No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – 3D really is a con
Avatar has seen Hollywood re-embrace the format, but it’s all about gimmickry, not creative film-making
By Mark Kermode
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.
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