Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is 3-D finally dying? The signs increasingly say yes

Change never comes easy.

And, I suppose, there are certainly more pressing issues today than the soul-sapping power of 3-D in movies, but if you're a fan of them (like me, of course), it's at least a real problem, especially during the height of the movie summer.

For movie fans, though, this summer's developments may actually be key in bringing about the insidious gimmick's demise, and for that Hollywood would have no one to blame but itself.

Quick, think, when was the last time that the addition of 3-D to a movie really dazzled, much less even mattered? For me, you have to go all the way back to Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," and there have been a whole lot of 3-D movies released since then (for which many I refused to put on those silly glasses on top of the ones I need simply to see what's in front of me.)

And beyond the sheer glut of 3-D movies (16 of them between May and September of this year, with two big, upcoming titles being "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"), there's the fact that (for me at least) it just adds nothing to the movie-watching experience, instead just draining the screen of color and often energy, too.

The problem is particularly galling with animated movies, which are now almost universally released in 3-D. In this, if I can exaggerate what I really think is only slightly, movie studios reveal themselves to be little more than pusher men, getting kids hooked on this shiny trick before they can figure out just how little they really get out of it. Luckily, however, unlike drug addicts who are truly too far gone, moviegoers do still have a choice, and the signs, according to numbers from the New York Times (and pointed out to me by always-welcome reader Jeremy Jirik), are finally starting to point to us just saying no to unnecessary 3-D.

One 3-D flop this summer was "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which made just 47 percent of its domestic box office take from 3-D ticket sales in week one (as a rule, successful 3-D blockbusters are expected to make about 60 percent of their first-week take from 3-D sales). Add to that last week's debut of "Kung Fu Panda 2," which made only 43 percent of its long Memorial Day weekend, $53 million take from 3-D ticket sales, and got absolutely trounced by "The Hangover: Part II," which pulled in about $118 million from Thursday-Monday.

But nothing this well entrenched will die easily, and the 3-D pushers have to take heart in its overseas performance, where fans flocked to the latest "Pirates" movie in 3-D in huge numbers. Is it, to be blunt, because they're simply dumber than we are? Of course not. It's just because 3-D hasn't been around as long or been as prevalent in some parts of the world as it has here, so there's still the thrill of the new. Eventually (I hope), everyone will see this emperor's clothing of movie gimmicks for exactly what it is.

Do I want movies to die? Certainly not. I just want them to stop leaning on this crutch which has by now much more than worn out its welcome. But what can we do aid in its demise? Well, when they're good, go see genuine, old-fashioned 2-D movies, be they big (like this week's "X-Men: First Class") or small (if you're here in Macon, check out the simply sublime "Of Gods and Men" with the Macon Film Guild on June 12.)

And in the meantime, just keep hope alive that 3-D will soon be something we can look back on with disgust. Peace out.


Chalupa said...

Looks like I weathered the 3D-storm. I knew it'd never last.

Ralph said...

Strange. I prefer seeing life in 3d, which is what 2 eyes give me. Considering how much you enjoy 2d, do you normally keep one eye closed?

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