Thursday, 25 November 2010

Alternate Dimensions: My Hatred of 3D in Cinema.

WARNING: This article contains some minor (if that) spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. You have been warned...

Well, the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise, The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, is upon us. First, I'd like to say just how much I love this film. It's probably my second favourite in the series so far (number one with the bullet being Prisoner of Azkaban, which is a masterclass in reality-grounded fantasy filmmaking as far as I'm concerned, and easily enters into my top 10 films of all time list). I went to see it on opening weekend, with some mates from my degree, in FACT Liverpool. We had fantastic seats; middle seats of the middle row.

However, during one of the opening scenes, we see a meeting of the Death Eaters with Voldemort present, as well as his faithful snake Nagini. Also present is the Hogwart's Muggle Studies professor Charity Burbage, who, spoiler alert, is then killed by Nagini. In this particular scene, and in other points during the film, Nagini attacks by lunging directly at the screen. Being center and head-on to this shot, this freaked the hell out of me. It was brilliantly heart-stopping, if for a moment, and captured perfectly the snake's lightning reflexes that would return to haunt Harry and Hermione and Godric's Hollow later in the film.

Fig I.: Nagini, about to perform what I've dubbed the 'screen-throw'.

Were it not for the fact you knew exactly what was coming. No, it wasn't because people have read the books, it's because this trick has been done time and time again thanks to the arrival of 3D! Something is hurled at the screen and towards the audience, giving them the shock factor 3D seems built for. It happened here (and later in the film), and we see it all the time in trailers for gore-porn fests like My Bloody Valentine or Saw 3D. It's been done time and time again, and while it did freak a lot of people out (myself included, though that's mainly because I hate being startled), it's a cheap trick that's been done to death, based on a natural instinct that if something dangerous is coming straight towards you, you get the hell out of there.

Not only is it a cheap trick, but it breaks immersion. You're startled, and in a storyline like that of the Harry Potter series which relies on subtle clues to tie it all together, you don't want to break away from the storyline. Of course, as we know, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, was not actually released in 3D. This was, however, a last-minute change by Warner Brothers. The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is already confirmed, and we can be damn sure that snake is showing up again, only to lunge at, and this time out of, the screen. That's even more immersion breaking that I sure as hell don't want, and something I'm sure many others don't want either.

Those damn glasses don't help one bit either. As a guy who wears glasses anyway, a second pair is far from comfortable, meaning I constantly have to adjust them to get them to even stay on. Many, many people wear glasses to watch cinema screens, if not in their daily life, so they're likely even less used to it that I am. So far, the only good I've found 3D glasses come to is for holding part of my Wall-E costume on. That's not saying much, is it?

Fig II.: Pixar's Up. Unfortunately, the empty spaces in some of this film
just didn't work with 3D.

But what about the other end of the spectrum, films that come out in 3D yet hardly use it? So far, the only company I can think that does so is Pixar. Both Up and Toy Story 3 were both released in 3D, and, for all I could see, you might as well have brought a 2D ticket. The main use of 3D in these types of films seem to be in setting up distance, and there was very little problem with that before 3D arrived. I'm not saying that they should resort to the 3D 'screen-throw', but it might be nice to find a new way around it.

So, what would I suggest 3D is used for? For me, I think the best way to use the technology is in a first-person film experience. Make the viewer the main character, or shoot entirely from the angle of one character, in much the way Peep Show does. That way, you can add the depth companies like Pixar use the technology for, and justify a few 'screen-throws' everyone else seems to use it for. So far, I feel like there is no middle ground, and this is what we're lacking. If that can be overcome, then 3D might have a place for me. Until then, I'll buy 2D tickets.

And find a way to remove those god-awful glasses! Nintendo's 3DS has some glasses-free technology in it. Let's find a way to enhance that.

  • Fig.
  • Fig II.:

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