There’s been a lot of hype about 3d and how its the future of cinema, some people have even gone as far as saying that it will become the future of both television and computer displays within the next decade, so I couldn’t help but go and see the 3d experience for myself yesterday.
I’d recently had a discussion recently a friend on the board of the Tyneside Cinema, and he had told me that there were a couple of competing new technologies out there, but the James Cameron movie Avatar, was the big real-3d spectacular that everyone was waiting for. The temptation with 3d is to want to create a story around a set of 3d effects that you want to show off, with spears being thrown out into the audience or big explosive effects, but Cameron above all things is a storyteller, so if anyone was going to make a movie that would use 3d to make the telling of a story stronger and not to manufacture a story around a set of effect it would be Cameron. That being said, Cameron also has an impressive track record when it comes to making big budget effect movies having written, directed and produced, The Abyss, Aliens and Titanic to name but a few.
So did Avatar live up to expectations? For me it would have to be an unequivocal yes. The movie not only seamlessly integrated computer generated worlds and real world footage, but it integrated both into a pretty good 3d experience. Cameron’s genius in story telling gave this movie the appearance of a movie crafted by someone who’d honed his skills in 3d over a life time, rather that the reality of it being a landmark movie. There were great effects, in fact a couple of times i found myself ducking to dodge some of the projectiles coming out of the screen, but what impressed me most was the subtleties that 3d brought to bring the planet “Pandora” to life. Not only did they create a new race of people for the movie, but an entire eco system, I especially liked the idea of the fluorescent moss on the trees that glowed after someone stood on in, and the way that several species had similar traits like double sets of limbs, and the storytelling was fabulously delicate, the bonding between the species that was integral to the story in a myriad way, but Cameron introduced it slowly enough that the audience realized this for themselves long before they were old about it.
Of course 3D isn’t particularly new, i remember going to see Jaws 3d almost 20 years ago, back then they used the old fashioned red/blue lense disposable glasses. there weren’t particularly comfortable to wear, and from what i remember there were only a few scenes in the movie that actually used the 3d effects. I’m pleased to report that the new glasses were a huge improvement, much sturdier, almost like sunglasses that are recycled after each show, i’m guessing with some sort of plain porarised lenses to create the 3d effect.
Was 3d the perfect cinematic experience? Well while it was quite good, the big problem for me was that everyone was wearing dark glasses, and going to the cinema is about a shared experience, its about laughing with the rest of the audience or those fleeting moments when something happens on screen and you turn and look at your friends and see that shared smile or the tear in their eye. The other problem I had with the 3d itself was that it became a little distracting when items where only partially in shot , when objects moved into or out of shot, or when I moved my head and the perspective didn’t move with me, there were also less notable problems with shadows and light effects in the 3d areas.
To sum up, Avatar is a fantastic movie, i’d put it in my top 20 movies, it has some great effects, and the 3d added to the story telling rather than detracting from, 3d glasses have improved a lot in the last 20 years, and i could imagine there being a huge market for designer 3d glasses for next years must have Christmas gift, but i hope that film makers will use it sparingly for movies that will benefit from the added depth rather just for the sake of having the movie in 3d and I don’t think we’ll be tuning into the news at 10 in 3d anytime soon, or donning those 3d glasses to knockout a bit of excel or powerpoint.