The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper

Arts and Entertainment

3D Falling Flat

By Mary Lan

International hit Avatar encouraged a whole new experience for moviegoers: a 3D option of “immersion” into a dreamlike reality.

Such a huge success of 3D graphics prompted eager followers. A slew of Real-D/3D/IMAX features consumed movie theaters, jumping from three wide-released movies in 2008 to at least three movies a month of this year. The plastic glasses sensation has invaded the nation—with side effects including a thirty percent color loss, fifty percent illumination loss, and a slight headache. How’s that for “immersion”?

Unlike the vividly designed Avatar (poster-child movie for the 3D campaign), recently featured films appear suspiciously to be a plot for easy money. Catering to the audience with an “innovation”, 3D movies finally resurfaced mainstream from a brief trend in the 1950’s. Is Hollywood ready for 3D now—with one success suggesting a new generation of film to make a revolutionary impact like sound or color?

Regrettably, this young 3D technology is falling flat because studios have just been exploiting the feature, not improving it. With popcorn and a drink, a 3D movie night totals up to about twenty bucks a person. 3D showings generally earn fourteen times more than 2D showings, and the effort required for the illusion is a real bargain. 3D effects can be added last in film production via an “illusion-of-depth conversion process”—a few effects blurring the screen here and there and viola! The movie is deemed 3D (Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans).

America is soon to tire of distractive “floating” and “jumping out” images (which are fine—in Disney theme park rides). If moviemakers and conglomerate studios want to ensure a future instead of a trend, they need to take 3D effects seriously and improve on the technology. What James Cameron envisioned as an element of cinematography is instead coming off as a moneymaking gimmick.

Judging from the season’s recent 3D disappointments (what’s with new titles like “Step Up 3D” being labeled 3D straight off?), this feature is not living up to what it could have become. Hollywood is taking a bad turn, churning out 3D movies packed with special effects (and lacking in pretty much everything else). Since Avatar, has there been a notably successful or memorable 3D movie?  The latest must-see is Inception, of which the director flatly refused 3D. That’s because the movie didn’t need it.

To be honest, isn’t a 2D movie already in 3D as far as your mind is concerned? As critic Roger Ebert pointed out in Newsweek, “When you see Lawrence of Arabia growing from a speck as he rides toward you across the desert, are you thinking, “Look how slowly he grows against the horizon”?” Our minds already come with a free built-in perspective, so an artificial one distracts more than it offers.

How to decide which type of the same movie to see? Personally, I’d rather save the money and save the 3D for actual holograms in the future.

Image by Graphics Editor Cassie Zhang

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