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Voice Of The Fans: Movies in 3D…Good Idea or Bad Idea?

[Voice Of The Fans is a weekly feature on SF Signal where we post an interesting item, handcrafted by the Secret Masters of Fandom, specifically for the fans of science fiction and fantasy to voice their opinions and be heard. If you have a topic (and incidentally be inducted into the SMOF via an embarrassing yet strangely compelling secret ceremony), drop us a line at voice (at) sfsignal (dot) com.]

James Cameron’s Avatar has certainly kicked off a new craze, in the studios at least, for movies to be shown in 3D. As Darth Duff explains on the Suvudu blog this is really a matter of money (as 3D/3D IMAX tickets cost more than regular tickets) rather than a matter of artistic vision. The list of big name movies that will be released in 3D, even though they weren’t shot that way, is impressive: Alice In Wonderland, Clash Of The Titans and The Death Hallows. I have to wonder what 3D brings to these movies if they weren’t shot with 3D in mind. I’m guessing nothing other than a blatant attempt to separate my money from my wallet. Thanks, but no.

Duff goes a bit further and answers the question “What movie would have been better in 3D?” His answer is Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Now, I haven’t seen Avatar so I don’t really know what the 3D brings to that movie, which was designed for 3D cameras, but Duff’s explanation makes a lot of sense. I’m thinking Raiders could make an entertaining 3D movie, but in general I’m of the opinion that movies would have to be created with 3D in mind to get the best effect. Otherwise you’d get Count Floyd.

What do you think, does 3D bring anything useful to the table for films? If so, what classic SF/F films do you think would make good candidates for the 3D treatment? I’m thinking the part in Ghostbusters where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man explodes might be a good choice for 3D…

About JP Frantz (2322 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

14 Comments on Voice Of The Fans: Movies in 3D…Good Idea or Bad Idea?

  1. matrix trilogy

    star wars hexalogy

  2. LostDragon // January 29, 2010 at 7:46 am //

    I thiunk that film makers are over using 3D.  If it makes sense to use it then they should, Coraline is an example of a movie where the 3D use made sense and it was beautifully done.  But not every movie needs to use it.

    And I agree converting a movie to 3D is never going to be the same as having it filmed in 3D. Converting it makes me believe the producers are just after the higher ticket prices that theaters demand for a 3D movie.



  3. Hold on a second…. Lets wind this back a bit… Was there any debate back in the 40/50s about wether making movies in colour was artistically worth it or not?

    The reality is Avatar 3D looks fantastic (its well worth going to see, even if it is a poor movie, its an awesome movie experience) and now that 3D screens are becoming common place around the globe it makes sense to make movies that take advantage of the technology. Personally I doubt the ticket price is that much of a consideration, that will drop fairly rapidly to the point where its not much more expensive than seeing a 2D movie (which I am sure will be as dead as B&W movies within a couple of years), I would imagine the real advantage to the studios is that its an atractive way of combating piracy. If the only media available to the pirates is 3D from source then its going to pretty much kill that until the DVD comes out.

    Yes its going to take a little while for film makers to really learn how to get the most out of the 3D experience, and there are going to be some really ugly movies hitting the 3D screen (and some of them will be big budget franchise movies no doubt), but go back and look at the early colour movies and some of them are attrocious, but within a couple of years 3D is going to be the norm.

    As for old movies that would benefit with 3D… Matrix (the original) would be an obvious, any of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies. Sin City would look even more awesome Blade Runner would as well.

    Starwars ‘could’ look awesome, but no doubt Lucas is already plotting on how to further devalue the original trillogy by re-imagining them in 3D with added ‘cuteness’ 🙁

  4. I saw Avatar a few weeks ago. Counting it, I’ve seen three 3D movies in my 30-some years. I have disliked the experience each time. The first movie was many years ago at a museum in Fort Lauderdale. The technology being pimped then was some sort of goggle contraption with built-in tweeters (loudspeakers). I don’t even remember what the movie was about. The entire experience gave me a headache and the nausea didn’t pass for at least 24 hours. I actually remember removing the contraption and closing my eyes for the last 10-20 minutes.

    More recently, I took my kids to see Cameron’s 3D IMAX docufilm about the deep ocean. This was a better experience, but the 3D was not extensive and the movie itself was only about 40 minutes or so. The limited use of 3D and the brevity made me feel like I’d wasted my money. On the flip side, I believe these are the same reasons I didn’t experience any ill effects from watching this one.

    The 2.5+ hour marathon that is Avatar is really the first time I’ve had time to contemplate what it is that bugs me about 3D. Since there was ample time to ponder this (the plot isn’t exactly brain-taxing), I concluded that 3D can never be much better than it already is without involving some sort of science-fictiony visual cortex interface. Here’s my issue: Even though it’s 3D, it’s still a camera. And a camera must be focused. I think when the eyes/brain are presented with three-dimensional information, there is an inherent desire or evolutionary reflex or something driving me to want to control the viewing experience. When I see the (3D) world around me, I focus on what I want to focus on. When I shift my eyes from one thing to another, my brain does its job of filtering out the “in-between.” (There’s a clinical name for this I am forgetting right now.)

    When viewing a movie in 3D, the camera is focused on what the director wants it to be focused on. The camera view shifts from scene to scene as dictated by the director. I.e., I have no control. If I want to focus on something in the foreground, no dice if the director has the camera focused on something distant. Even when I focus my eyes on what the director wants me to focus on, the movement of the camera is unnatural because it is not dictated by my own head/eye movements. My brain seems to have inherent trouble processing this.

    In sum, the technology that is supposed to immerse me in the movie is really doing the exact opposite. It’s making me think about the flaws in the technology and taking me right out of the movie. I am an irritated observer instead of an engaged patron.

    This is the theory on which I base the following: (a – fact) I don’t like 3D movies and will avoid them in the future (which is getting more difficult), and (b – opinion) I don’t think they’ll be successful in the long-run without some technological developments that are more “interactive.” I.e., the novelty will likely wear off (again). Then again, I could be wrong. Maybe continued exposure (if forced upon me) will result in adaptation. After all, I’m not trying to be some sort of anti-3D codger; I’m just trying to avoid something that makes me sick. 🙂

    FWIW, the headache I got from Avatar lasted about a full 24 hours.

  5. 3D movies? Overrated.

  6. Mark Stephenson // January 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm //

    Agreed.  Overrated.  The 3D effect is a gimmick that often adds nothing but novelty to an otherwise mediocre film.  While I do not consider Avatar a mediocre film, I think that without the 3D gimmick it would simply be a reasonably good, ambitious SF movie that, while not in my Top 10 of all time, would figure at least as high as Minority Report, A.I. and several others.  It is not as good as Cameron’s two best SF films, Terminator 2 and Aliens, neither one of which needed 3D to be as good as they were.

    I am actually looking forward to seeing Avatar in 2D.  The effects, color and action will be just as exciting and the moral transformation of Jake Sully just as interesting, if not moreso without the distraction of 3D.


  7. 3D will be the model for the big studios because it preserves their whole distribution strategy (print to theater to DVD/Blueray to Cable, etc.). The success of Avatar gives them the confidence to invest more in the technology.

    The projection on big screens is what sells the whole effect–it’s what will get people out of their home theaters to see the films on IMAX. The majors have been looking for a reliable way to do this for years.

    It’s only the big studios that can support 3D films since the cameras are so expensive. There’s no way that the indies can afford the equipment, so the small filmmakers will still be doing things in 2D for many years to come. 

    Big Blockbusters – 3D. Everything Else – HD.


  8. @Savant – I agree with you about the whole focus issue, at times it was really distracting, mostly at the start of the movie. As the movie progressed I didn’t notice it so much, maybe my eyes had drifted onto auto pilot…. I am sure though that this was a learning experience for Cameron and his crew, and I am sure they will find better ways as directors to deal with this, regardlessly the technology will improve to the point 2D is at now.


    As for the costs, they will come down its just technology… give it 5 years (at most) and we will be picking up 3D camcorders for under a grand, which will be better than state of the art is now.

  9. Well, I will speak for the 10% or so of people out there.


    I cant see 3-D movies.   My brain doesnt process it.   My right eye is weaker than my left, so, 3-D movies do not work for me.  So it sucks.    Espically if movies go only 3-d.


    Plus, here in Canada we pay about 13 bucks a movie (where I live, Calgary), so, let’s add a few bucks more?    That sucks.  



  10. I’m one of those motion-sickness-prone people who had to leave Avatar in order to vomit. And I think savant was spot-on correct about the focus problem.

    Nevertheless, I’m sure 3D will strut and fret its hour upon  the stage as the latest fad, just as it did when Creature From the Black Lagoon was the newest thing.

    It might be nice if most movies and television went to 3D…then maybe I could get more reading done. 🙂

  11. What Savant said. That was my experience as well. I thought AVATAR had enough going for it (the visuals, at any rate) without the 3D. But at least they didn’t hand out those dorky cardboard “glasses.” So over that.

  12. Yikes, looks like a convention of ‘he-man 3D-haters club’ here.

    I’ve enjoyed all the non-blue/red 3D I’ve seen.  From whatever it was I saw at the 1984 World Exposition in New Orleans to Captain Eo to the Muppets movie/event at Disney World.  I liked Avatar and a few others I’ve seen with the latest theatre tech, and frankly I can’t wait to see more.

    I feel sorry for the people who get motion sickness or headaches, but then I assume once you know it causes that reaction you know to avoid it.  Certainly nobody will make you see a 3D movie.

  13. I haven’t seen Avatar yet. (I’m going this afternoon, actually.) But back in the 80s, I saw Friday the 13th Part 3D, which utilized the same grey-lensed glasses I’m lead to believe Avatar uses. The narrative of that film aside, it was an interesting experience, and it made me realize something that I think is being forgotten in the current discussion about Avatar and it’s this:

    Film is a 2D medium. The screen is FLAT. Anything that simulates 3D on a 2D medium is, at best, a hack. It’s a workaround to present the illusion of depth, but it isn’t actually depth. To me, a 3D experience means that if I move my POV, I ought to be able to see around and behind things. And a viewer shouldn’t need specialized eyewear to experience it. Like how our eyes work in the real world

    I’m not talking about a holodeck, but something more along the lines of the prototype Sony recently displayed. ( see ) Telling stories in this medium would be a new experience, not a clever trick to enhance what is, at core, a 2D presentation.

    I know that’s a pretty high threshold but this is a science fiction blog. We think and conceptualize the future, often dragging the rest of the culture behind us. I think our standards ought to be a lot higher and a lot more forward thinking.

  14. Eye dominance is a problem for some of us. The 3d effect is not as good as it could be due to these minor disabilities. Seems like others have had this problem with Avatar as well. In fact, the Avatar movie can even reveal your eye dominance issues apparently:


    On topic: Movies that could benefit from 3D:

    1. Bio-Dome
    2. Ishtar
    3. Battlefield Earth
    4. Glitter
    5. Rollerball
    6. Showgirls
    7. Gigli
    8. ….

    I could keep going? 😉

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