3D and IMAX 3D has made its widespread and (some would say) obnoxious presence well known in cinema over the past few years.
This sub-medium of film has been both celebrated and scorned by movie-goers nationwide: cynics scoff at the idea of any film with the large “IN 3D!” text bundled with advertisements, while others (scarcer to find, in my experience) look forward to what they believe is a more immersive theatrical experience.
I sit smack in the middle of these two points of view. No, I don’t jump in line for my pair of giant black glasses for every single flick claiming to be a true 3D experience, nor do I instantly disregard a film that uses some form of the technology.
Because, yes, for those unaware, there are different types of 3D used in the movie industry. Or rather there is one real, pure type of 3D tainted by a poor and pathetic excuse to rake as much profit as possible from your truthfully 2D film.
Here’s how it works. Some films, such as Avatar (2009), Sanctum (2011), and yes, even Jackass 3D (2010) were filmed using specific cameras built for 3D. Then, you have a slew of a sadly much greater number of films that utilize what is known as post-conversion. Can’t be that much different . . . right?
Let’s take a closer look at two films. One (Avatar) filmed with 3D cameras and with 3D technology and the other (Clash of the Titans) post-converted.
In 2009, James Cameron decided he would release another film essentially as big as planet Earth itself (760.5 million domestically, guys). I refer, of course, to Avatar. I will not go into my opinion on the contents of the film, nor the man behind it, but instead the actual 3D IMAX experience.
Sitting in front of the looming forty-foot screen, I waited patiently with my pair of 3D glasses. Having never seen a film in IMAX, let alone IMAX 3D, I had no idea what to expect.
Retrospectively, if I could sum the
experience up in a single word, it would have to be “immersive.” The world of Avatar truly looked three-dimensional, grabbing the viewer and surrounding them with its sweeping alien landscapes and creatures. At times, it felt more like a rollercoaster than a film, giving me a visceral experience and allowing me to forget I was a safe spectator.
IMAX adds that much-needed extra touch to the 3D, allowing for breathtaking sound and scope. During a sequence in the film where a gigantic tree falls to the ground below, my pant legs literally shook from the power of the stereo.
Clash of the Titans, another large action film starring Sam Worthington, gave me a slightly different experience. Before my knowledge of post-conversion, I wandered happily into the theater for a viewing of Clash in what I expected to be full-blown 3D. Oh, to be young and naïve.
What word comes to mind this time? “Bloated,” “nauseating,” “disorienting,” any of those shall do. Instead of bringing me closer to the world portrayed on screen, the glasses just felt like they brought me closer to the screen itself.
The post-converted 3D gave me a massive headache, completely disorienting me the second any type of sudden movement was made on screen; I could barely navigate a scene without squinting.
Far from looking three-dimensional, both landscape and character in every frame looked smudgy and otherwise completely 2D throughout the film. Therefore, it not only fails on all promises of 3D fare, but detracts from even a standard viewing experience (not to mention the four extra dollars you paid).
In conclusion, 3D merits your time and money when the technology and film is in the right hands. Do I think 3D should be the future of all films when tackled correctly? Certainly not. Though offering a different type of absorption into a movie (when done right), I believe any good film has enough power on its own to capture and spellbind an audience. That being said, it’s a great way to spend an evening with a popcorn, soda, and group of friends at your side.