I Hate 3D

Posted on 06 February 2011 by ChloeG

I should preface with this: this is not a review of 3D. I’ve never seen a movie in 3D, so I can’t comment directly on what it looks like how how it is to watch based on my own experience. Not that it’s going to stop me from complaining.
I hate 3D. I haven’t always felt this way. When I saw Michael Jackson’s Captain Eo video in 3D at Disney World as a kid, I thought it was way! cool! and I couldn’t wait for it to be normal for everyone to sit in front of their televisions at home with their cardboard red and blue glasses to watch 3D! television. I was eight.

One of my fundamental opinions of 3D technology is based in this fact. It was cool when I was eight. As a gimmick to get kiddos into theaters, sure, that’s great. They get toys in their cereal, too. But the entire entertainment industry is gearing up to support this technology as a real, entertaining, full-scale, next-generation form of media, so that it’s getting to the point that all of the movies I’m interested in are advertising that they’re going to be in 3D before they even tell me who’s going to be in them. It’s such a turn off. It’s like advertising Dolby Digital Surround Sound instead of Leonardo di Caprio or… elves. If the best thing you’ve got going for you is the way the picture is going to look, in my book at least, you’ve already declared failure.

Oooh. After the super bowl, NCIS in 3D, get your glasses at participating Sears. Who said that was okay? Now my favorite TV shows are highlighted in eighties-blue-and-red as a giant marketing collaboration, and you haven’t really seen a movie until you’ve seen it in 3D. Michael Bay may be full of it, but I’m with him on this one. It’s a gimmick. (Oh, wait, he changed his mind?) What if I just want to go watch a good movie? Not a science project or a World of Tomorrow exhibit.

I hate this have-to-have-it attitude that the industry has generated and that the public has swallowed with childish enthusiasm. One more datapoint that Americans have too much disposable income – the list of the highest-grossing films of all time has recently been decimated by 3D movies because the tickets (according to my quasi-reliable internet data) cost about twice as much. I have this picture of what the audience must look like, sitting in their expensive 3D theater with their expensive 3D glasses, eating nine-dollar popcorn in the flickering light of the film. Is this someone’s idea of a joke? Are we actually going to make the 80′s idea of what the future was going to look like right? Worse yet, now we’re inviting this lunacy into our living rooms with 3D TVs. ‘What’s on TV, hun?’ ‘I don’t know; go grab your glasses and we’ll see!’

It isn’t just the head gear or the cost that I have an issue with, though. I’ve spent some time with Quaid’s article explaining the technology behind 3D, recently (working on the new MovieChopShop book – coming soon!), and it plucked a nerve. The way any given image looks in the real world is based on how your eyes are pointed at it. This is simple optics. Since it’s not possible for a 2D image to know where you’re going to be looking at it, either the entire image can be created in generic 3D, so that your brain (when it’s trying, anyway) can tell that something is wrong about the way the shapes look, or in specific 3D, where the entire image looks perfect as long as you’re looking at the right piece of the screen.

Am I missing something here? The technology – by definition – must annoy your image-processing brain either by giving it an image it doesn’t like or by generating an even-worse image for those of us who are expecting something to come flying in from off-screen any second now. It’s a hobby of mine, that watching for the foreshadowed entrance of the next plot element. The idea that the director should be even more in control of what I’m seeing and what I’m experiencing – by directing where to look on a shot that he picked – rubs me the wrong way. If you can’t tell a good story in an interesting, well-paced way without being that much of a control freak, please KINDLY EXIT THE BUSINESS and make room for professionals who can.

This should have been a niche market for the geeks and the kids. Like EverQuest and air-pump sneakers. The fact that the broader American public is feeding this beast, creating real momentum behind some decision-maker’s incentive to make more and more films in 3D (Step Up 3D!?! Le sigh.) because, well, it makes money, it depresses me. I’m normally quite a capitalist – where people want to spend their money is definitely where the various industries of the world should put their R&D monies – but this one just continues to blow my mind.

I question whether I just haven’t yet adapted to high technology, starting with the seriously-expensive cell phones of the last decade and culminating in the iPad, becoming perfectly mainstream. The things that used to be the domain of the children and the geeks (Facebook, anyone?) are now nearly universal. Do I resent the huge economic success of 3D because it has general support, rather than having to survive the crucible of geeky selectiveness?

While I’m sure I wouldn’t care about 3D anywhere near as much if it were a sub-culture that were driving it through an evolutionary process that could result in something positive, I think I would still turn my nose up at it. I’m pretty sure, though, that this seething hatred is from its unexpected (and undeserved, I think) success, and the marketing power behind it. It wouldn’t be the first viral consumable to make it without merit, of course, but it feels a bit close to home, all the same, for me.

Is this the kind of thing that we’ll joke to each other over coffees in twenty years? ‘Remember that big 3D thing?’ ‘Yeah, that was weird.’ I can only hope so.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Quaid Says:

    Roger Ebert just put out a blog post declaring 3D dead on the basis that your eyes have to converge and focus at different points. They focus on the screen, but converge (look toward each other) at different points in order to get the image “right.” This means that your brain is always being tricked, hence some people get headaches. Plus it can never look as real as “real life.”

    Myself, though….I like 3D all right. Im to the point where I won’t pay extra for it, but sitting in press screenings in 3D is fine. Is it more immersive? Not really. But it’s kinda fun and they’ve gotten it to the point, for me, that it isn’t actively taking away from the experience.

    At home, though, I want 2D. I want to be able to study a film and look at different parts of the frame. Or I want to be able to watch it lazily, sans glasses, and just let it exist as a painting on the wall would exist, pretty to look at and “easy on the eyes.”

  2. ParryOtter Says:

    I’m not big on 3D because sometimes it just feels distracting. In movies (like Order of the Phoenix) that I really care about, I get kind of annoyed when I feel like I can’t see it all or take everything in the way I want. I totally get your point about being forced into looking at something a certain way, because it really can be frustrating and devalues the story…it sometimes draws my attention to something a little less worthy, such as the novelty of how cool it looks.

    I completely disagree when it comes to movies like Coraline or Legend of the Guardians, though. With Coraline, once my eyes settled down I was AMAZED by what was happening. The story itself is wrapped up in the format, so much so that watching it in 2D is really kind of sad. Not solely because of “looks” really, but the feeling that the 3D creations portray and evoke as they take shape on screen. I will never forget that experience, I just remember thinking “if I cracked open some little kid’s skull, this is how it would look inside.” I don’t even know how to describe it…the movie looked like imagination and WAS imagination, and there is NO way it could be any more potent than it was in 3D.

    Legend of the Guardians was awesome in a different way. It helped the story along for sure, making the heroic and emotive moments tangible to the audience, especially for kids I think, who might be more suited to understand weighty themes because of the feelings they get when they watch it. As an adult, I also felt it more with 3D, but what I enjoyed the most was just how damned cool it looked. Not in the “omg, that bird just flew at my face” way…but if you’ve ever thought of animals as having personalities, or imagined them having lives of their own beyond eating and pooping, that’s what it expressed.

    So I guess “imagination” is the key, for me. It’s strange when I think that a specialized, sometimes limiting format can also actually go beyond the boundaries of normal 2D movies.

  3. Zafirah Safie Says:

    I hate 3D movies. It hurts my eyes and gives me a headache. Why can’t people understand that not everyone body react to certain things. 3-D movies are horrible and good for nothing. Many people that I know hate 3D movies but they just don’t blog. I went to the theater yesterday and saw some previews and all the movies are being release in 3D. 3D movies makes me dizzy and I am always squinting when watching a 3D movie.

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