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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Poll Question: Has 3-D Become Passe?



Not to say that it's any surprise the movie industry is all about making a buck, but one would think it had enough foresight to know when it has beaten a prize horse to death.

Never mind Hollywood has sought to lure Gen X viewers back to the theaters to re-sell them their youth in the form of remakes. Everything from The Karate Kid to Arthur to Clash of the Titans to A Nightmare On Elm Street has been rehashed for both nostalgic older filmgoers and their youngsters who naturally missed out on all the fun back in the day. The Star Wars franchise has at least remained relevant to pop culture utilizing fresh, new material and as a result, we can honestly say there's a unique Star Wars generation for today and yesteryear.

However, just as toy manufacturers exploit working class parents by ramming their old playthings back up their wazoos as irresistible bait to their kids, so too does the film industry, acting in cahoots. The Smurfs are coming, The Smurfs are coming... Hopefully He-Man stays on Eternia. Dare we think back upon Dolph Lundgren's ill-fated Masters of the Universe live action film way back when? Krull is a superior eighties fantasy vehicle and that's saying nothing.

The onslaught of today's superhero films are undeniably a collective cash cow, albeit for those of us who grew up reading comic books to idle our afternoons away instead of the internet, these films are a dream come true and most of them are awesome. Particularly if you've ever seen the earlier efforts to translate The Punisher and Captain America to film, oy...

Then there's 3-D. Sure, there's something fun and magical about three dimensional films. If there's any genres better suited to 3-D than others, it's horror and science fiction, though today's CGI animation style translates into the 3-D realm quite effectively. However, the modern popcorn film is now defined as any damn film the industry wants to overhaul in the hopes you plop down a few extra bucks for the "experience" of images jumping into your lap while gnawing on those poofy kernals. If you spill your popcorn in reaction to sudden propulsions from the screen, then the theater is rather happy to sell you more at their inflated prices.



Hate to say it like an old fogie, but 3-D used to be special. You didn't have it very often back in the day. One of the first acknowledged 3-D films is Vincent Price's 1953 classic, House of Wax, one of the many horror films that has been remade in this generation of filmmaking--and to be fair, the new film was far better than anyone could've expected and guess what? It didn't use 3-D! Enjoy the irony.

While 3-D experiments in film go back even further to The Three Stooges' 1949 short "The Ghost Talks," one might say the medium wasn't wholly battle-tested until recent times. Gorilla at Large from 1954 came out as more a gimmick amidst the slew of theatrical gags during the fifties. Consider another Vincent Price favorite, The Tingler, actually buzzed your seat in the theater when the monster showed up. Nowadays, the wiring and insurance would sink such an enterprise before the final print was mastered. Gorilla at Large, however, was a clunker B movie that really looked terrible when they tried to translate the film as 3-D onto UHF t.v. stations. Today, you have 3-D televisions. Again, enjoy the irony.



The eighties represent what is today known as the "blockbuster" film. The decade set a precedent for action, horror, comedy and fantasy films, most of which turned monster profits. While not every film of the decade was a classifiable E.T. or Raiders of the Lost Ark, it did try (with mediocre success) to revive 3-D in the form of Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th Part III, Amityville 3-D and the seldom-seen cult favorite, Metalstorm. Even the sixth Nightmare on Elm Street film, Freddy's Dead had a portion done up in 3-D. It brought people into the theaters, but not as many as Hollywood projected back then. Of these, the Friday sequel turned the best profit and many might argue it's one of the finest 3-D romps ever, even if the film is merely a kickback guilty pleasure in 2-D.



While 3-D films mostly took a powder through the nineties, you did see revival 3-D comic books in the underground press and then you had Voivod's The Outer Limits album, which comes packaged in 3-D. The Outer Limits, in my opinion, is one of the grooviest 3-D packages there is.

It's no secret 3-D has boomed in the 2000s. On the one hand, horror flicks such as My Bloody Valentine 3-D, The Final Destination and the Pirhana remake are bloody good fun as the 3-D spectacles they're intended to be. Outside of 3-D, however, they can't even compete against Roger Corman's worst.

So now Hollywood opts to shoot contender "blockbuster" films in 2-D and doll them up into 3-D. Today, 3-D is so state-of-the-art you don't need to take the time and expense to film it in 3-D. Just set up the shots, because technology can run those images from a 2-D plane to 3-D and ye-bang, instant marketing boost. Helps the cause for manufacturing DVDs and Blu Rays when the original print lies in 2-D. The 2010 Clash of the Titans remake was one of the first to be called out by critics for employing this cheapo strategm and when you watch the so-so 2-D version, you're even more offended. Clash 2010 was every bit a gimmick as its cheapo ancestor, Gorilla at Large.



Then, of course, there's gold in them thar hills for turning kid films into 3-D ventures. What better impressionable demographic is there than children, who badger the snot out of their parents to take them to the movies? When Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda and the Toy Story clan jump in your laps, the kids think of instant fun. Hollywood hears cha-ching...

Here's the thing, though. It's become almost remarkable now to see a new movie trailer without the 3-D tag. Whether you're going to see Green Lantern, Tron: Legacy, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides or the final Harry Potter film, you're given the option to see it in 2-D or 3-D. While many have cited Tron: Legacy as a 3-D spectacle, I caught it in 2-D and didn't feel I was missing out on too much beyond a few slo-mo in-your-face moments. Many of those who caught Tron: Legacy in 2-D gave it a thumbs-down, so consider that food for thought.



I personally feel the final Harry Potter film going in 3-D is a cheap shot by the industry to rake in on what should by now be considered the epic storytale of this generation, Lord of the Rings notwithstanding. Harry was written in the now and filmed in the now and we're forever endeared to those children who grew up before our eyes. The final stanza of The Deathly Hallows is often brutal and emotional. That should be enough to lure people into the theaters. Having it as a 3-D experience is obviously just too much for Hollywood to resist, given the big battle in the wizarding world opens the door for huge possibilities to throw shit at viewers. Really, though, since none of the previous films came out in 3-D (though they threatened to in the first half of The Deathly Hallows), do we really need 3-D to finish it all? So long as we get to see Harry kiss Ginny and ditto for Ron and Hermione at the end, then damn you, Hollywood, quit dicking with it.

How do you feel about 3-D, readers? Too much fun or simply too much?

5 comments:

Metal Mark said...

"The Star Wars franchise has at least remained relevant to pop culture utilizing fresh, new material and as a result, we can honestly say there's a unique Star Wars generation for today and yesteryear."

"However, just as toy manufacturers exploit working class parents by ramming their old playthings back up their wazoos as irresistible bait to their kids, so too does the film industry, acting in cahoots"

I think these two go together because Star War has always been about selling action figures, trading cards, bed spreads, lunchboxes and every other item under the sun (Spaceballs the flamethrower, anybody?). Selling merchandise with shows and movies went on before 1977 of course, but exploded once George Lucas quickly cashed in on every objest he could slap the Star Wars logo on. The movie set up that a blockbuster has to have action figures. This is no cut on Star Wars at all as the first two films were great and Jedi was good. Plus most of the toys were cool. However the amount of merchandise they cashed in on the first film opened up the floodgates and it has just gotten bigger since. So perhaps many of us are part of a Star Wars generation that expects and accepts tons of toys and merchandise to come out and be just as important as the film itself. Lord knows many of the toys were better than the actual films for episodes 1-3. Clone Wars was better though.

"Consider another Vincent Price favorite, The Tingler, actually buzzed your seat in the theater when the monster showed up. Nowadays, the wiring and insurance would sink such an enterprise before the final print was mastered."
Agreed. Poor William Castle wouldn't have made it in a sue over anything world.

For your main topic-is 3D being overused? Possibly but Hollywood is a business and they will try anything to make money and they should because...it's a business and no one would should be surprised that they try to get as much as they can out of a trend. If you don't like it then you have the option of staying home and waiting for the DVD release. You could save a whole lot of money that way.

I am looking forward to the last Harry Potter film and have been re-watching the other seven to get ready for it. The six film was very dull, but the first part of the Deathly Hallows was much better. So now we are set up for the second part of the film and I hope they do the book justice. Actually I expect that they will.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Thanks for your comments, Mark. Of course the SW franchise has been a cross-promotional juggernaut. If anything, the move showed me how much crap I had between SW and Batman, though I had to sell some of it off and I have a box of each stored for my kid. He even has my vintage SW bedsheets and curtains, about the only thing I've given him of mine which he treats with reverence.

I'm excited for the final HP film, though I want nothing to do with the 3-D aspect. It might look neat coming at you, but the story is so intense, I would rather concentrate on that aspect than have it come off like a circus before my eyes. I think they will do it justice too, since the first half of Deathly Hallows was really accurate...albeit I was infuriated they chopped out the scene with Harry and Dudley shaking hands and Dudley telling Harry he's alright. That was so pivotal a moment as a story the powers that be should be kicked up and down the street for delegating that scene to the outtakes on the DVD special features.

Metal Mark said...

"albeit I was infuriated they chopped out the scene with Harry and Dudley shaking hands and Dudley telling Harry he's alright."

I thought the same thing when I saw it in the extras.

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