As a moviegoer in 2015, you can pay around a one-dollar premium for a 3D option. While the opportunity cost of a couple of Mi Goreng packets is small, a lot of us still refuse to pay for the extra dimension of cinema. Since their golden era in the early 1950s, 3D films have had a turbulent history. Every decade, it seems, Hollywood tries to bring 3D films back to the mainstream with incremental changes to the experience, and the resurgence usually deflates back to novelty status. Flagship 3D films like Avatar, Life of Pi, and Gravity demonstrate the commitment directors have made to cinematic innovation, but critics, including Roger Ebert, claim that the technology is dying an early death.
The stats agree with the critics here. 41 movies in 2012 had 3D attached to them, 2013 had 35, and 2014 had 28, and the regression isn’t hard to understand at all. Research based on Twitter dialogue reveals why audiences are turned off to 3D. People hate having to return the glasses after paying for the 3D ticket, the set pieces made purely to showcase 3D is superficial and superfluous, and the glasses are just straight up uncomfortable. More weighted criticism come from Ebert: It steals illumination from the screen, it adds nothing to the experience, and it’s just a marketing effort to charge more in box office receipts.
But, the way I see it, for an extra dollar and the agony of wearing plastic one-size-fits-none glasses for two hours, 3D is a bargain. These days, directors are aware that Spy Kids 3D premiered 12 years ago, and they understand the placidity movie-goers exhibit when an apparatus pops out from the screen, simply to get a reaction. In other words, 3D films in 2015 have matured, and 3D is used to make movies immersive and look sophisticated. Plus, you should do something different every once in a while—it’s a good life habit. You can’t get the unique 3D experience from streaming Putlocker on your laptop, so make the most of every cinema visit.
It was disappointing when The Hobbit trilogy received flak for the mix of 3D and 48fps picture. It made me think audiences just didn’t like change, rather than subscribing to a rational reason for their disdain. And, whether it’s a marketing tool or not, innovation in the movie experience is what keeps the cinema competitive to on demand online entertainment services, especially when devices are becoming more advanced in audio and visual technology. I can’t argue that we owe cinemas our unconditional customer loyalty purely because they’re trying, but we shouldn’t dismiss their cinematic enhancements as grand capitalist conspiracy.
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If you’ve been disenchanted by 3D over the past couple of years, there’s a long run of options to consider next year that will showcase the evolved role of 3D picture: Tintin right through to a Ben Hur remake. But, if nothing on the circuit jumps at you and you want to be convinced that 3D adds to the experience, check out Gaspar Noe’s Love in 3D. If you don’t know the work, you should do the research yourself, and then decide how far we’ve come since Spy Kids 3.
Hamish is working on a degree in finance, but spends his time writing up unpopular opinions on film instead.