After seeing “Life of Pi” and “The Hobbit,” whose 48-frame-per-second 3D is game-changing, according to some observers, it feels like the right time for my annual rant against 3D. Because 3D has become like the Borg, absorbing all into its ravening maw. Resistance is futile.
But I remain unconvinced of anything about 3D except this: that it doesn’t matter. There is no demand for 3D, except from studios and exhibitors who benefit by jacking the price of tickets for 3D shows anywhere from $3-$5.
Because that, of course, is the third dimension: greed.
It’s a way of ginning up revenues on mediocre action and animated films. It’s also a way of squeezing a bit of revenue out of the catalog. Still, while I understand applying the retroactive 3D to something digital like Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” or “Finding Nemo,” my heart sank when I saw a trailer for the 3D version of “Jurassic Park.”
But 3D doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter in the same way that computer-generated imagery doesn’t matter. Tricks and gimmicks can only carry a film so far.
If there’s not a script worth watching, then all of the digital diversions in the world won’t convert trash to treasure. It’s never worked for Michael Bay.
If there’s not a story worth telling and a directorial vision worth plugging into, then it wouldn’t matter if there were four or five or 10 dimensions.
And if the material is strong enough, then it wouldn’t matter if you were watching it in black and white on an iPhone.
That’s even true of the new 48p system used on “The Hobbit” – twice as many frames per second, twice as much visual information in a richer image. And indeed, it has that hi-def crispness that sometimes leads to an image that looks more video than film. And, again – it doesn’t matter.
Certainly, when a director like Martin Scorsese or Ang Lee or Peter Jackson decides to use 3D, you have to pay attention. Not that it will make a difference; the best film holds its quality in a mere two dimensions. But when cinematic masters turn their eye to a new technology, you want to see what they will do with it.
The answer is that, while “The Hobbit” and “Life of Pi” and even “Hugo” had a visionary quality to them, they also worked just as well when shown in 2D. The 3D added a visual depth to those worlds but the visual imagination already carried its own depth with it. None of their films required a technology-induced third dimension to bring them to life; the filmmakers already brought that. They created a complete universe – no fashion accessories required for the viewer.
That’s always true of the best films. They transport you on the strength of the writer and director’s imagination and ability to articulate it and to channel it through the minds of all of the other artists with whom they collaborate. That’s been true since the earliest days of silent film.
3D doesn’t matter when it comes to that. It’s a frill. A profitable one, but a frill nonetheless. Nothing more.Print This Post