There's an interesting comment too by 'chewtoy':
Call me paranoid, but the new 3D offensive has a much more sinister side to it than merely fighting piracy and getting bums into cinema seats. Cinematic immersion is a concept straight out of Brave New World. It's the extreme opposite of the Brechtian distancing (a.k.a. alienation) effect. The audience is meant to lose itself passively and completely in the depicted action, being transformed from consciously critical observers to mindless consuming drones.This touches on a key debate within Media Studies (and amongst practitioners too; whole movements, such as the French New Wave, have come about as a response to the perceived power of the media over the audience): whether an audience is essentially passive and meaning is controlled by texts' authors (eg the hypodermic syringe model), or active and in control of meaning (eg the uses and gratifications theory).
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you – 3D really is a conAvatar has seen Hollywood re-embrace the format, but it's all about gimmickry, not creative film-making
Mark Kermode, The Observer, Sunday 11 April 2010
Like it or loathe it, 3D is everywhere, the 21st century equivalent of the snood. Last week, Sky launched its new 3D channel by screening Chelsea's victory at Old Trafford in a "revolutionary" format designed to bring the excitement of the Premier League right into your local. All the major electronics companies are bombarding us with promos for 3D TVs which, we are assured, are the next generation in home entertainment, making boring old HD TVs "so 2009".
Meanwhile, cinema distributors have become so addicted to the profit potential of 3D movies (thanks to the box office bonanza of Avatar) that even films shot in 2D (Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans) are being hastily re-versioned into 3D to cash in on the latest craze.
This last area is particularly worrying because in the entire history of 3D cinema (which is almost old as the history of cinema itself) there are only a handful of moments which justify the headache-inducing horrors of "stereoscopy". The sight of the creature from the Black Lagoon looming out of the depths to give Fifties drive-in viewers a thrill; or that moment in Flesh for Frankenstein where our hero is impaled upon a spike which hoiks out his guts and dangles them dripping in front of the audience.
Others of certain age may have fond memories of the eyeball extraction scene from Friday the 13th Part III which caused audiences to duck for fear of flying jelly. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sneakily thrilled by Tinto Brass's announcement that he's working on a 3D "erotic film" which will "revisit an abandoned project about a Roman emperor that was ruined by Americans" and which sounds suspiciously like a rollicking 3D remake of Caligula.
The thing these movies have in common is that they are essentially trash – sleazy, crass and exploitative and owing more to the carnival sideshow tradition than to any history of narrative cinema. As such, they are perfectly suited to the phoney-baloney gimmickry of 3D, in the same way that Polyester suited Odorama and The Tingler needed the hidden seat buzzers of Percepto to put a spark into its audiences' collective arses.
Beyond that, however, 3D exists not to enhance the cinematic experience, but as a pitiful attempt to head off piracy and force audiences to watch films in overpriced, undermanned multiplexes. It is a con designed entirely to protect the bloated bank balances of buck-hungry Hollywood producers. It is not a creative leap on a par with the advent of colour or sound, as demonstrated by the fact that the so-called "3D revolution" has already faltered on several occasions (the first 3D movie patent was filed in the 1890s and studios pushed the format in the Fifties, Seventies and Eighties to little effect). I know it, you know it, but fewer and fewer people are able to say it thanks to a multimillion dollar campaign which has fostered the lie that only wonky-eyed old farts don't get 3D. Before you buy into this myth, take a look at what the champions of the format have to say.
Top of the pile is James Cameron who, to give him his due, really seems to believe in 3D. He went to great lengths – and costs – to design and shoot Avatar in 3D and is genuinely passionate about its merits. Yet as anyone who has watched Avatar in both 2D and 3D versions will know, the wow factor of this sci-fi Smurfahontas is more the result of adventurous digital landscaping than any forced stereoscopic illusion.
Plus, thanks to the unavoidable 30% colour loss which comes with 3D (along with the added joys of those damned glasses), the film is just far sharper in 2D. If you don't believe me, try taking the glasses off in the middle of a 3D screening and see how much brighter the future looks, even when it's out of focus.
Cameron may have been the standard bearer for 3D, but like some cinematic Oppenheimer he's already expressed dismay at the way the technology he pioneered is now being used for evil ends. Having made 3D not only bankable but "respectable", the director is now railing against studios for forcing film-makers to go stereo and, worse still, for retro-fitting 2D movies into 3D via a "slapdash conversion" process. This process, which perfectly demonstrates the fraudulence of 3D, takes a 2D image and enforces an artificial stereoscopy to make certain elements appear "closer" than others, thereby creating the illusion of depth. Except that it doesn't.
It just makes a load of "flat" elements look like they're floating around on opposing planes of flatness, as demonstrated by the shallow 3D experience offered by Clash of the Titans.
Even Michael Bay, director of Transformers and reigning antichrist of artistically bankrupt blockbuster cinema, says he is "not sold right now on the conversion process". Which is rather like Max Clifford declaring that he's worried about certain forms of press coverage lowering the general tone of news reporting.
The film which those at the upper end of the pro-3D debate always cite is Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, a rare early example of a "serious" film-maker having a bash at the format. Pixar pioneer John Lasseter could be heard waxing lyrical about Dial M when doing the publicity rounds for Bolt and Up, claiming that the maestro "really understood" the potential for an "immersive" cinematic experience.
"Immersive" is the word most regularly rolled out to counter the claim that 3D is all about pointy-pointy flimflam and to suggest that the format pulls you into the picture rather than simply waving things out of the screen at you, like the flying pickaxes of My Bloody Valentine.
It's a good argument, sadly undermined by the fact that a) almost no one saw Dial M in 3D, yet few complained that the 2D version was in any way "non-immersive"; and b) Hitchcock never went near 3D again. Similarly, the great horror classic House of Wax, which 3D fans cite as the high-water mark of "immersive" stereoscopic shocks, was famously directed by André de Toth, who was blind in one eye and could only see the film in 2D. And apparently he thought it looked pretty good.
If 3D has a creative future, it seems more likely to be in the arena of home entertainment than in expensively refitted cinemas. And it's not sports coverage but computer gaming, with its key facet of interactivity, which seems most perfectly poised to explore the virtual reality capabilities of 3D.
As for 3D movies, I've seen two productions which didn't utterly underwhelm me. One was a spin-off of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the other was Terminator 2: 3D, Cameron's dry-run for Avatar.
Both were short films, projected on to screens vast enough to (almost) overcome 3D's bizarre propensity for miniaturisation (remember Jaws 3D, in which audiences were threatened not by a Great White but a Gawping Guppy). More important, both were theme park rides accompanied by vibrating seats, steam showers, laser shows, blasts of hot and cold air and live actors running around the auditorium. They were fun, a reminder that cinema started life as a carnival sideshow.
Today, studio executives are attempting to drag us all back to the fairground, to take the Pirates of the Caribbean formula to its logical conclusion and simply replace art with the roll-on roll-off mechanics of the critic-proof thrill ride. There's nothing new about this – in fact it's the oldest trick in the book. But then 3D has never been the future of cinema.