The new technology is already old again
Saying that Hollywood is rarely original is an understatement, but nothing has driven that point home more than the recent market saturation of 3D. While James Cameron’s Avatar did not secure him another Best Picture Oscar, it did launch a new wave of band-wagon jumping that is not currently showing signs of slowing.
Believe it or not, 3D films have been around for over a century, and the popularity of the format seems to come and go in waves. Avatar‘s successful use of the technology led to 25 films being released in 3D in 2010 alone. That’s more than the previous five years combined. At least 40 films are expected to come out this year in 3D, including at least one porno (yuck), and more than a dozen films are currently scheduled for 2012.
Meanwhile, companies like Panasonic have begun marketing 3D Cameras to “prosumers” and nearly every TV and game maker is rabidly trying to release their latest device with 3D tech. While there is almost certainly potential in gaming, I think most people who drop six grand a 3D TV are going to be kicking themselves in a year or two. There will always be technophiles who have to have the latest thing on the market, and 3D TV seem like a way to milk more money out of these people as TVs have reached their maximum practical sizes and 2K/4K remains years away from being consumer-friendly.
But as far as the movies themselves are concerned, I have a few issues with this new craze and it all starts at the theaters. While I still enjoy a good 3D movie, the problem is finding one. Major studios seem to be competing to see who can come up with the most gratuitous and absurd use of 3D to sell overpriced tickets to otherwise insignificant films. My vote currently goes to Touchstone for unleashing Step Up 3D upon the world. Then there are the movies that could be good on their own but, in an effort to join the trend, are converted to 3D in post-production. I have yet to see a film that was originally flat and then converted that made any decent use of 3D.
The real problem seems to be this prevalent idea that movies have to be in 3D now or they risk being considered outdated. This is complete bullshit of course. Good movies don’t need to pop off the screen to be enjoyable, but bad ones need it to be marketable. So as long as 3D remains the latest trend in Hollywood, we moviegoers will likely be forced to pay more to see good movies that don’t require gimmicks and bad ones that use them as a crutch.
I don’t expect 3D to go away anytime soon, but I expect in a few years it will once again be mostly relegated to children’s movies and documentaries shown only at science center IMAX theaters. In the meantime, if nothing else, the format has the benefit of highlighting many of the bad movies that are going to be put out in the next few years. I would suggest avoiding movies that have 3D in the title. The good ones don’t need it.