DJ Haza with more “Frustrated Ramblings Of An Aspiring Filmmaker”…
3D seems to be the next big thing in cinematic leaps forward, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Bullets seemingly fly past your head, explosions leap off the screen and the film world surrounds you in three different dimensions. Or so we are led to believe. Is 3D the eye-watering future of cinema or a cinematic gimmick that just makes your eyes water?
There have been some real big endorsements of 3D in film with James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) smashing all box office records and Martin Scorsese telling The Guardian of his admiration for 3D. The Oscar-winning Mr. Scorsese told Mark Kermode, “I always liked 3D. I mean we are sitting here in 3D. We are in 3D. We see 3D. So why not?” Scorsese has just finished shooting his most recent project, Hugo Cabret, which unusually for him is a family friendly film and his first shot in 3D. Scorsese has stated that it has allowed him to “rethink cinema” and has “liberated” his filmmaking. He continues by assuring film fans that he hasn’t resorted to using the new technology as a “gimmick”. Only time will tell.
James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) is hailed by some as the pinnacle of 3D after its huge success at box office’s worldwide. Some even say it redefined cinema and dawned a new age of 3D filmmaking. However, the story was appalling in my opinion and no matter how much CGI, 3D or other effects were thrown at me I was bored. Five minutes in I had lost all faith in the film and it was never reinstated. My eyes grew sore, my patience thin and I wanted the film to end as soon as possible. To this day this is my only real 3D cinematic experience and I couldn’t care if it was my last.
Charlie Brooker isn’t a fan of 3D technology either as he states in his Guardian column on 8th Nov 2010. Brooker rants in his usual dry and uncompromising fashion, “Have you experienced 3D telly yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t, because so far it’s powerfully overwhelming: the very definition of a step backward disguised as a leap forward. Consider this a warning from the future.” Although Mr Brooker’s rant is aimed at 3D TV I concur with his thoughts on the technology being a step backward. Cinema is a beautiful, engaging and emotive way of telling fabulous, tragic, awe-inspiring stories that doesn’t need gimmicks like 3D. In my opinion Avatar relied heavily on the gimmick and at no point when I was watching did the 3D element of the film add to the story. Let us not forget that cinema is the art of telling a story using images.
3D doesn’t draw me into the world of the film, but snaps me out of it when I have to rub my eyes or develop a headache through straining and trying to focus on images that pop off the screen. In order to buy into a film and become immersed in the world portrayed on screen the audience need to be able to suspend their disbeliefs. Personally I find it difficult to suspend my own disbeliefs when I have to wear stupid glasses in order to get the full experience. I was always aware that I was in a cinema and wearing sunglasses as well as that I had paid extra for the privilege to do so.
3D is designed to make the audience feel more involved in the world on screen and for characters and events to seem authentic and real. However, if the director is a good enough storyteller they should be able to immerse their audiences into the world of the film without adding another dimension. Inception (2010) didn’t need 3D in order for me to sit riveted. Neither did The Dark Knight (2008). I wasn’t on the edge of my seat and constantly second guessing reality during Shutter Island (2010) because the barbed wire fence looked particularly sharp and well tangled in 3D. It was because Martin Scorsese told a bloody good story in a gripping, engaging and jaw dropping way. Accompanying the sheer class of the directorial craftsmanship was Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance – which for me leapt off the screen. No other dimensions were needed.
Perhaps 3D works better with animation? Personally I haven’t seen a 3D animation film because I declare myself to be not a fan of either 3D or animation. But, perhaps the 3D element brings animated characters more to life. If so then maybe 3D is a tool for filmmakers who cannot make their film world seem authentic and for actors who’s performances that do not light up the screen. Similar to the tribe of lanky blue tree huggers in Avatar.
Other questions or issues I have with 3D include the fact that it isn’t inclusive of all audiences. I quite frequently visit the cinema with a friend who is partially blind in one eye and he struggled to watch the long winded, but 3 dimensional Avatar. Having watched half of the film without the glasses I’m sure my friend wouldn’t choose that particular cinematic experience again. I myself had to keep rubbing my eyes, taking five minutes with the glasses off and struggled with the ‘3D experience’ despite my reasonably good eyesight.
For me a good film doesn’t need to be 3D. It doesn’t even need to be HD. It needs to be a great, gripping and engaging story with three-dimensional characters created by a filmmaker who has fully thought out his film before allowing audiences to explore it for themselves. Not by an extortionately expensive production process that could have paid to launch the film careers of a hundred up and coming cinematic talents. 3D is no more than a gimmick that interrupts the telling of a story and adds an extra cost to the experience of visiting a cinema. Poor stories may need 3D. Great stories do not. So far I have failed to see a 3D film that is anything more than gimmick. Tron: Legacy or Hugo Cabret could change that, but I’m not holding my breath. If this is the future of cinema then I am firmly against change. I urge the great filmmakers of our time to step away from the 3D glasses. It’s giving me a headache just thinking about it.