Michael Bay on 3-D conversion: 'Right now, it looks like fake 3-D'
When Hollywood finds a new way to print money, they really go for the gold -- as in bullion. That's what's happening now as the studios have realized what a gold mine they have in 3-D, which is creating box-office bonanzas thanks to its premium ticket prices. So now a host of films are being slated for 3-D, with Sony going the 3-D route for "Popeye," Fox leaning toward 3-D conversions for its "Narnia" sequel, Disney doing the same for its "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel and Warners having already announced that it will have (count 'em) nine 3-D titles in release in 2011.
Jim Cameron has already loudly voiced skepticism about the artistic merits of the process. And now he has a formidable new ally: Michael Bay. According to this well-reported piece by Deadline's Mike Fleming, Bay is in the midst of a high-stakes tug of war with Paramount over whether he's willing to allow the studio to convert his upcoming "Transformers 3" film to 3-D. Though he's an unlikely voice when it comes to issues of artistic merit, Bay is nothing if not blunt about his reservations, offering the most cogent argument yet against the 3D conversion process:
"I shoot complicated stuff, I put real elements into action scenes and honestly, I am not sold right now on the conversion process.... Right now, it looks like fake 3-D, with layers that are very apparent. You go to the screening room, you are hoping to be thrilled, and you're thinking, huh, this kind of sucks. People can say what they want about my movies, but they are technically precise, and if this isn't going to be excellent, I don't want to do it. And it is my choice.... I'm used to having the A-team working on my films, and I'm going to hand it over to the D-team, have it shipped to India and hope for the best? This conversion process is always going to be inferior to shooting in real 3-D. Studios might be willing to sacrifice the look and use the gimmick to make $3 more a ticket, but I'm not."
It sounds like Bay has laid down the gauntlet. Whatever you think of his films' aesthetic qualities -- and I'm obviously not a fan -- you have to respect Bay for using his clout he's earned from a string of box-office hits to take a stand against cheesy 3-D conversions. I suspect a lot is riding on the audience reaction to the April 2 release of "Clash of the Titans," which Warners hastily converted to 3-D in the wake of the "Avatar" box-office blitzkrieg. If the movie's business falls off in its second weekend, after word gets around that the 3-D effects aren't worth an extra three bucks, we could suddenly be seeing a lot more filmmakers with the guts Bay has shown by taking a stand against turning his movie into another cash cow.
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Photo of Michael Bay by Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.