I'm a pack rat. I must have five pairs of Pizza Hut/7Eleven/Burger King 3D glasses somewhere in my house. (I've been a vegetarian for 17 years, which tells you how long I've had the Burger King ones.) I remember sitting on my couch, eating popcorn and watching 3D horror films on television, where the only cool gag was a guy launching a pole at you right before the commercial break. But it looks like we are about to enter a third dimension revolution. The new generation of 3D has arrived in films like Bolt, the upcoming Monsters vs. Aliens and the highly anticipated James Cameron film, Avatar. Are you ready?
At a Comic Con preview day for Paramount, I, along with a bunch of other reporters, got to speak to Jeffery Katzenberg, Dreamworks CEO, and sneak a peak at Monsters vs. Aliens, an animated film that's a take-off on the old B Movies like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Blob. And of course, brand new 3D technology comes with brand new 3D glasses. No cardboard and cellophane specs here. The glasses we were given were real. Though, as another reporter pointed out, it's hard to use them if you already wear glasses, the fear of nasal paper cuts is gone forever. Katzenberg went so far as to say that he had a deal with optical company Luxotica to create a line of 3D fashion shades. (See my original article here.) He believes that people will have their own "movie glasses," like they have their own tennis rackets. (Um, I don't actually know anyone who has their own tennis racket, but whatever.)
We got to try the new 3D camera, the most expensive toy I've ever played with. Then we got to see the final product. Gone are the ghosting images, the red and blue-rimmed actors. This 3D was crisp, clean and stunningly immersive. I was completely blown away. It was like the animated characters were putting on a little play in front of me. To date, I've seen a clips from Kung Fu Panda, (which they used as a practice piece) and Monsters vs. Aliens, and Bolt in it's entirety. None of what I've seen seems to be relying on "in your face, literally" gags. In fact everyone has made a really big deal about how they're not trying to make you jump, or impress you by throwing stuff at your face.
I'm of two minds about this. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen in the beginning, and later on, I forgot I was watching a film in 3D. (And if the estimated additional cost of a 3D animated film is around $15,000,000, I don't think that's the response you want.) I wanted to be scared. I wanted to jump. That's the fun of 3D, isn't it? But it's true that you can't rely on gags for your film. During our interview, Seth Rogan, who plays B.O.B. in Monsters vs. Aliens, told us that in his opinion, 3D isn't going to save a bad film. I totally agree. But will it just be a trend? Considering the amount of money the studios are putting into opening 3D theaters around the country, they'd better hope not.
The author with B.O.B.
All new Disney films are coming out in 3D. All three Toy Story films are either being produced or updated in 3D, Pixar is following suit, and then there is the super secretive Avatar. In an article from First Showing, James Cameron is reported to have said that the other studios have gotten it wrong by using 3D as a gimmick. He says Avatar would be a groundbreaking film, even without the 3D. It seems to me that the studios are almost apologizing for using the technology while trying to get us to accept it as the new thing. "No gags here." "It's a not a gimmick." Seriously, then why use it at all? Have fun with it. That's the whole point.
Another thing the studios don't want to talk about is that this is probably going to raise ticket prices. Not a good plan in this economy. And how much are my "movie glasses" going to cost? Please don't get me wrong. I think it's really cool. And if you find a way to do it without getting me nauseous, (the clips didn't make me ill, but seeing an entire movie did) I'm all for new technology. I'm just not sure every film from here on out needs to be in 3D. Maybe try a few and see how it goes before you announce a new line of 3D Prada shades. Saying something is the wave of the future is the fastest way to get it to tank. Just so you know, I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to hear some public opinion on this. Anyone want to weigh in?