3D: A Dimension Too Many?

Will it last?

It comes at you in a darkened room, so close you’re sure you can smell its sweet stench of success. It invades your home, turning your comfortable banality into a living nightmare and forcing your eyes to see what it wants you to see. 3D is the latest cinematic monster to take over the box offices, excite techno-geek-filmmakers and infiltrate your Sky subscription. Its power is unquestionable. After the sensation that was Avatar – highest grossing film of all time, extended collector’s DVD release, the promise of Avatar 2 and 3 etc. etc. – everyone and everything wants to be in 3D whether you’re the latest Pixar release or the upcoming slasher film.

With 3D spreading across the cinematic world much like swine flu (with no vaccination in sight), is there any hope left for 2D? When something akin to a blue fairy light is dangling dangerously close to your left eye, or a swarm of fire-lit arrows appear to be on course for your forehead, it’s easy to forget that there’s more to a film than in-your-face distractions, that 2D, the humble Sony Playstation to 3D’s Xbox Kinect, can still hold its own. But what makes a film worth watching today when there’s nothing coming out of the screen?

Sure, when you’re more concerned with the logistics of turning your average 5”11 white male into a giant blue alien, you might find it’s much easier to ‘borrow’ an existing storyline. I’m certainly not the first to say that Avatar is Pocahontas in blue paint. And in an industry that champions the theory ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ (Hangover: Part II – enough said) originality is something to be respected, even revered. Winter’s Bone, Inception, The Kids Are All Right; three films that lost out to The King’s Speech in this year’s Oscars, but each deserving of recognition for their unique stories and approaches to them. There’s only so much that the superficiality of 3D can achieve before lack of a decent storyboarding process becomes blatantly obvious. In the interest of public sanity, it’s time the studio heads realised that an engaging storyline is far more important than the smoke and mirrors of 3D.

Today it’s fairly easy to forget about the importance of a good actor. Generic action heroes/rom-com beauties/troubled-but-relatable deadbeats are being churned out of drama schools like there’s no tomorrow, ready for the 3D world where acting is the least of the director’s worries. Tron: Legacy is the latest example of what computers can do, and is proof that perhaps one day actors will become obsolete, taken over by simulations. Until that day comes, we still have a strong generation of actors who don’t yet deserve to be put out to pasture. Sandra Bullock’s performance in The Blind Side was absolutely captivating, and Christian Bale, albeit an angry soul, was mesmerising in The Fighter. There are even some very promising young actors in the form of Shia LaBeouf (wasted in Transformers; see New York, I Love You), Saoirse Ronan and True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld, who all deserve an audience’s full attention. But with 3D, can they have it?

Whether it’s a mummy T-Rex attacking a jeep, a tsunami flooding New York City or a rebel fighter diving into the Death Star, we have always been fascinated by special visual effects, and so it’s no real surprise that 3D is having the success it is. That being true, we shouldn’t ignore the possibilities for spectacular special effects without the use of a further dimension. Inception managed to create spinning corridors and floating bodies with very little technology employed; cue a deserted rotating airship hanger. There was no 3D in sight, and yet it still managed to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

3D is fun and exciting, granted, and for now the majority is happy to put the cash into the technology. Will it last? Sound did. So did colour. But is 3D really in the same league? In some sense, I suppose it is. Our lives are as three dimensional as they are loud and colourful, so why shouldn’t this be represented in cinema? On the other hand, does adding this extra dimension truly enrich the cinematic experience, or is it just a distraction? Opinions vary, but from where I’m sitting (second to last row, salty popcorn in hand) 3D, good or bad, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry. And if it is sticking around for the foreseeable future, all I ask is that they at least make the glasses a little more comfy.

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