Will the 3-D frenzy ruin the movies many of us enjoy?
3-D seems like mostly a trifling diversion now -- basically, as a filmgoer it means that you pay a few extra bucks, pick up a pair of glasses and watch some stunts unfold a little closer to your face.
For one thing, it's becoming pervasive to the point of ubiquity, or at least to the point where most of the big releases next holiday season and beyond will be in 3-D. The format won't be the exception -- it will be the norm.
But maybe more to the point, 3-D is changing how movies are written. As one screenwriter said -- in a piece we wrote for today's paper about how 3-D is changing the creative process (part of a larger Sunday LAT package on the new world of 3-D and all that it touches) -- many film scribes now actually insert 3-D moments the way a sitcom writer scripts one-liners.
Finally, 3-D pushes Hollywood further, and perhaps inexorably, in the direction of spectacle. As the writer Justin Marks puts it, "3-D continues to speak to the elimination of the middle creatively. If you don't have an action tentpole that can conceivably be thought of in 3-D, you may as well make small indie movies, because the studios aren't going to be that interested." Marks would know -- he's written a number of big-budget action movies, from Disney's stalled "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" to Sony's "Shadow of the Colossus."
So is all this good for our filmgoing experience? Some would say that it means studios are remaking themselves -- and theaters -- as retailers of experience as much of as cinema. And they'd have a point. After all, some of this feels just one step below a theme park ride; skeptics would be right to wonder if the moving seats from a Universal Studios simulator may not be far off. In fact, even as 3-D takes hold, some creative types wonder if they can create a visual spectacle that envelops the viewer from all directions, like a surround-sound for the eyes.
But then, it's worth keeping in mind the long view -- namely, that Hollywood has been trying to one-up itself on technology since sound came on the scene, and probably before. So the sky may be falling. But it's been falling for decades.
Besides, these things to tend to run in cycles. As one indie-film veteran we spoke to last week said, "I've seen it before. Just when Hollywood seems to be going for so many big-budget effects movies it looks like it will burst, people get tired of it, and storytelling, even restrained storytelling, makes a comeback." From his lips to studio executives' ears.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Credit: Lionsgate