10/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

3D: Not the Next Big Thing

This has been the summer of digital 3D, from early releases like Up to last weekend's The Final Destination to the growing drumbeat for James Cameron's much-anticipated Avatar, which began at Comic-Con and will crescendo with the film's year-end release.

A recent Newsweek article touted the imminent arrival of 3D TV -- which would, of course, require new TV sets, receivers and DVD players.

Not to mention, of course, the glasses.

Ah, the glasses. There's the rub.

Because no matter how open I am to 3D -- to what some have referred to as an "immersive experience" -- I still can't get past the glasses.

Glasses = gimmick.

Certainly, 3D can enhance the experience. But should it define the experience? More to the point, how important is a work of art that requires special equipment to be able to truly enjoy it -- beyond one's eyes, ears and brain?

At its best, film should already be an immersive experience. Indeed, that's true of the best examples of any art. Whether it's a great book, a soulful piece of music, a transcendent painting or a significant film: The definition of art is its ability to reach you in a way that takes you out of yourself, out of your own head, out of your everyday life, and puts you squarely in the realm of the artist.

I haven't seen the Avatar footage. And I would certainly never bet against James Cameron, a visionary director who makes me glad that my career as a critic has overlapped with his as a filmmaker. (I feel the same way about a couple of other directors, a short list that starts with Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen.)

If anyone can create a digital 3D method that pulls you into his make-believe world in a way no one has before, it's Cameron. I'm anxious to see it.

But if Avatar turns out to be a great film, I'm betting it's not because of the technology. It never is.

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