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3-D: An Attraction, A Fad, But Not A Movie

Updated on July 14, 2010

We know what movies are. We’ve been watching them for years. 3-D movies have also been around for quite a while (longer than you may think), but lately I’ve been wondering, can 3-D movies really be lumped together in the same category as the movies we’ve gotten so used to over the years?

There are several reasons why I am tempted to say no.

You go into a 3-D movie for the experience, for the thrill, for the spectacle. Plenty of 2-D movies are pretty focused on spectacle as well, but 3-D movies are specifically characterized by it. 3-D is an effect that occupies the mind and the body in space, which leaves less room for introspective thought regarding story, style, or characters. Try to think of a 3-D movie that could ever be nominated for an academy award. It’s not easy, and the examples you do find (Pixar’s Up, James Cameron’s Avatar, Henry Selick’s Coraline) are recent (Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder was shut out of the Oscars in 1954), at least partially animated, and most importantly, they work just as well in 2-D format. The difference between 2-D and 3-D viewing is only one thing: the feeling that you are having an experience rather than a viewing.

My familiarity with 3-D comes from one source: attractions at theme parks. Disneyland’s Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and Universal’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day are 3-D shows mixed with some live elements, like a spray of mist landing on you, your chair moving, etc. This is sometimes called 4-D. Maybe the fact that I’ve only ever known 3-D through these displays makes me biased, but I’ve always felt that while 3-D may be exciting, I tend to feel overstimulated being bombarded by so many images. These experiences are nothing like the simple act of watching a movie.

And now, animated movies feel like they have to cater to the 3-D market so they can make an extra buck. Recently, I saw Despicable Me in 2-D. Overall it was cute, but there were a couple of scenes, one on a roller coaster, one during the end credits, that had no narrative purpose; they were only there to amaze and dizzy the 3-D viewers. The Last Airbender was shot in 2-D and retrofitted for 3-D with virtually no change to its content because they were so desperate to make the extra few bucks off of 3-D ticket sales. Not since Dial M For Murder has anyone even attempted to use 3-D as a stylistic device, to make the separation of space actually meaningful, rather than an arbitrary ‘cool’ effect. What is the point of abusing this technology? Its recent popularity is causing it to take over and upset our ideals of traditional movie viewing.

This is why I propose that 2-D and 3-D movies become separate. No movie should exist in both formats. The Last Airbender should have only been in 2-D, as it was intended, and Despicable Me should have only been in 3-D, so that those seemingly purposeless scenes would have a point. I know my proposal won’t be taken up anytime soon, as long as someone is still getting rich off of selling their movie in both formats, but if you know what I mean and you think movies are more than just an attraction, do like I do and boycott 3-D movies.


motion picture


1. a sequence of consecutive pictures of objects photographed in motion by a specially designed camera (motion-picture camera) and thrown on a screen by a projector (motion-picture projector) in such rapid succession as to give the illusion of natural movement.

2. a play, event, or the like, presented in this form.

3. motion pictures, the art, technique, or business of producing motion pictures.

Also called movie, moving picture.

"movie." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 14 Jul. 2010. <>.


a. A sequence of photographs projected onto a screen with sufficient rapidity as to create the illusion of motion and continuity.

b. A connected cinematic narrative represented in this form.

2. A showing of a movie. Often used in the plural: During the movie, the person in front of me kept talking. Would you like to go to the movies tonight?

3. movies The movie industry.

[Shortening and alteration of moving picture .]

"movie." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 14 Jul. 2010. <>.


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    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      If 2D movies became obsolete, I would probably just stop watching movies. There are plenty of people who can't even watch 3D because it makes them nauseous... I think the studios would probably be afraid that they'd lose customers by getting rid of 2D, and making it in 2D doesn't really cost them that much extra.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. :)

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 7 years ago

      well it looks like you might get your wish about movies being solely released in either 2-d or 3-d alone. as the new resident evil movie and piranha 3-d were only shown in various theaters in 3-d format, with no 2-d converted shows. i know sony right now is working on 3-d tvs where you won't need to wear the glasses. i think if that becomes popular as 3-d movies come out more frequently. i wouldn't be the least bit surprised if 2-d movies become the thing of the past. maybe not now, but who's to say like 50 years down the road. after all, if you look tv when it first got invented back in the 1930's, a lot of people expected it to fail. why? because unlike the radio, you couldn't multitask and do other things while listening to it. no with television, you had to sit there and watch it, which didn't allow you to multitask according to skeptics during those times. boy, look who's laughing now, huh? lol. anyways, great hub, and i had a lot of fun reading it. im definitely rating it up!

    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      3-D for TV is even more ridiculous lol. Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • Filmchap profile image

      Filmchap 7 years ago from Devon

      Couldn't agree with you more. For some reason I forget where I put my car keys after a couple hours, yet vividly remember a short film broadcast on UK television in the early 1980's. It was a Western and specifically made in 3-D for television. In it, every single narrative device exploited the 3D effect. Arrows of fire catapulted at the screen, flaming torches waved in your face and screaming Indians running at you. Has it improved since then? Ever so slightly :)

      Dial M For Murder, great film!

    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      The way technology keeps advancing is kind of frightening. Who knows where it will take us.

    • film critic profile image

      film critic 7 years ago

      I am split on the idea. I saw two movies in 3-D about a year ago. I was excited after the first one, as it was such a step up from the 3-D I experienced years ago.

      After the second movie I felt it was simply distracting. I was sitting there, anticipating the next object that would hover above my nose instead of paying attention to the movie.

      I also can't help but to be aware of why it exist. It is to seperate the movie theatre experience from watching the movie at home. With the ease and low cost of getting movies at home, via Netflix or streaming, and with the short time these days between theatrical release and the blue ray/dvd release, the movie theatres/studios are taking a huge financial hit.

      Money drives all inventions. Although logically or intellectually I don't really mind, part of me finds it offensive that I am being used as a consumer.

      After those first two movies, I have also boycotted 3-D movies.

      I am split as I disagree with myself. Talkies, color TV, VCRs, the DVD player, are all in that category as well. New technology to create a new needs. The difference is that these old technologies are now a part of my life, regardless of why they came to be, and they are what I love about movies. 3-D is someone changing that for money. Contradictions everywhere...

      Another reason I am split is because 3D is a new toy. Yes, it has been around before, but insufficiencies in technology have never allowed us to take it seriously before. This time it is around to stay. I am interested to see where this technology leads us - perhaps to a holodeck?

    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      I didn't see Avatar in 3-D so I don't have the right to criticize, but I saw the 2-D version and I can see how it would be quite the experience in 3-D. The major point I'm trying to make is that 2-D and 3-D are so different that it's hard to make a movie that fits both formats well. There are starting to be a few exceptions now, with the Oscar nominated films I mentioned (including Avatar), but I personally think these films work well enough in 2-D and that they should stick to that format. I'll admit I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

    • profile image

      Amanda 7 years ago

      You forget Avatar, no? There was plot and thoughtful moments behind it (at least for my group and me), but with the added bonus of the experience of BEING on Pandora that came with the 3-D. As if you were a quiet ghost floating alongside the storyline. It made it overall so much better... and there weren't crazy silly effects that usually come with 3-D movies (like the "Whoooooa" moment of something being thrown in your face or some crap like that).

      Otherwise though, I do agree. Most movies don't need to be 3-D and others are obviously made just for the effect of it... if they did just stick to which one was best for the movie being made- I'd avoid all the 3-D ones altogether.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I think you're right- they should pick one!