Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Adventures In Celluloid: Is 3D cinema here to stay?

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James Cameron's Avatar set the 3D ball rolling. Photo / Supplied
James Cameron's Avatar set the 3D ball rolling. Photo / Supplied

More than any other single element, 3D has dominated blockbuster cinema in recent years. Leading up to and following the massive success of Avatar, movie studios have fallen over themselves to release all their big movies in 3D.

I endeavour to embrace all forward-moving technologies, but I simply am not a fan of watching a movie in 3D. It changes the experience for me. I feel I'm looking in at something from the outside, rather than feeling immersed, which severely limits my ability to suspend my disbelief and lose myself in a story.

The big selling point of 3D is the increased depth perception. I like to conduct a little experiment with myself when I see a 3D movie: Fifteen minutes into it, I always ask myself what I am perceiving that I wouldn't otherwise be seeing in a normal film.

Invariably, I can't spot a beneficial difference - when you settle into a 2D film, your mind creates that extra depth, because we know it should be there.

Having it artificially created for us only corrupts the process.

So anyway, I'm not a fan. But I've generally not gotten too worried, as some part of me has always seen the current 3D fad as just that, and one that would eventually go away, maybe in the next couple of years even.

Then news emerged this week that JJ Abrams' eagerly anticipated follow-up to his well-received 2009 Star Trek reboot is going to undergo the 3D conversion process after it is filmed.

"I did not fight for the 3D," Abrams is quoted as saying. "It was something the studio wanted to do. I didn't want to do it."

This feels like the final nail in the coffin of "regular" cinema. While the top three titans of modern cinema, Steven Spielberg; Peter Jackson and James Cameron, all appear to be nutty for 3D (and George Lucas is about to release all the Star Wars films in 3D), I took great reassurance in people like JJ Abrams - big directors who weren't interested in making 3D films.

Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens, is another one.

But now they've got Abrams. Even with all his might, he couldn't stop the studios from imposing 3D upon his next blockbuster. And it's a post-conversion job too - a cheaper process for creating 3D typified by such crummy examples as 2010's Clash of the Titans.

I'm not against 3D. I don't think it has to disappear. I just don't consider it 'the movies'. It reminds me of something The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol director Brad Bird used to say a lot about animated movies. He would get frustrated that people pigeon-holed animation as a genre, and he constantly pointed out that animation is in actuality a medium, not a genre. A wholly seperate medium from cinema.

This is how I see 3D - it's different enough from regular cinema to be its own thing, so why must it encroach upon my beloved movies? I'm a big fan of all the other things exhibitors have done to lure viewers away from their big screen TVs and into movie houses: luxury seating; enhanced sound; stadium theatre layouts - but I like 3D less and less every time I experience it.

Avatar is still often cited by many as a high-water mark for the technology, but the best 3D film I've ever seen is Pina, the documentary/performance film about German modern dance pioneer Pina Bausch, which enjoyed a short run in cinemas here late last year after playing at the International Film Festivals.

In Pina, everything was about the spatial dynamics. As Bausch's company performed her routines on stage - on screen - I found myself relishing the added depth and spatial awareness, which added to the beauty of what was on screen.

There was no level of reality undermined by the 3D, because there was no fictional story to invest in. I unfortunately missed in in cinemas, but I've heard similar comments about Werner Herzog's 3D documentary The Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

These kinds of films are well-served by the technology, but exist as mere exceptions only.

So 3D blockbuster cinema looks very much like it's here to stay. I shouldn't be too much of a hater I suppose. If anyone could change my mind about 3D, it would be our Peter Jackson, and I'm very interested to see how The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ends up looking, as it represents a considerable leap forward in the technology being used to shoot the film in 3D.

What say you, dear reader? It's really difficult to gauge general reactions to 3D as a whole. I haven't even brought up the added cost factor either.

Does 3D enhance your viewing experience? Does the added cost put you off? Or do you prefer seeing films in 2D? What did you think of the 3D in Tintin? Comment below!

- Herald online

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