The Trouble With 3D: Why Hollywood's Savior Could Be Bad For Movies

With the success of Avatar Hollywood is hot to jump on the 3D bandwagon. Just look at the number of movies we've reported on which are headed for the polarized glasses format. Theater owners and studio executives smell money. They charge more for 3D movies and the more of them they show the more they profit. That means if they can do it, you can bet they'll show it in 3D. In some areas it's already quite literally impossible to see Avatar in anything but three-dimensions. China even went so far as to ban 2D showings of the film.

As Hollywood churns out more and more 3D films, it's only going to become more prevalent. The time may come, and it's not far off, when 2D showings for some movies simply won't exist. Think you'll just wait for the DVD? Say hello to 3D Blu-Ray. Like Aunt Fanny clinging to her rabbit ears in the face of TV's digital conversion, 2D viewers are about to be pushed right out of the movie market.

So what's the issue? 3D's better right? We beg to differ. This gimmick has problems. There's a time and place for it, not every movie deserves or needs to be in 3D. Before you throw yourself into the third dimension, imagine what it'll be like putting up with these irritants every time you buy a ticket.

You Don't Look Just Like Buddy Holly

Gone are the days of kitschy, red and blue 3D glasses which almost passed for cool. In their place are clunky, plastic monstrosities which we're all forced to put on our nose. But it's dark in there, and nobody can see you, so who cares? Everyone who already wears prescription lenses, that's who. Imagine wearing a pair of glasses. Now imagine wearing another pair of glasses on top of them for two hours. It's not fun. Going to the movies used to be a passive experience. You'd sit back, relax, grab a bite of popcorn, and enjoy the show. Now it's an obstacle course of uncomfortable frames and groping around for the cup holder which you can no longer seen in the dark with your vision obscured by grimy polarized lenses.

Stiffen Your Neck

For all the time Hollywood spends praising 3D, one thing that no one seems to discuss is the way it actually looks if, say, you're sitting in the front row. Not every seat in every theater is an optimal viewing position. Seats that suck in 2D invariably suck ten times as much in 3D. Even in optimal seats, often it just doesn't work. While watching Avatar for instance, some of you may have noticed a weird warping or blurring around the edges of your vision whenever you turned your head. Watching Avatar meant looking at the screen at just the right angle. Don't you dare move your head, or Jake Sully turns into a ridiculous, rainbow blur. Wait, what did I miss? I had to inhale oxygen. Sure, 3D looks good when you sit in the middle of a theater imitating a statue, but how does it look when you fidget in your seat or have to keep one eye on your kid? Not good.

Pepto-Bismol Butter

It's a fact. 3D makes people sick. Headaches and nausea happen. Not to me, not to everyone, not even to most of us, but maybe your mom and almost certainly your nearsighted grandpa. A certain percentage of moviegoers just aren't wired with the hardware necessary to process those images. It's not their fault, there's nothing they can do about it, but the next time you go to the movies there's a good chance at least someone you know simply won't be able to go. Movies used to bring people together, but 3D divides us into haves and have nots. Those who have to vomit and those who do not.

The 3D Excuse

You can buy a junky car, clean it up a bit and slap a Mercedes emblem on it and easily fool a lot of people. Some movies take the same approach to 3D. Moviegoers with a keen eye can see past the Real D logo, but most will fall victim to the gimmick and immerse themselves in a world of three-dimensional crap. The worst part about the format's tremendous power over our better judgment? When a bad movie makes obscene amounts of money off a gimmick, it becomes easier to justify the creation of films with more dimensions and less depth.

Use It Or Lose it

In all of the 3D movies that you've seen, have you felt that ANY of them have really taken advantage of the technology? If you say yes, you're a liar. The only film that's even come close is Avatar and 3D has been around since 1939. It took 71 years for one movie to do it right. Before that it was all dudes riding horses and pointing spears at the camera, or Tim Allen and Richard Karn swinging 2x4s out of your TV on a very special T.G.I.F. As more and more movies attempt to cash in on the 3D phenomenon, fewer and fewer are likely to go through the trouble to make it worthwhile. They're more interested in how much money they can make by tacking “3D” onto the title.

Priced Out Of The Market

Movie ticket prices have been rising steadily for years and we've put up with it. But 3D represents more than just steady inflation, it's as if the theater manager followed you home after the show, waited for you to go to sleep; then snuck in, stole your wallet and had sex with your wife. Overnight, ticket prices have suddenly jumped two, three, or even five dollars. Hollywood loves it, but you shouldn't. Sure you could pay less and see it in 2D, but you won't, because you'll feel like a tool when everyone you know has seen it in 3D and you have to confess, “yeah I could only afford the lame version.” Suddenly seeing 2D movies is like shopping for clothes at K-Mart or buying groceries with food stamps. Sure the food might taste fine and the clothes might fit, but that doesn't make it feel good. Think piracy's a problem now? Just wait until more people are priced out of the movie going market.

Box Office Bloating

I don't know how much those cheap plastic 3D glasses actually cost, but most theaters charge you extra for the privilege to use them; as much as $3.50 extra. That amount shows up on your ticket, so it also shows up in the box office totals, giving a movie the appearance of being 30 to 50% more popular than it really is. In the case of a movie like Avatar, which has broken the record for number of screenings showing 3D, it can be a huge factor. Why have a movie that only makes $400 million at the box office when you can add 3D and bump that to $600 million?! With that kind of padding it's easy to see why everyone's so excited about 3D. Well, everyone except the audiences who may not really be there.

Sometimes Real Is Too Real

I'm in a dark movie theatre with my girl, and we're catching a horror flick. We all know there's going to be a dude behind that door. The score and the claustrophobic camera angle are both suggesting it. Just then, he pops out, and I'm doing my best to be manly while slouched back in my seat with my eyes half closed. 3D only makes that worse, because when I open them, for a second I think he's standing right here. Do you know how hard it is to look masculine when things are flying at your face? Listen, I know My Bloody Valentine 3D wasn't scary at all, but nobody wants a pick-axe to the eye. I didn't buy a movie ticket to spend two hours screaming “duck!”