Encouraging signals about 3D, Fanboy Fest

June 17, 2011

Talk about mixed signals.

First the New York Times runs a story about how the studios are losing faith in 3D as a money-maker. Which is good news – it’s never too soon to drive a stake through the heart of this ridiculous fad.

Then The Wrap runs a story about how upcoming 3D movies by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and Michael Bay could save the gimmick.

(I know what you’re thinking. It feels wrong and even a little heretical to mention Bay’s name in the same sentence with the other three.)

Personally, I think it’s a fool’s wager to bet on the survival of 3D based on films by the aforementioned directors. Put it this way: Bay’s third “Transformers” film, which is in 3D, would do huge business no matter what the format – even if it were only available to be seen on iPhone screens. Not because it will be good – I can guarantee that it won’t be, based on the craptastic filmography that is Bay’s career (especially the “Transformer” films).

No, it will do huge business because there’s a mass audience of people who are suckers for his outlandish and nonsensical action films. That doesn’t mean they’re good; it just means they sell. So do hamburgers at McDonald’s – and they have about the same amount of nutritional value as Bay’s films.

As for Jackson’s two-part “Hobbit” film, again, there’s a built-in audience that would flock to it whether it was in 3D or black-and-white. Spielberg’s (“The Adventures of Tintin”) and Scorsese’s (“Hugo Cabret”) 3D entries are both essentially children’s stories; Spielberg’s is computer-animated. Again, that means they come with a built-in audience that has little to do with the directors’ brand or with 3D.

The bottom line is that 3D is a hype, a gimmick, a phony. And while there may be the occasional breakout hit in 3D, it won’t be because the movie was in 3D. Audiences are getting weary of paying a premium for so-so movies, just because they require a set of goggles.

Meanwhile, the Times also reported that the major studios suddenly have grown leery of what has become known as the Comic-Con effect. In other words, where they once saw the geeks and fanboys who flock to the San Diego marketing tool as a make-it-or-break-it audience, they’ve supposedly learned their lesson – thanks to commercial flops such as “Kick-Ass” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” which were Comic-Con sensations and real-world duds.

I hate to say I told you so but I told you so. When Hollywood lets the Comic-Con crowd wag the dog, they’re in trouble. While the studios still seem hellbent on serving an audience whose age seems to top out at 17, there’s a larger audience out there that is tired of repetitive horror, formula sci-fi and grandiose comic-book movies. Nonetheless, that seems to be the whole menu this summer on the studios’ dance card.

But at least they’re getting wise to Comic-Con: It’s a geekfest, a bell jar, and not a representative sample of the real-life movie-going audience.

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