One of my earliest movie-going experiences was seeing Jurassic Park in the theater in 1993. I was just shy of 7 years old when my parents told us we were taking a surprise trip somewhere secret. It was a month after a friend’s parents took me to see Super Mario Bros., so it didn’t take long to figure out where we were going based on the route.
I remember being in awe of the special effects in that first viewing. I think the scene where Timmy is electrocuted traumatized me somewhat. To this day that scene is hard to watch without tense muscles and an increased heart rate. After that first viewing, I became slightly obsessed with dinosaurs. I had a toy T-Rex named Mikey and when winter came around I carved out Jurassic Park in a mound of snow.
There’s a significant spot in my heart reserved for Jurassic Park and the fading memories of my childhood that it was a big part of. So, naturally, I was really excited to see it in the theater again. Unfortunately, in order to do that I was forced to support the never-ending fad of 3D.
I’ve seen more 3D movies this year than I have in my entire life and I still just don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, though. Seeing Jurassic Park on the big screen after so many years was fantastic. I’m very glad I saw it. But 3D added absolutely nothing to it. In fact, the only thing the 3D accomplished in Jurassic Park was that it made me question how my brain processes the images. In the end, I realized just how godawful the gimmick as a whole is.
I coughed at one point during the movie and, like a laggy hologram in a movie that’s set in a dystopian future where nothing works, the illusion of 3 dimensions was shattered. Is this the same for everyone? Moving my head slightly caused the view of the screen to change from 3D to a blurry mess that lasted just long enough for my vision to register it but not long enough to really obstruct my viewing. It was like randomly rediscovering a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth intermittently for a little over 2 hours.
The biggest issue I have with 3D, however, is the blemishes that show up in the foreground images whenever the screen pans. The foreground image becomes horribly out of focus whenever the camera moves. I’ve noticed this in several other movies and it’s really irritating.
I don’t know if that’s a flaw in the technology or in my perception of the movie. If it’s the former then it’s a pretty good indicator that movies that weren’t shot in 3D should never be converted. Obviously if a specific part of the screen is the focal point of the scene, a 3D conversion isn’t going to magically refocus the camera. But the point of 3D is to add a new level of immersion to the audience’s experience. It makes no sense to draw our attention to something that’s blurry and insignificant for the sake of faux immersion.
Another big issue is the darker lighting of 3D movies. It’s a deal breaker for many people. The reasons behind 3D movies being so dark are split between the theater projecting two images and the dimming effects of the tinted glasses themselves. As a result, the audience ends up seeing 1/3 of the lighting compared to traditional 2D cinema.
If the movie is filmed specifically for 3D, like Avatar, the filmmakers can compensate for the lighting. They can’t do that with the movies Hollywood is hellbent on rereleasing in 3D, though. Theaters can use brighter projectors that can help somewhat. But why bother? Theaters have enough to deal with considering the hits they take from piracy and on-demand home viewing. Why should they shell out money for something that can help correct something the filmmakers overlooked?
To date, Avatar has been the only movie I’ve seen in 3D where I felt like the 3D actually added something to the experience. Given how I feel about Avatar as a movie, I think it serves as a good metaphor for what 3D truly is. It’s a crutch for filmmakers who want to substitute conventional storytelling for fake depth at a higher markup.
I’ve now seen Avatar, The Polar Express, The Hobbit, Monsters Inc. and Jurassic Park all in 3D. Each experience has been more annoying than the last. Even with The Hobbit (a movie I genuinely enjoyed), I felt like I would have had a better time without big plastic glasses resting awkwardly on my face on top of my normal glasses. In fact, watching The Hobbit in 3D took me out of the movie more than it immersed me in it.
In the end, Hollywood can keep converting their best films to 3D but I doubt I’ll bother with them anymore. I don’t need to feel like Diane Keaton is slightly closer to me while Al Pacino closes the door on her at the end of The Godfather Part II to get the significance behind it. And I damn sure wouldn’t pay extra to see it and risk having a negative theater experience with a movie I love.