Pop Culture

6 Reasons Why 3D Has Failed

It looks like the 3D phenomenon that (re)started a few years back may finally be on the way out. A chief sign of this is Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's admission that the recent 3D boom "is perhaps slightly on the wane again." We should all understand by now that when someone whose company manufactures 3D products and has tried to run with the 3D torch as far as it could be carried finally, grudgingly admits that the 3D phenomenon is "slightly on the wane," that means the technology is for shit, the bottom is falling out and it's all downhill from here.

Of course, many of us knew from the get-go that the resurgence of 3D would be a very temporary thing. We knew this because:

6. 3D-ification Drives Up Prices Not to be the umpteenth person today who tells you that we're in the middle of a recession, but: We're in the middle of a recession. People just don't have as much disposable income as they used to, and that means certain luxuries start getting cut. First among those: entertainment. Or at least pricey entertainment. You may splurge for 3D on huge "event" movies, but nobody going in to see Tyler Perry's Madea Farts Forever in a Poopy Haze of Mediocrity wants to pay upwards of 12 bucks for their movie ticket when the standard price tag will be more than enough of a letdown and ripoff.

5. Motion Sickness Sucks Dramamine is not cheap, and even films on a standard big screen can cause upheaval in our stomachs; just ask people who had to run out of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield with their hands firmly clasped over their mouths fighting back a jet-spray of popcorn and Twizzlers. 3D turns the dizziness and nausea that was formerly only the hallmark of certain shaky-cam, documentary-style films into the standard.

Wouldn't it be dizzying enough to see web-swinging through the eyes of The Amazing Spiderman without the 3D sensation of buildings actually whizzing past us while we plummet and soar in parabolic arcs down 57th Street? Thrilling for a few, sure, but for the rest of us who prefer to stay firmly on terra firma, not the ideal moviegoing experience.

4. The Glasses Are a Pain in the Ass I don't care that the glasses make you look stupid, but unless you're a habitual glasses-wearer, the sensation is bizarre and off-putting. They sit heavily on your head and if the 3D is particularly bad, you'll be fidgeting with them throughout the film trying to get a good look at what's going on. The glasses can also slightly distort the screen image, making it seem slightly concave and smaller in scope. Not fun.

3. The Market Is Oversaturated Hollywood studio executives suffer from two pathological obsessions: the need to cram whatever the new trend is down our throats and squeeze as much money out of it as quickly as possible before the novelty wears off, and the need to inflate box office totals by any means necessary. This led to numerous films that had no business being shown in 3D to be reformatted as 3D films so that a) they could slap "In 3D!" onto the commercials, and so that b) they could stick a few extra bucks onto the ticket price, thereby inflating sales numbers.

Of course, this stopped working once people caught on that most modern 3D is done really, really poorly, because:

2. It's Usually Hastily Tacked On and/or Badly Done The brick-stupid 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans was justifiably reamed by critics across the board, and one thing in particular that drew their ire was how badly the 3D was done. It surprised no one to learn that the film had been converted at the last minute to the 3D format, which meant that because it wasn't shot in the actual format but was in fact spliced up afterward, it looked like utter shit.

Motion-tracking problems, poorly defined edges and an overall darkness are common problems in hastily converted 3D films, and as the 3D trend threatened to reach its apex, the movie studios started converting more and more of them post-filming, desperate to cash in before people wised up. For every well-made Avatar, there were several dozen slapdash A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmases.

1. By Putting You In the Story, It Kind of Takes You Out of the Story Watching a standard film and losing yourself in the storyline puts you, mentally, into a kind of neutral space where only the story exists. You're fully immersed inside that world, which is why it's such a drag when somebody near you starts talking on their phone or a baby starts crying or a dozen youths in puffy jackets start shouting Flo Rida lyrics at the screen -- this really happened -- while you're trying to maintain said immersion.

You know what else shatters that immersion? An axe, pie or breast flying directly at your face. Sure, it startles you for a second, but once that thrill has passed, you're palpably reminded that it wasn't real by the fact that nothing actually hit you, which pulls you back out of the movie. There are only two ways to fix this: rig movie theaters up with actual weapons, pastries or boobs that really fly at theatergoers, or just stop it with the 3D already.

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John Seaborn Gray