Thursday, April 25, 2013

Controversy in the third dimension

3-D isn’t a new invention when it comes to the way we watch movies. In fact, it first became popular in 1950’s and has consistently varied in popularity over the last few decades. In this age, 3-D seems to be as popular as it was in the 80’s when virtually every movie sequel had to be in the third dimension or else it would be shunned from the average movie viewers who wanted to see “shark attacks they could almost feel” in “Jaws 3-D” and the “feeling of having a machete shoved in front of their face” in “Friday the 13th: Part 3.” The fad tapered off in the 90’s, but has since made a comeback due to popular 3-D films like “Avatar.” In the last few years, there has been much praise and condemnation of the use of 3-D in popular movies. Many have described it as merely a gimmick while others see it as a way to enhance their entertainment experience with increased depth perception and enjoyment.

3-D is something that people are interested in right now and studios are willing to give it to us…but is 3-D actually worth it? In some instances, yes. In others, no. Typically the movies that look the best when viewed in the third dimension are those that were shot with 3-D cameras. But even if a movie was shot in a traditional format such as digital or on film (a sad rarity these days), it can still easily be post-converted to 3-D for a couple million dollars (pocket change to a movie studio). However, movies converted to 3-D in post-production tend to lack the depth perception presented in those shot in the format and can instead leave the viewer wishing they had just watched it in 2-D like a sad peasant (even though that’s probably the better idea). Because of this, 3-D has been targeted by film critics such as the late Roger Ebert who criticized 3-D for its dim look and declared 2-D to be the essential film format, something many others on his level agree with.

In recent years essentially all major blockbusters and even a few lesser-known movies have been released in the controversial format. Anything from “The Darkest Hour” (a critical and box office failure) to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (a critical and box office success) have taken advantage of the format in the last two years. So, naturally, movie studios have thought of ways to exploit the usage of the third dimension while spending as little money as possible. This is when rereleasing “classics” (any movie that made a ton of money during its initial release) to make millions off of them once again takes place. Possibly the most successful of the 3-D rereleases would be “Titanic” which added nearly $350 million to its currently second place international gross of over $2 billion. Other movies that were successful during their initial release and benefited by a conversion to 3-D have been the recent “Jurassic Park,” “The Lion King,” “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

But honestly, are these post-converted classics really taking advantage of the format or the cash in your wallet? It seems to depend on the film. Some look great such as “Titanic,” which received favorable remarks about its usage of 3-D despite being post-converted to the format. On the other hand, movies including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Phantom Menace” were not well-received. This isn’t because they’re bad films (even though “The Phantom Menace” is), but more or less because their 3-D doesn’t look good and, if the 3-D doesn’t look good, what’s the point? But really, is there a point for these rereleases at all? There may be for the die-hard fans, but for the average movie viewer it would be much more beneficial and probably cheaper to simply buy the DVD or Blu-Ray and watch in the comfort of their own home.

Whether any of us like it or not, 3-D is going to be around for at least a couple more years. If it tapers out again like it has in the past, we’ll enjoy/be bored through a decade or so of 3-Dless movies before something revolutionary happens and everyone loves it again. Right now it’s simply best to deal with/enjoy 3-D while it’s around and anxiously wait for/dread the day movie studios decide to stop using it for a while. It won’t be the end of the world and it will assuredly be back again in the future. And if you really, really do hate it, just remember that in most cases there’s a 2-D version waiting patiently for you and others on the DVD rack at Walmart. 

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