Edelstein: My Enthusiasm for 3-D Has Gone Flat
Yekaterina Samutsevich, a member of the feminist punk band, Pussy Riot, is escorted in a district court in Moscow, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. She and two other band members face up to seven years on hooliganism charges after their February "punk prayer" at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in which they asked Holy Mary to deliver Russia from President Vladimir Putin.(AP Photo/Misha Japaridze) (Misha Japaridze)
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?)
For more info:
The Projectionist (David Edelstein's Movie Blog)
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- Up next, recap and links
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