3-D Films Rate a D-Minus Grade
Is 3-D worth it? No, it's not!
We’ve been hit with a flurry of 3-D films over the last year. Ever since the immensely successful Avatar was released in 3-D, Hollywood did what it always does. It latches onto a trend. Since then, we’ve had several movies filmed in 3-D (Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever After, the Last Airbender, How to Train Your Dragon) and certain 2-D films being converted to 3-D (Clash of the Titans, Alice in Wonderland) to cash in on the trend. But is the trend worth the effort? The evidence would suggest that the fad is going to fade.
3-D is not new, by any means. The first 3-D film was Bwana Devil in 1952. It started a wave of 3-D films, including Revenge of the Creature in 1955 (A 3-D sequel to the monster classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon) but the wave ebbed and 3-D movies faded with a whimper. That initial failure didn’t discourage studios from attempting it again. There have been sporadic periods where studios have tried to jump-start the comatose 3-D genre, most notably in the 60s and the 80s. Once again, we’ve come to another era where Hollywood wants to make 3-D a viable commodity. Will it work? Doubtful!
One big problem is that the increased cost of making a 3-D film is transferred to the customer. In such a shaky economic period, movie fans already resent high ticket prices (Up to $12.50 here in New York) and the addition of 3-D adds an average of $3.00 to $4.00 onto the admission price. That’s why 3-D is commonly used for children’s films. It’s a form of blackmail for parents whose kids want to see movies like Despicable Me.A parent taking two kids to a 3-D film has to pay $9-$12 more than they would for a regular 2-D film.
A second problem is that 3-D films tend to look more dark and dingy than 2-D films. The technology used in making a film in the 3rd dimension inevitably results in it appearing more washed out and drab than other films. Sometimes it seems as if the lens were covered by a shaded filter. The 3-D process works by separating the image, with split sections for each eye. This causes the light level to appear to be half of the level of lighting used in a traditional film.
Yet another problem is that the 2-D option is so prevalent. There aren’t enough theaters with 3-D size screens and special 3-D cameras to make a film in the third dimension profitable. Therefore, on a majority of screens, a 3-D film is released in normal 2-D, and often does better business that way. Most people would rather go to a closer theater than travel the extra distance just to have the dubious pleasure of wearing dark glasses. Only 45% of the profits for Despicable Me came from 3-D theaters. The rest came from traditional viewing.
Still another problem is that the 3-D effect isn’t always particularly impressive. There are moments when the effect is fun but for the most part, it doesn’t change the viewing experience very much, except for the fact that you’re wearing sunglasses indoors in the dark. This is especially the case for films that were not designed to be shown in 3-D. And even for the ones that are, the effect can become distracting or even annoying. When things are pointlessly thrown at the camera just for the sake of making you jump, that doesn’t really make the movie more entertaining.
The last and most insidious problem is that some people’s brains have trouble adjusting to the 3-D technology and people with visual problems can get headaches. Children are particularly susceptible to this unfortunate effect. The last thing you want when bringing a group of kids to the movies is to have them coming out complaining that they don’t feel good.
The result of all this is that people may come to the conclusion that 3-D just isn’t worth it. Why travel the extra distance to a specific theater, pay higher admission prices, wear dark glasses indoors and possibly get a headache, just to watch a washed-out movie with tedious 3-D images being thrown at us for no reason other than the novelty factor? 2-D movies are perfectly fine. So given the evidence, is the current 3-D fad here to stay? Not likely. Not unless a lot of problems can be overcome. But as things stand, the probability is that this phase of the 3-D voyage will be as brief as the previous efforts.