Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Have we hit the 3D tipping point?

The anti-3D lobby is growing very strong indeed, and there is a sense that the crucial moment has come. The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 3D has brought about something new: audiences have had a viewing experience where they have really liked the film but absolutely hated the 3D.
There is a 30% colour loss and general darkening when 3D is in use. The final Harry Potter instalment was dark enough as it is, but with 3D it is beyond sepulchral, and audiences hate this. There have been widespread stories of discontent, including reports of cinemas putting notices up on the door of the cinema warning about the darkness and shifting blame away from the proprietors.

There has been speculation that 3D has been on the wane. Mars Needs Moms was a total flop, and it followed Despicable Me, which had seen a small revolt from squeezed families who refused to spend the extra cost for 3D, with more people going to see it in 2D. Then, this summer, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides also saw more people go and see it in 2D on its opening weekend. There is 3D fatigue.

What the Harry Potter occurrence brings to the table is widespread anger at 3D. Up until now, there has been increasing apathy toward, but the negative reaction toward it has just gone up a gear or two.

As a paid-up member of the anti-3D lobby (well, not paid up, as we save about £2/ticket), I think this is marvellous news. It is not that I think there is no a place for 3D. I can see a basic appeal and am open to the idea that it can be appropriately harnessed, though I am waiting for my Damascene conversion on this.

It is that 3D is overused and clearly inappropriate for some films. The first film I saw with it was Up, and it was of absolutely no use. Likewise with Toy Story 3. Avatar did work in places (sense of depth in still moments in the forest) but did not work in others (fast cutting action sequences). The upshot of my experiences is that 3D generates more money and that is the primary concern. There have been very few artistic uses of 3D. It is a cynical, commercial tool – the cinematic equivalent of raising pension contributions. It is nothing other than a tax rise from the studios
This may be the tipping point, but I urge caution. We already have Hugo and Tintin on the way soon, and then The Hobbit at the end of next year, all in 3D and lord knows how many more in between. This isn’t over, but 3D is now beginning to run against the tide of public opinion, and there lie the choppiest of waters.

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