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Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 07/27/2010

At Comic-Con, evidence of our love-hate relationship with 3D

By Jen Chaney

The 3D glasses. Oh, they're on. (AP)

At Comic-Con 2009, 3D movies asserted themselves as the latest eye-popping trend in Hollywood. Thanks to previews of pop-up-book-like films such as "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland," it became clear that 3D had arrived as a force, a force big enough to compel Comic-Con planners to convert the San Diego Convention Center's big flick-previewing auditorium, Hall H, into a 3D theater. But perhaps what wasn't as clear at the time? How much those multi-dimensions would alter the movie-making and viewing experience, and how conflicted we'd feel about that.


At Comic-Con 2010, a year after that 3D watershed moment, nearly half of the movies previewed in Hall H -- from "Megamind" to "Captain America" to "Drive Angry 3D" -- required the visual aid of those special glasses. And, depending on what they were promoting, filmmakers either touted the magic of this new technology, or proudly boasted that they were still doing things the old-fashioned way.

While hyping "Resident Evil: Afterlife," director Paul W.S. Anderson referred to 3D as a paradigm shift and called it "a new benchmark for how movies are made." The crew behind "Tron: Legacy," not surprisingly, also touted the power of the 3D experience.

At the same time, Edgar Wright asked the Comic-Con crowd if they were eager to see something that didn't require "sunglasses" before unleashing footage of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." The response from the crowd? An affirmative yes. And while laying the early publicity groundwork for his "Cowboys & Aliens," which opens in July 2011, Jon Favreau said his film would not come with that extra sense of visual scope because he did not think it would be appropriate to shoot a Western in 3D or convert it after the fact. "Coming next year in 2D!" he ultimately offered as a marketing tagline. "Save money and see it twice."

But perhaps the best illustration of the conflicting attitudes toward this revenue-generating phenomenon came during a panel with J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. When Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen asked the objects of geek worship how they feel about 3D, Whedon said he loves it, while Abrams said he doesn't care for the way it mutes the vibrancy of the original film image. (It's worth noting that Abrams's upcoming "Super 8" will be in 2D, while the Whedon-produced "The Cabin in the Woods" is slated for a 3D release, assuming MGM can get its act together and put the horror flick in theaters.)

When Jensen asked Abrams if he thinks 3D will permanently alter the way movies are made, all he could say was, "I don't know."

Honestly, I don't think audiences know either. On one hand, the Comic-Conners all seem to love the in-your-faceness of 3D imagery. Yet everytime a Wright or a Favreau boasted of doing things old-school, that earned applause, too.

In other words, we all love the technology. But it seems we also love the purity of old-fashioned filmmaking just as much. The question is whether both things can co-exist.

Where do you stand on 3D? Love it? Think it's a gimmick? Or are you, like so many others, caught somewhere in that mushy multiplex middle?

By Jen Chaney  | July 27, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Comic-Con, Movies, Pop Culture  
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I, for one, will welcome the day that I finally get to see "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House Of Stewardesses" in glorious 3-D, if only Bruno would bring me my glasses.

Posted by: byoolin1 | July 27, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I wear glasses; having to wedge 3-D glasses on over or under or somehow around my own pair is a pain in the butt. And there's something about the tech that makes my eyes hurt; I have a friend who can't watch 3D because he gets wicked headaches.

Also? Expensive. I'll pass, thanks.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | July 27, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I prefer "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Pancakes."

Bawlmer, my wife can't watch 3-D movies either. Too gimmicky, in my view.

If a movie requires special glasses to make it enjoyable, we have bigger problems than whether or not people like the concept.

That is, until the technology exists to implant 3-D into our eyeballs. And when that happens, I'll stop watching new movies altogether and stick to classics.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | July 27, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

While 3-D does have the ability to enhance the visual experience, there are several negatives to the experience.

1. The added visual experience does not offset the added charges at the box office. I can see 3, normal 2-D movies for the price of 2, 3-D movies. In this economy, a no-brainer. Especially if I'm also paying for my date.

2. As Bawlmer51 notes, those of us who wear visual prostheses (glasses & contacts) do NOT get the same experience as the uncorrected vision crowd. The 3-D goggles are uncomfortable, don't fit right, and do not function correctly due to changes in focal length that vision corrections cause. I don't see Paul W.S. Anderson, James Cameron, or Joss Whedon wearing glasses, which probably explains why they are so enamored with it. On the other hand, J.J. Abrams doesn't care for it and he wears glasses. Get the picture?

3. Finally, it IS a gimmick, and illusion. It is NOT truely 3-D. You can't move your view point and see the sides, or the back, of the objects being viewed. Furthermore, edge-effects due to piss-poor frame setting kill the beleiveability of 3-D. There is nothing more distracting than to see a 3-D object get sliced, vanished, or 2-Ded at the edge of the screen. This happens with the best of directors; but most often when applied as a post-production technique.

No, while 3-D may have a purpose in enhancing the viewer's focus on important parts of a shot, it is not the end-all, be-all of cinema, and it isn't a cost effective replacement for even most of 2-D film.

Posted by: mhoust | July 27, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

for films built for it - like Battle Angel - it's great... except for those of us who get sick watching.

I'm looking forward to Weekend at Bernies III-D myself -- if i'm going to be sick watching, everyone else should be sick watching too (if not for quite the same reason).

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | July 27, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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