Wednesday, March 21, 2012

3D: Dim, Dull, and Drained?

Let me start this post by saying that I am a huge Star Wars fan. As a child, I wore out more than a few VHS copies of the original trilogy, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with the magic of the movies through George Lucas’s work, I don’t believe I’d be doing this job today. This being said, I couldn’t help but head back to the theaters for the 3D redux of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Why would I do this? Even as a 14-year-old, I recognized in 1999 that The Phantom Menace was not quite up to snuff with the earlier films. Sure, the fantastical worlds and sense of adventure was still there, but the performances were mostly leaden and the characters fairly uninteresting. Why would I want to go through two hours of trade blockade confusion and midichlorian mumbo jumbo again? Simple answer: I wanted to see that awesome podracing sequence in 3D.

That’s right. Against all the odds, I’m trying desperately to be a fan of the new 3D experience. But some studios aren’t making it easy, as they continue to drown the marketplace in faded, uninspired 3D conversions. All the arguments against 3D were in full force at the screening of The Phantom Menace I attended. The bright color palette and visual splendor of the film, really its greatest strength, were drained through the filter of the 3D glasses. Not to mention the fact that the three-dimensional effect was almost unrecognizable, which is no surprise considering that the film wasn’t shot with 3D in mind.

So why do I keep going back to 3D movies when experiences like this leave me disappointed? Because, believe or not, there are occasional glimpses into the wonderment that 3D can provide. What about Coraline, the staggeringly beautiful animated film from stop-motion master Henry Selick? That film displayed remarkable depth and clarity in the 3D format, and when I watch it at home, I find myself wishing I were back in the theater experiencing all three dimensions.

That is the feeling that 3D should leave us with. If it’s done right, 3D can keep us going back to the cinema despite the wealth of home-viewing options at our fingertips. Before The Phantom Menace, I saw a 3D trailer for the upcoming Focus Features release ParaNorman. The film was created by many of the same animators and crew members that worked on Coraline, and it appears to have the same charm that Coraline had. But, even more importantly to the future of moviegoing, it looks amazing in 3D. Glasses on.

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