Take 3-D…please

I love movies. When they’re good they are the most collaborative of art forms—individuals working together to craft something beautiful, a whole that’s greater than its parts. Unfortunately, not all movies are good. Many of them are, frankly, awful, especially when making money usurps creative expression as a film’s driving force. Hence my impatience with the latest gimmick to part moviegoers with cash and buffer sub-mediocre story lines: 3-D.

In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that I can’t actually see the 3-D in movies. Literally—I have no binocular depth perception. I had strabismus as a kid and never developed 3-D vision; it’s why I’m so bad at softball (OK, maybe not the only reason). So these new school 3-D effects that are supposed to add lush depth to film are completely lost on me. Instead, I sit wearing pointless red and blue plastic glasses staring at a screen that would look no different were it in 2-D. But that does put me in a unique position to be able to judge the merit of the films beyond the gimmick.

To be fair, I’m not a special effects person. Or I think it’s more that I’m a story person. I like heady, convoluted plots that twist and turn and surprise. I was livid, for example, when Titanic beat L.A. Confidential for the best picture Oscar in 1998. Sure, Titanic looks pretty and it’s kinda cool when the boat splits in half. But L.A. Confidential is simply brilliant. There’s one scene early in the film, when Guy Pearce’s Ed Exley discovers the massacre in the restroom of the Nite Owl Café, that is the cinematic equivalent of a descent into Dante’s Inferno. The brief depiction of the carnage is at once poetic and visceral; Curtis Hanson (the film’s director) manages to evoke profound horror and dread with the simple act of opening a door. Titanic’s insipid story and grandiose direction can’t come close to matching the effectiveness of this one scene. But, hey, Titanic has special effects.

The problem is that effects too often mask movies that are otherwise awful. Compare The Empire Strikes Back to Attack of the Clones. Both films have special effects, but in Empire they take a subservient role to the actual story and hence it is a cinematic gem, one of the best action films ever made (fact). In Attack of the Clones, however, the effects ARE the story. And Attack of the Clones sucks.

(Once, in the years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, I couldn’t remember if the second Star Wars film had been released yet. That’s how much impact it had on me—I couldn’t remember if it had ever existed. I had to look it up. Even now I can’t remember anything that happened in it, except when I occasionally have a flashback to some awful, stunted scene between Padmé and Anakin.)

Or take Chinatown. Chinatown didn’t need to be 3-D. Why? Because, unlike Avatar, it has an actual plot, at once brilliant and compelling. On the other hand, I still don’t understand what all the fuss over Avatar is about. It has the most hackneyed of plots, so much so that I was able to predict the entire story arc less than 5 minutes into the movie. At one point during yet another so dramatic slow motion scene I sighed really loudly and then felt guilty about disturbing others around me. Until I heard my brother-in-law in the next chair start to snore.

The point is, effects should be secondary to plot. They should accent it and flavour it and never outshine it. The transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London is amazing and groundbreaking, but it works in service to the rest of the story. Not in substitute.

So my point is that 3-D has become just the newest way of obfuscating the lack of story in bad movies. I fully admit that I may lose something in not being able to see the 3-D, but no special effects can completely make up for a terrible story. Give me a great plot over visual grandiosity any day.

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~ by kellly333 on August 26, 2010.

2 Responses to “Take 3-D…please”

  1. ^^ WIN… only 3D movie thus far with any redeemable story afaik was ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ which was just a good time film with a nice story that wasn’t badwritingbadwritingEFFECTS3DWOObadwritingbadwriting

  2. Actually, that’s a good point–Toy Story 3 and Up were both released in 3-D as well. Maybe it’s something that works better with animation, or at least the makers of animated films know how to use it better.

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