The 3D-technology isn’t really that new. There have been movies with 3D effects for decades. So what is all the fuss about it and how did it start?
I don’t know much about the old movies, how for instance “Tarantula” looked in 3D or all the other monster or trash flicks. I only saw one really bad movie from the 70ies called “The Ape” (or A*P*E*) in 3D – which should deserve a blog entry of its own by the way. Now of course there have also been a lot of 3D movies in theme parks which are naturally short experiences, but nonetheless intense and fun to watch. So how did this whole craziness over 3D start? With “Avatar”.
Yes, I saw “Avatar” and I expected a big blockbuster worthy of James Cameron. What I got was… not much. Not delving too much into the story and characters of the movie itself (of which there is not much to talk about anyway as it’s deficient in both), there is one thing which I can say about the presentation and its 3D effects. It didn’t work for me.
I’ve seen quite a lot of 3D movies in theme parks which were all fun to watch because you get the sense that something or someone is thrown at you, either an animal, a hammer or whatever. Now in “Avatar”, you don’t get anything like that. Sure, in the last 30 minutes or so when the action starts (a bit too late if you ask me), there are some explosions and laser shootings going on, but I never once had the feeling to be really inside the action. It wasn’t even that I didn’t care about it (which I really didn’t), but that it just didn’t have any in-your-face-effects.
Of course you get a certain in-depth-feeling, but is this enough to be immerged in the non-existent story and care about the badly-drawn-characters? No. It’s pretty pointless. It also doesn’t help that the planet itself is realized in a fantastic way, because the Xbox game “Halo” did it a decade ago and had much better music and more dramatic set pieces than Cameron could dream up in his 10-year-old scratchbook.
(copyright: Microsoft Game Studios)
The Master Chief of Bungie’s Halo universe is one of videogames’ most prominent characters and together with the Halo-world much more cinematic than Cameron’s somewhat watered-down approach to sci-fi
But back to the 3D-effect: Why did it appeal so much to people who rarely go to cinemas? Everyone went in to see it and most of them came out with sparkling eyes as if it was the next “Star Wars”. Some even put it on the same pedestal as George Lucas’ saga or any other big hits. And it definitely had an impact. Does it show that people today are more superficial? The 80ies were also full of superficial bravado. But at least they had something like… magic? All these exotic creatures, the flora and fauna, George Lucas created, they were unique. But today James Cameron’s world seems outdated. But maybe this is what people really want? Something safe, something which can be predicted and isn’t surprising. Or maybe it has to do with people’s lack of cinematic experiences? After all it’s been a long time since something like Star Wars hit the big screen. Something more akin to this phenomenon could have been Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings”, but even that wasn’t a new story. So maybe people bought James Cameron’s vision?
This is a bit strange, because Cameron was never really known for telling complex stories or having round characters. But his movies worked, even though critics and the audience wouldn’t admit it, big blockbusters like “Titanic” (which, by the way, is much more involving and believable than “Avatar”) set new standards. Now with “Avatar”, it didn’t set any standards in terms of special effects. You’ve seen better ones in a lot of previous movies (like Star Wars: Episode 1 or even Starship Troopers, which also had some nice irony parts). So Full-3D was what people really liked?
3D is what sells most movies today. Even if they aren’t that good. Take the remake “Clash of the Titans” for example. It wasn’t shot in 3D, but they had to implement some scenes afterwards. Same with Tim Burton’s latest output “Alice in Wonderland”. I haven’t seen it yet (after being disappointed with lots of his other movies), but some of its flaws seemed to have been overlooked with the new technology.
Of course there are also really good 3D movies, like “Final Destination” (and probably the upcoming “Piranha 3D” for example. It’s strange, but this movie also doesn’t have a story or interesting characters, but it works. It works because the director knows exactly what people expect of the series: Gory death scenes, and they work perfectly. But it’s a niche genre, “Avatar” is the big budget multi-million dollar event. And everyone buys in.
The future of 3D is upon us, if you want to or not. It’s only a matter of time until TVs all support this old technology in a new way. If it will change our perception of how we watch movies or play games, only time will tell.