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Christopher Nolan is in a pretty enviable position in Hollywood, having directed a billion-dollar global hit with The Dark Knight and therefore being able to do whatever he wants, which right now means directing a $100 million art house thriller called Inception. He's also set to return to Gotham City for Batman 3 when that film reportedly starts filming next spring, but as successful as he may be, he's not immune to that singular pressure that's hitting all tentpole directors right now: 3D.
Back in April Nolan's DP and close collaborator Wally Pfister went on the record calling 3D "a fad," and the fact that Inception won't be hitting theaters in 3D this summer probably tells you plenty. But it was a little surprising to read in The LA Times that, during this weekend's Hero Complex Film Festival, Nolan admitted they had tested Inception in 3D. "We did tests on 'Inception' with the different post-conversion processes, and they all went very well," Nolan told the crowd during a Q&A. "It's quite easy to do, in fact. But it takes a little time, and we didn't have time to do it to the standards that I would be happy with."
In his classic eggheady style, Nolan then went on to discuss the drawbacks of 3D using highly technical language like "foot-lamberts" and "occlusion," concluding that 3D makes everything on the screen dimmer, and that's not a sacrifice he's willing to make: "On a technical level, it's fascinating, but on an experiential level, I find the dimness of the image extremely alienating." Ever practical, he also recognized that the studio provides the funding both for the next Batman and the Superman film he'll be shepherding, and if 3D is what they demand, he'll probably have to go with it: "Well, let me put it this way: There is no question if audiences want to watch films in stereoscopic imaging, that's what the studios will be doing, and that's what I'll be doing."
Nolan isn't the first filmmaker to publicly express reservations about 3D, but he might be the first to do it with the same level of technical explanation that James Cameron lends to his defenses of the technology. I'd love nothing more than to see the two sit down together, two billion-dollar directors coming from different sides of the debate, and duke it out once and for all. As for what this means for Batman 3, it seems obvious Nolan won't be filming in 3D-- he had a very technical explanation for why "post-conversion technologies probably, for me, are definitely the future"-- and that Warner Bros. may have time to decide in a year or two whether the 3D trend is so pervasive they won't have a choice but to put the Dark Knight in the third dimension. But after reading what Nolan had to say and how smart he is about it, how could they make him?