Everyone's favourite bequiffed film critic Mark Kermode has seen the future of cinema - and it's flat, flat, flat. Here he explains why.
1 It’s not the future — it’s the past
3D movies are as old as cinema itself. Throughout the 20th century, the format waxed and waned on several occasions, from the Oscar-nominated short Audioscopiks (1935), the “lion in your lap” adventure Bwana Devil (1952) and the eyeball-gouging schlocker Friday the 13th Part III: 3D (1982). Audience enthusiasm for 3D, however, has never been more than passing. Avatar may have been a huge 3D hit in 2009 and 2010, but by 2011, audiences were voting with their feet, preferring to watch films like Cars 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 2D.
2 Studios want 3D; audiences don’t
The driving force behind every 3D boom has been financial rather than artistic. In the Fifties, film studios turned to it in response to the rise of TV; in the Eighties, it was used to counter the growing popularity of home video. The most recent craze was spearheaded by a need to crack down on piracy. Audience desires don’t come into it.
3 Who turned out the lights?
There’s a reason why Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the “darkest” episode in the blockbusting franchise, and it has nothing to do with the evil power of Lord Voldemort. Watching a movie through 3D glasses leads to massive light loss, which causes the picture to look gloomy and under-lit. It can also cause ghosting, double vision, eyestrain, headaches and presents particular problems for those who already wear glasses. Boo!
4 It is not “immersive”
When was the last time you heard someone say: “I really liked that film, but I couldn’t get immersed because it was in 2D”? Film-makers as diverse as John Lasseter and Martin Scorsese point to Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder as proof of the technique’s “immersive potential”. Important fact: after making Dial M, Hitchcock gave up on 3D.
5 Conversions suck - and everyone knows it
Having decided that all blockbusters must be in 3D, ham-fisted Hollywood executives have forced film-makers to retro-fit the effect onto 2D movies, with disastrous results. Prime examples include 2010’s Clash of the Titans, of which director Louis Leterrier declared: “It was not my decision to convert it into 3D. I was saying to them: ‘Don’t make it look so much like a View-Master — so puffed up.’”
6 The most successful 3Dmovie ever made...
... in terms of cost-to-profit ratio was The Stewardesses, a 1969 sexploitation feature, which offered flying stereoscopic knockers and somebody “making out” with a table lamp.
7 The best 3D movie ever made...
... was House of Wax (1953), directed by André de Toth, who only had one eye and therefore couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.
The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? by Mark Kermode (Random House) is out now