Is there any point to making 3D versions of films?

Paul looking surprised to be wearing 3D glasses?

Tomorrow, Paul, my mum, my middle brother and I will be off to see Thor… in 3D. Now apart from the issue that everyone in our party of cinema goers, except for me, does not have stellar eyesight and has to wear glasses or contact lenses in order to watch anything (and in the case of my mum, can’t see a thing without her glasses) – I will ignore what I have been told about how annoying it is to wear 3D glasses over regular glasses.

This post is about whether there really is much point in making 3D versions of films. ‘Cause you know what, there are plenty of people who don’t think there is and I’m one of them.

I’ve seen a few 3D films over the last year or so; of the ones that I remember: Avatar, Up, The Final Destination and The Green Hornet – only The Final Destination has struck me as one that played with 3D in terms of how the direction of the cinematography was led. The other three failed to go beyond “making things look pretty” (especially Avatar).

According to a blog post from earlier this year by Scott Mendelson, there are at least thirty-two films being released in 3D this year. He also examined how much 3D films amp up the cost of going to the cinema – not something the industry should be doing too much of in these uncertain financial times. And with so many films out in 3D this year, just where are the none 3D loving crowd meant to go and watch their 2D flicks? After all, who’s going to have space for a 2D version when cinemas that keep up with major releases are going to have at least one 3D film on at all times.

Paul and mine’s local cinema (Truro Plaza) has two 3D films on this week. It’s not showing any 2D versions of either Rio or Thor. And Rio is a film aimed at kids who shouldn’t be watching films in 3D, because they’re either too young to do so or will probably find it uncomfortable to wear the glasses.

But it’s not just small children or people with health problems who have problems watching 3D… we all do. Earlier this year Walter Murch, a sound editor responsible for such iconic films such as Apocalypse Now, wrote to Roger Ebert about “Why 3D doesn’t work and never will“. It makes for some interesting reading. Basically, 3D tech can work to a certain extent, but it’s more hassle on our eyes and brains than is worth the hassle of actually watching films in 3D.

And so why are Hollywood studios seemingly rolling out the 3D bandwagon left right and centre? It’s probably down to marketing. There’s a bunch of marketing busy bodies lurking about, who keep saying that films need 3D in order to have a USP (unique selling point). Because obviously having a decent story, direction and acting isn’t what makes a film great /sarcasm.

The late, great Bill Hicks has something to say about people in marketing, which is entirely relevant at this point (if you are easily offended, best not to watch the clip):

Now, if there’s no marketing budget involved, then it’s probably safe…

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