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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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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.


Will 'Alice in Wonderland' start a DVD window revolution?

'Transformers 3': Will John Malkovich and Frances McDormand get a robot-sized paycheck?

'Clash of the Titans' 3-D conversion gets a very lackluster review

Is Jim Cameron talking out of both sides of his mouth on 3-D conversions?

Photo of Michael Bay by Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

Comments () | Archives (27)

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Good for Bay! Hollywood is going to wreck movie goer's perception of 3-D with these ridiculous conversions.

Everything he does is a gimmick! Really, I can't imagine a film more 'suited' to 'fake 3D' than Michael Bay's Transformers. Everything about the Transformers movies are fake and gimmicky.

ALICE was a 3D conversion. Didn't seem to hurt that picture's BO.

I live in Santa Monica, so I pass by Bay's office daily. Every time I do, I think about throwing a steaming bag of doggie-doo through the window, but then I figure, "Who'd notice?"

I'm glad they agree on something, but Bay's not really in Cameron's league. I have a hard time believing 3-D is going to compromise the artistic integrity of Transformers 3.

I totally agree. Alice in Wonderland had terrible 3D conversion that simply didn't work. I would much rather have seen it in IMAX 2D.

Best line of the article: "Though he's an unlikely voice when it comes to issues of artistic merit". Classic!

I never thought I'd say this, but I agree with Michael Bay here. This rush to bring everything that is coming out (or being reissued) in 3-D (whether it was shot that way originally or not) could backfire from the studios' penchant for overkill. I recently saw "Alice in Wonderland" and it was obvious that it was converted to 3-D in many shots, and it did not look convincing. Of course, the movie itself was pretty lackluster, and the 3-D IMAX didn't improve what was essentially a weak concept with a script that seemed to have been written by committee. The script to "Avatar" was at times pretty thin and derivative, but the visual concepts and direction were executed brilliantly; I enjoyed being drawn into the world Cameron and his crew created. It seems 3-D may be to this new decade what CGI was to the previous decade: a poor excuse to make up for lousy writing and even lousier filmmaking as a way of getting people into the overpriced theaters.

Hot, sizzling, explosive Bay!

I want bigger explosions.

For someone who doesn't like Michael Bay you sure have a lot of posts about him. I am not a fan of Bay per se, but I do find it amusing how much he is bashed by bloggers and critics. He gives people what they want and does it well.... nothing wrong with that. I don't see a lot of interviews with Bay around and would appreciate it if you would interview him for one of your columns/posts.

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