Thursday, March 25, 2010

3D or Don’t?

Nintendo recently announced that a 3D version of the DS, predictably called the Nintendo 3DS, will hit shelves sometime in the next year. And while some gamers are no doubt rejoicing that they will be able to enjoy 3D graphics on the go—and without 3D glasses, no less—the news got me thinking about this whole 3D trend. We’ve already got 3D televisions. Just about every blockbuster movie going into production is getting the 3D treatment, while others released over the next few months—Clash of the Titans, for example—are getting a post-production 3D makeover. Even the iced coffee I’m sipping as I type this is in 3D! When will the madness end?

Look, I’m no Luddite. Clearly. I thought the 3D in Avatar was masterfully done, and I’m always supportive of new ways to play, watch and immerse ourselves in the things we love. But with studios, developers and consumer electronics manufacturers cramming this new technology down our throats following Avatar’s commercial success, I wonder whether this hurried, across-the-board 3D media upgrade will do more harm than good.

Since audiences have proven that they’re willing to pay more for content if it’s in 3D (3D Avatar tickets were about $5 more than standard ones), an increasing number of consumer electronics manufacturers, studios—and now game designers—are exploring the exploitative potential of 3D everything, which is very likely a move in the wrong direction for the entertainment industry as a whole. That extra dimension is expensive, but it won’t always be worth it.

I’ve yet to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the first big post-Avatar 3D release (like Titans, the 3D was added in post), but most of my friends that have said the film itself wasn’t great but the 3D was “pretty cool,” almost apologetically. Interestingly enough, I remember the same reactions to the mind-numbing Transformers Revenge of the Fallen when it hit theaters; just replace “3D” with “CGI.” CGI (computer-generated imagery) is used masterfully by some (like Pixar), while an unfortunate majority use it as pretty packaging for a mediocre product. Can anyone argue that 3D will be any different?

Humorously enough, Avatar director James Cameron—lauded as the progenitor of this 3D revolution—is among its harshest critics.

“After Toy Story, there were 10 really bad CG movies because everybody thought the success of that film was CG and not great characters that were beautifully designed and heartwarming,” Cameron told Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming. “Now, you’ve got people quickly converting movies from 2D to 3D, which is not what we did. They’re expecting the same result, when in fact they will probably work against the adoption of 3D because they’ll be putting out an inferior product.”

Cameron added that, as was the case with Avatar, the decision to release a film in 3D should be a creative one made by the director and not a cash grab by the studio.

“This is another example of Hollywood getting it wrong,” Cameron said. “Sony says, ‘We’re doing Spider-Man in 3D.’ The director doesn’t say, ‘Hey, I want to make the movie in 3D.’ The studio says, ‘You want to direct this movie? You’re doing it in 3D, motherfucker!’ That’s not how it should be.”

Nope, it’s not; not in film, not in television and, no, not even in video games. Although, I have to say, this 3D coffee is delicious.

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