I’m making my regular jaunt to Starbucks to get some fresh air and a fresh environment to get my head around what I need to do to make my business push on. In the queue, the young lady in front of me is discussing her plan with the barista to see Spiderman at the cinema tonight. “Is it in 3D?”, asks the barista. She wasn’t sure, and neither am I, but the conversation went on around the experience of the 3D film, the disbenefits of wearing glasses, the headaches, how stupid everyone looks and the inconvenience of having to wear the glasses over spectacles. It was interesting how, in that minute or so of conversation, several problems were mentioned, but no benefits.
Now, I have to state some interest in the debate around 3D film, but only as a regular listener to the Mayo and Kermode Film Review on Radio 5. This rather wonderful programme has a number of running debates, one of which is the merit of 3D in film. Whilst Mayo often comments on the merits of 3D in a positive way, and not exclusively playing devil’s advocate, Kermode is of the firm belief that 3D is a passing phase and is already on it’s way out. Now, I’ve only seen the one 3D film, that being the awful ‘Clash of the Titans’, in which the 3D had the sophistication of a children’s pop up book. I also recently saw, for the first time, ‘Avatar’, famously made in 3D by James Cameron, on TV in wonderful 2D. I feel that, in judging both of these films, the absence or presence of 3D was entirely irrelevant, and the films stood largely on the quality of the story, the characters and the way the two interacted. Titans certainly wasn’t improved by being in 3D, and the spectacle of Avatar won’t, I suspect, be massively enhanced by seeing it in 3D.
I would think twice about seeing a film in 3D, not least because of the problems covered by the coffee shop discussion, but also because of the price premium put on 3D showings. But worse than that, for me, is the idea that these films are being sold as improved in some way by being in 3D. They aren’t. And we’re not seeing anything new; the world around us is in 3D, and we can appreciate it without silly glasses. And what’s more, the skill of the filmmaker in creating worlds and bringing them to us, their use of their tools and their skills, their talent with cinematography and visual effects, their use of power and emotion, should be ample to bring us in, without resorting to cheap tricks enabled by cumbersome glasses. Perhaps the best part is that they can manage to create awe-inspiring and memorable events within the constraints presented by the discipline.
Notwithstanding the possible improvements in 3D which do away with the glasses, and the possible realisation that good storytelling is more enduring than gimmicks, my money would have to be with Kermode.