Edelstein: My Enthusiasm for 3-D Has Gone Flat

Audience members watch a movie through 3-D glasses at an IMAX theatre on February 8, 2007, in Wuhan, China. China Photos/Getty Images

Our film critic David Edelstein is here to give 3-D movies the once-over:


A couple years back the 3-D movie wave seemed cool. It was a gimmick, but movies thrive on gimmickry.

In the fifties it was at worst dumb thrills with junk flying at you, and at best Hitchcock in "Dial M for Murder" mesmerizing you with depth-of-field and shocking you with pop-outs.

Cut to 2009, to "Avatar" and King-of-the-World James Cameron's newfangled motion-capture gizmos creating layer upon layer of textures. And lo, we were immersed.

And lo, the multiplex was suddenly lousy with 3-D, most of it a pain in the eyes.

Critic Roger Ebert hates 3-D, and recently published a letter from "Apocalypse Now" Oscar-winner and legendary editor Walter Murch, who said our brains aren't built to process 3-D, that it's "dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive."

Tell me about it. You pay for the glasses, then they make you "recycle" them.

Guess what? I kept these. Arrest me.

There are plenty of good counter-arguments, especially when it comes to animation. The Pixar folks used three-dimensional space to create emotional depth in "Toy Story 3."

The last scene of "Despicable Me" was like a great 3-D gag reel.

But that's not the norm.

Many films get retrofitted with 3-D, which in "The Green Hornet" adds nothing but murk, and in "Clash of the Titans" turns the landscape into a puppet stage. In that one I took off my glasses - even blurry, it was more involving.

King Cameron himself lambasted such films and now has lent his name (and, more important, his patented gizmos) to a so-so Aussie thriller called "Sanctum," about dull people trying to escape an underground cave and getting the bends, or worse.

The murk doesn't hurt there (it's a cave!), and many shots make you say, "Wow!"

So 3-D has its place ... as a gimmick. Not in every other movie!

The irony is, your brain works so hard to process 3-D that it's often harder to get "lost" in the story.

It's easier to make the leap into "ordinary" movies.

And there's depth-of-field in Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons."

There's "Wow!" in "127 Hours."

And no need for aspirin - or three-dollar glasses.

(If I bring these back, you think they'll let me off?)


Edelstein Endorses:
"Cedar Rapids"
"The Fighter"


For more info:
The Projectionist (David Edelstein's Movie Blog)
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