“Avatar” comes back to the screen this week in 3D IMAX only (with nine new minutes) and box office returns are inflated with 3D glasses surcharges. Theater owners like 3D because of the extra charges and the push it gives to audiences who might otherwise wait a few months for the DVD. Home entertainment systems are working hard to bring 3D effects to your home. Studios take films that were shot “flat” and convert them post-production to 3D in films like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Clash of the Titans.” Some 3D movies set records (“Avatar”). Others flop (“The Last Airbender” — coincidentally previously named “Avatar”). Where is it all going?
Slate has a good discussion on the pros and cons of 3D with movie critic Dana Stevens and “Explainer” Daniel Engber. I especially liked Engber’s list of his favorite 3D scenes. The “Dial M for Murder” Grace Kelly scissors shot he mentions is a classic. However, while Alfred Hitchcock shot the film in 3D, it was not released that way until 1982, 38 years after it was made.
3D is like any other tool available to film-makers. It is only as good as the imagination and judgment of the people who are using it. This year, it was used poorly (any movie where it was added after shooting, though the rabbit hole scene in “Alice in Wonderland” had a nicely vertiginous thrill) and brilliantly (“Despicable Me” — be sure to stay for the credit sequence, which both makes fun of and makes perfect use of the technology).