3D? Not for me

Harriet Metcalfe analyses whether the hype surrounding 3D has held up since 2009.

Harriet Metcalfe
24th April 2020
Image Credit: IMDB
Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you saw a 3D film in the cinema? And was it, quite frankly, any bloody good?

I can’t quite figure out for the life of me why someone looked at a film and thought ‘you know what would make this better? If the lasers were shooting towards you instead of on-screen!’ My relationship with the whole concept isn’t the best; I sat through One Direction: The Movie, just to avoid going to see the film we’d accidentally booked in 3D (I had a song and a dance, but I still prefer The Wanted if I’m honest).

3D is a cash-grabbing scheme. Let’s re-release films for 3D! (see Titanic and Finding Nemo) Let’s give Michael Bay a reason to make even bigger explosions! (see Transformers: Age of Extinction) Audiences are drawn in by the promises of a whirlwind adventure that they’ll feel immersed in, and cinemas profited of the couple of quid we would all spend on the glasses that would inevitably break when you got home. Everyone thought it was a win-win situation.

And for a few years, it really was. 2009 saw the release Avatar, as one of the most ground-breaking and popular films in history. 3D worked so well with Cameron’s film because it was shot specifically for 3D, in stereoscope. It’s probably one of the many reasons why Avatar would go on to gross $2.7billion, and Iron Man 3 (whose 3D effects were added on after filming, rather than filmed in production) a mere $1.2billion in comparison. Whilst reports in the same year predicted the popularity of 3D would drop substantially, 2013’s Gravity saw Alfonso Cuarón use an incredible LightBox technique to alter the in-cinema effect to the extent that it made a more-than-applaudable $723million (its production budget was $100 million), as well as having Empire list it as their top film to watch in 3D, with Avatar in meek second-place.   

Almost all of the films released in 3D last year had 3D conversion done in post-production, and then released in IMAX – where cinema ticket prices almost double

But it’s been seven years since Gravity. Eleven since Avatar. And yet a quick search onto Wikipedia’s list of 3D films show far too many for my liking. Almost all of the films released in 3D last year had 3D conversion done in post-production, and then released in IMAX – where cinema ticket prices almost double. 3D isn’t an art form anymore, like Cameron might have once argued. It failed because studios saw an opportunity to hit the big bucks, even with a shit film, and they took it. Now, audiences are savvy. The internet’s come a long way since 2009, and if someone forks out the extra cash to see the latest release in 3D and doesn’t like it? They’ll be sure to let Twitter know.

Now there are a million and one ways to see a film. Cineworld alone have partner schemes that allow a film to be watched in… *deep breath* IMAX, 3D IMAX, Impact, 3D Impact, Superscreen, 3D Superscreen, 4DX, 3D 4DX (God knows what that one even is), and VIP Movie. What the hell happened to going to the cinema just to watch the latest trashy rom-com? When did it become a whole other language? I’ve only ever seen one film in Superscreen (Doctor Sleep) and even then it was accidental…

Maybe cinemas have been ahead of us this whole time, and they’re just prepping for the king of 3D films to come home, with James Cameron’s Avatar sequels. Or whatever they end up being. But until then, let’s leave 3D in the past. I doubt it’ll be anything new or exciting for another few years at least.

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AUTHOR: Harriet Metcalfe
English Literature BA student. Loves film, TV, books and coffee. Thinks "Thor: The Dark World" gets too much hate. Twitter: @hattiemetcalfe

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