How Jurassic Park Confirmed My Hatred of 3D

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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?

Screenshot_2013-04-05-13-20-07-1To 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.

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13 responses to “How Jurassic Park Confirmed My Hatred of 3D

  1. 3D is kind of like Bluray to me, where only certain types of movies geared to be seen in that way will succeed. I remember seeing Journey to the Center of the Earth in theatres and that was an exciting experience because it was meant for the effects to “pop out” and amaze or startle the audience. Same goes for Avatar, it definitely contributed it to it. Animations also can be geared well..like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. That was a fun experience as well.

    I think its the factor of restoring movies to 3D. It doesn’t work that way originally and therefore, it doesn’t really have the same effect.

    Great post 🙂 I avoided Jurassic Park 3D because of the exact reasons why you didn’t like it…

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    • Thanks Kim! I agree, animation works well with 3D. I’m just so tired of Hollywood shoving it down our throats that even if something truly amazing comes out in 3D, it’ll be unfairly judged against the years of cash-ins that Hollywood has been pumping out.

      I think it’s funny whenever a 3D movie has 3D trailers playing before it. Seeing an action-heavy group of scenes cut together in a 2 minute trailer in 3D only makes me dizzy and annoyed.

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  2. I feel the same way as you. I’ve never really been a fan of 3D either. I enjoyed Avatar in 3D and that’s about it. Avatar to me felt more like an experience than a movie. You go and see it on the big screen in 3D and it’s fun, but the movie itself isn’t very good. I kind of view it like a theme park ride in that sense. I’m glad to see that you’re a Jurassic Park fan. I recently picked it up on Blu-ray and watched it for the first time in like 12 or 13 years. Such an amazing and fun film. I was 4 when it was in theaters. It’s disappointing that the sequels never managed to compare with the original.

    Speaking of 3D, you mentioned in one of your other posts that you plan on seeing Iron Man 3 in IMAX. Is it going to be in IMAX without the 3D? Skyfall was my first IMAX film and I thought about seeing Iron Man 3 in IMAX as well but everywhere I look it only says IMAX 3D. I have no interest in seeing it if it is only in 3D.

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    • I live near the only 70mm IMAX theater in my state (the largest screen in the state as well). I doubt they’ll play it in 2D there, unfortunately. Before I saw Jurassic Park, I figured I’d suck it up and watch Iron Man 3 in 3D for the sake of seeing it in IMAX but I think I’m going to adopt a strict “no 3D” policy for a while. I trust my regular theaters to provide a fine enough experience. It just annoys me how greedy Hollywood can be. It’s a harsh reminder that it’s often a business first.

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  3. I enjoy 3D but only when it adds something to the film. Avatar, like you said is one of those films and Transformers: Dark of the Moon is another one which became really detailed and immersive. I would also recommend Life of Pi in 3D as this is another film which really benefits from having the effect used.

    I personally think 3D works best in the horror genre when it can be used to its best, body parts flying out the screen, blood splattering everywhere – it makes much more sense to use it in what most people would call the ‘cheap’ sense because it then becomes a novelty, an exciting prospect rather than the irritating annoyance it has seemingly become.

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    • I absolutely agree with you about horror genre 3D. They seem to be trying to force us to see 3D as more than a gimmick. It can be, at times. But it’s rare and oftentimes it just comes across as pointless. Embracing it as a gimmick can create some really fun theater experiences.

      I will say that Life of Pi is one movie I regret not seeing in the theater. I would have shelled out the money for 3D as well because that movie was so beautifully made. I need to buy the blu-ray, now that I think about it.

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  4. The problem we face against 3D movies is that it isn’t just “Hollywood” forcing 3D on us. Movie theaters have all spent several thousand dollars to have screens and equipment converted to handle 3D movies, and with the decline of theater attendance, some theaters are STILL struggling to recoup the money spent overhauling their theaters. Movie theaters and Hollywood are most definitely working together to keep this thing going despite the evidence that people aren’t seeing 3D movies as often as they initially were and most definitely won’t continue to do.

    So what do we do?

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    • Really good point, Mike. There’s really nothing we can do except let our wallets do out talking for us. If people don’t see 3D movies, I have to assume the powers that be will cut their losses. You’d think so, at least.

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