Even Roger Ebert Doesn't Like 3D - Take That Hollywood!
I woke up yesterday morning to discover an awe-inspiring blog from the one and only Roger Ebert. For the longest time I've preached about my dislike of 3D and have constantly encountered resistance and seen Hollywood continue to make pointless 3D films like Journey to the Center of the Earth. However, if there's one man who could potentially convince our readers that 3D is worthless, it would be Roger Ebert. He writes an article brilliantly titled D-minus for 3-D and briefly outlines how evolution shows that 3D is not what our eyes were meant to see and explains that it's a blatant mistake to believe that 3D is realistic. I haven't felt this much gratification in a very long time after reading an article written by such a legendary journalist as Roger Ebert. He finally puts some much-needed perspective on this entire 3D trend.
There's really rational no way you can argue with Ebert's criticism of 3D. His first 3D movie was Bwana Devil from 1952 and even 56 years later, he's still not impressed by it. He starts off by shattering the beliefs of realism the most connect with the gimmick of 3D. "There seems to be a belief that 3-D films are not getting their money's worth unless they hurtle objects or body parts at the audience. Every time that happens, it creates a fatal break in the illusion of the film. The idea of a movie, even an animated one, is to convince us, halfway at least, that that we're seeing on the screen is sort of really happening. Images leaping off the screen destroy that illusion." That's not to say that 3D isn't an amusement park gimmick meant to entertain and, well, amuse the audience, but it should stay out of the movie theater.
Ebert goes on to add about realism that "in real life we perceive in three dimensions, yes, but we do not perceive parts of our vision dislodging themselves from the rest and leaping at us." I think what Ebert has done is finally put some perspective on why I don't like 3D beyond my own belief that it's just a cheap trick to sell tickets. His explanations more than prove that it is not realistic human nature, nor the operation of the eye, to see objects "pop out" or "fly at us." It's a misconception that 3D is mimicking how our eyes perceive reality, because our brain interprets dimensions much differently, as he explains.
"But what about rapid movement toward the viewer? Yes, we see a car aiming for us. But it advances by growing larger against its background, not by detaching from it. Nor did we evolve to stand still and regard its advance. To survive, we learned instinctively to turn around, leap aside, run away. We didn't just stand there evolving the ability to enjoy a 3-D movie."
Before anyone gets too angry, let me say that I do think 3D is something that can be enjoyed. I actually enjoyed Beowulf in 3D last year, one of the few movies (if not the only one) that I'm not able to watch in 2D. Even U2 3D I quite enjoyed, but that ties in with the point I'm about to make. To me, and I'm guessing to Ebert as well, 3D is a gimmick and works well for entertainment in certain venues (or with certain mediums). Film, from a technical and critical standpoint, is not one of those mediums that 3D works on. What I mean is that 3D is enjoyable, as the $89 million that Journey 3D made will confirm, but that it's still nothing more than a cheap trick. And I think Ebert also understands that but gives us a more rational explanation as to why it's not realistic, beyond saying that it's just a sales gimmick.
Ebert wraps up his article with a great conclusion. "Ask yourself this question: Have you ever watched a 2-D movie and wished it were in 3-D? Remember that boulder rolling behind Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Better in 3-D? No, it would have been worse. Would have been a tragedy. The 3-D process is like a zombie, a vampire, or a 17-year cicada: seemingly dead, but crawling out alive after a lapse of years. We need a wooden stake." He couldn't have said it any better. I'm glad to find that I'm not the only one who despises this 3D trend. Hollywood's biggest and brightest, including DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, can continue to say that 3D is the future, but they're wrong. I've said it before and I'll say it again: 3D belongs in amusement parks and not in our movie theaters.
Now some of our more adamant readers might note that I often state that James Cameron's Avatar may finally be our first look at 3D done well. What I mean is that I think Cameron actually gets this entire notion that Ebert just explained. His 3D camera, which they used on Journey 3D, but not to its advantage, recreates the focal points of our two eyes. To be honest, I don't think any one can actually comprehend the kind of 3D imagery we'll see in December of 2009, but I can use my imagination and I'm excited. I think Cameron is going to be the first filmmaker to actually use 3D as a cinematic storytelling tool and not just a gimmick. Anyway, give Roger Ebert's article a read and critique what he has to say, if you dare.