look crappy.

    Whenever something is rendered, preferrably the whole movie (avatar), or whenever you are watching an animated movie (which is the same thing really…) it can be perfectly 3d calculated and shown in the theater. Anything that is not 3d animated will automatically look crappy.

    One other thing i dont like much from 3d vs real world: yes, 3d allows you to perfectly see depth, but only to the point where the camera is focussed. In real life, everything is sharp, and i see whatever i focus on. In a 3d movie, only the subject of interest is sharp, and the rest is blurry 3d. Which automatically throws off the 3d effect. Panning shots in avatar were a bit better in this though..

    I liked avatar in 3d immensly. I watched it in 2d and 3d, and i can even say i like the 3d version more. But it was not perfect by a long shot. This means that anything worse than avatar-level of technology will automatically suck.

    Whenever the hype is over, and (in 10 years or so) the technology catches up to Camerons level, it is worth checking out. Right now, i would advice to either avoid or stay with rendered movies.

  16. i must agree, and i can add that not even avatar was worth the 3D huha. it looked great both times i went, and i got a feeling that the 2D would be just as good. you the words out of my mouth (really, i actualy talked about quite a few times) when it comes to things coming at you. without it 3D is just a way to inflate the charecters a bit. and it usually doesn’t give you more the that.

    just an inflated balloon, with the hope of squeezing some more bucks out of us

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  18. Completely agree with you (have written a post about it a while back on my blog).

    Last week i went to see Toy Story 3 in 3D as well and i really can’t remember the 3D impressing me. Like you state, you really forget about the 3D after a while. What is left is the story and the way it is told and that really is the reason you go and watch movies.

    There are more cons than pros to 3D, but it’s being pushed into theaters and TV’s and even gaming (Playstation 3, Nintendo 3DS). So it will probably be here to stay for a while, unfortunately.

  19. When I came out of Avatar, I couldn’t imagine seeing anything that spectacular again until Avatar 2. After seeing Toy Story 3 in 3D, I still stand by that. I knew that movies not shot in 3D but converted later wouldn’t be worth it so I haven’t bothered but I figured an animated movie would be closer to what Avatar accomplished. Wrong. Hopefully more directors choose to follow Cameron in shooting in 3D rather than convert later.

  20. I wish I could hate on 3D. I can’t. I don’t think that method of displaying images is inherently a bad thing. Where the problem comes in is when it is not an organic part of the process of making it. I saw Avatar in 3D. I loved it and thought the technology served the movie well. So far, that is the only movie I’ve bothered to see in 3D. I think that is largely due to the fact that it was the only movie where I felt like the 3D element was important to experiencing the film as intended by its makers. The rest of these movies with the 3D tacked on do not appeal to me, and I can’t help but view the 3D use as an attempt to print money as Paul noted.

    So I guess, I allow 3D to exist with the very important requirement that the 3D works towards something other then taking more of my money.

    Oh, and yes since you asked I will absolutely be going to see “Step It Up 3D”. I’ve never seen any of the other movies, honestly don’t care all that much about dancing but I am drawn to it. I think that they are going to do some interesting things with the 3D tech. I hope. I’ll also be stoned.

  21. @ theButterFly

    I am a big fan of the street dancing movies (my guilty pleasures, to be sure) and I, too, will be seeing Step Up 3D. Baked out of my head.

  22. @Madison

    Thanks for making me feel less crazy for wanting to see this movie. (I get eye rolls from the fiancée, whenever I bring it up.)

    Oh, and you don’t have to call it a guilty pleasure. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. If you like something…just like it. No need to quantify it. Let free of your guilt and embrace the awesome!

  23. I think you should ban movies that were not shot ENTIRELY in 3D (unlike Jame Cameron’s Avatar). That being said, please save your money and see Tron Legacy when it comes out December 17, as it was filmed entirely in 3D.

  24. Is there a website that tells you which 3-D movies were converted 2-D? Clash of the Titans was really awful in 3-D and I want to avoid any repeat of that waste of money. In other words, how can you know ahead of time that a film (like Toy Story 3 or Up) was filmed in 3-D versus converted 2-D crap?

  25. “Why I’m Giving Up 3D for Good”

    Go the whole way then. Poke one of your eyes out 😛

    Extortionate price’s are a separate issue to the technology.
    3D is like colour, sterosound, and CGI.
    They dont make a movie, but they do increase the pallete for directors to work with and yes, that can make something better.

    Also, your childhood memorys are lieing to you.
    The 3D we have today can both go out of the screen, and into it, just as much as before. There is no magic “hologram” effect that has been lost.

    ” In other words, how can you know ahead of time that a film (like Toy Story 3 or Up) was filmed in 3-D versus converted 2-D crap?”

    Well, CGI films will/should all be rendered in true 3D.
    As would anything done by Cameron from now on.
    Unfortunately just about everything else is extrapolated.

  26. I’m with Thomaswrobel.
    That you forget about the 3D effect at some point during the movie, means nothing. Do you sit there remembering that you’re watching a color movie? 3D, like sound and color, makes the movie more realistic. That’s it.

    I’ve loved 3D since I saw House of Wax, Dial M for Murder and Second Chance, movies from the 50s, on my local Cinemateque 10 years ago. These movies used polarization, which is what’s being using now (not the crappy anaglyph 3D we remember from the 80s). And it’s the same that was used in Universal Studios.

    I’m pretty sure color movies make more money than black and white movies too. Color is simply more commercial, because it’s more like reality. One difference with 3D though. For some people, it seems it doesn’t work very well, or not at all – and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with needing glasses or not. Also, it’s important to watch a 3D movie in a theater with a proper highly reflective screen to compensate for the loss in light.

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