Or are they?
Yesterday I went to Avatar, eager to be thrilled by the visuals, ready to forgive the dated plot, and expecting to grin at a few depth-enhanced moments of wonder.
Yeah, I was thrilled by the CGI wizardry, which appeared to be a mashup between live action and CGI wizardry, and though I managed to forgive the by-the-numbers plot until the final act, I didn’t get my 3D grin.
And this isn’t the first time. UP was amazingly flat for a 3D film, and so were most others released in the last couple of years. The only notable exception being My Bloody Valentine 3D.
And I think the reason may be that in their attempts to keep the audience from experiencing any eye fatigue (Avatar is long, for example) and to shy away from “gimmick” scenes, they’ve managed to create a very flat 3D experience.
Rather than use 3D to enhance the scene and pull the audience into the flick, it’s just there. To do 3D justice you have to map out your shots. What’s in the foreground? The midspace? The background? Even though Avatar’s scenes were lush and evocative, they very rarely felt “deep”. For instance, they had these beautiful jellyfish-like seed pods that gracefully and gently floated through a number of scenes, but they never floated off the screen, out into the audience, to bring us into their reality. Very puzzling.
At its very best, 3D can turn the screen into a window and bridge the gap between audience and performance. It can help pull you into the story. One of my favorite movie moments was in the 3D version of House of Wax. During the final act, Charles Bronson’s character runs into the frame from the lower right corner of the screen. But it didn’t looking like he was running into the frame from off camera, it looked just like someone in the theater had leapt from our world into the world of the film. It was a startling, thrilling moment as the wall between these realities tore and I was there, merely a few rows away from the action. That was a true, magical moment that I’d love to experience again. I can do flat at home (and very soon, flat 3D, I suspect). I go to a 3D movie for that something extra.
Those old, 3-D red/blue flicks had it all over the current crop. Hollywood, come on, bring it on!