Campus Life

Cinema in the Third Dimension

Thing poking out of the screen make me uncomfortable

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the resurgence of feature films being presented in 3-D. On the one hand, it’s probably the most sensible response to the demand by moviegoers for novel and interesting cinema experiences, as the witty dialogue and compelling character-driven narrative of films like Bounty Hunter (unfortunately not the Boba Fett biopic I was hoping for) doesn’t seem to be cutting it, for some reason. On the other hand, I’ve always enjoyed being removed from the cinema experience — not in the sense of being kicked out by ushers, but of being an impartial observer who can relate to the characters on the screen (sometimes) without having to inhabit their world. 300 was cool, but I think I’d feel a self-conscious need to work out more (or at least shower) if I saw Gerard Butler’s sweaty pecs popping out of the screen at me.

When I heard that Zombieland, a film I very much enjoyed based on its writing and acting, was set for a sequel, I was ecstatic. Then I read that the sequel was going to be in 3-D — as in, written specifically to be presented in 3-D — which caused a massive wave of ambivalence to wash over me, turning my unmitigated glee into wary, vague optimism. The article I read suggested that the 3-D sequel would be so realistic that I’d have to check to make sure my popcorn didn’t have blood on it. Thing is, I don’t like having blood on my popcorn. I don’t even really like seeing it on-screen. I made an exception for Zombieland because the worst gore was probably in the first ten minutes of the film, and most of the rest was run-and-gun action rather than straight horror. When my girlfriend and I went to see Sweeney Todd, we averted our eyes basically whenever the throat-slashing picked up and didn’t resume watching until the sounds of splashing and spurting had subsided. Long story short, we spent almost as much time looking at each other as the screen, and not for the reason most teenage couples do at the movies.

I will say this much for 3–D, at least most of the films that use it are films that can actually benefit from the technology, which is more than can be said for the last “big thing” in film. Why the distributors of Pride and Prejudice thought a Blu-Ray release would significantly improve the viewing experience is beyond me. Besides, 3-D film has been around for decades. I know this because one of Biff’s gang in Back to the Future wears a pair of 3-D glasses constantly, which probably seemed cool to him at the time but seems like it would be intensely nauseating. 3-D accessories have come far since November 6th, 1955, with the cardboard with red and blue lenses replaced by what look like disposable sunglasses or, if at an IMAX film, large heavy safety goggles that are perhaps even worse than the red and blue glasses for wearing on a day-to-day basis. At least the cardboard is light enough not to strain your neck after half an hour.

It’s not just 3-D movies that bother me, either. I’m not big on 3-D attractions at theme parks, for much the same reasons. Having swordfish noses and bee stingers poke out of the screen into my personal bubble is a little too intrusive (not to mention phallic) for comfort. The best 3-D attraction I’ve ever experienced was a Muppet show at Disneyworld where they took the optical illusion and ran with it for purposes of comedy rather than shock value or uncanny-valley-style antics. It also happened to be the one 3-D show I’d been to that didn’t use other special effects like air cannons or water spritzers to try and “put the audience in the show,” so maybe those trends are related. Still, I suppose the advent of 3-D was inevitable, and I’ll have to get used to it. I just hope they don’t try to implement Smell-O-Vision next, unless the Spartans got packets of free deodorant at the Battle of Thermopylae.