Visiting our friends Bob and Susan in California, we decided to see Up. Half of us wanted to see the 3-D version, one of us didn’t care, one of us wanted to see the actual, real movie. (No points for guessing which one was me…) As the anti-3-D contingent was outnumbered, 3-D it was.
I hadn’t seen any of the new generation of 3-D movies. Here are my conclusions: first, at least the glasses they distribute are less dorktastic. However, individually wrapping each one in plastic seems environmentally dubious and hardly justified by concerns about hygiene.
So, the previews began, and the first few were in regular ol’ 2-D. (Incidentally, the previews – and some movie patrons – were under the incorrect assumption that Up is just a kids’ movie. Sorry, but just because something is animated that does not mean it’s only, or even primarily, for kids. More on this later.) It became immediately obvious when the 3-D previews began, because if you hadn’t put your glasses on, suddenly it looked as if you were seeing double. Now I’m on vacation, and I had had a couple beers during the course of the day – but I was pretty sure this was my cue to put on the glasses.
The previews for 3-D movies started to confirm my worst suspicions about 3-D. Lots of crap moving rapidly toward the camera, lots of stuff placed in the near foreground to provide contrast for deeper perspective, etc. Worse, the clarity of the overall image was considerably less than in a 2-D projection, and quite often, the “three-dimensionality” of the image seemed to resolve into three or four planes…which had the paradoxical effect of emphasizing the flatness of each plane.
Okay, that was just the previews. Maybe Pixar would be smarter. To an extent, they were: fewer “gotcha” shots of junk flying at our heads, less of the pointless stuff in the foreground, etc. However, the 3-D effect seemed ultimately pointless at best and distracting at worst. It was pointless in that most often, one didn’t notice it – and distracting in that when we did, it either was a cheap thrill of the “oh wow cool landscape vista!” type, or noticing the previously mentioned lack of resolution and flatness within each plane.
That resolution was really obvious when the last part of the closing credits reverted to 2-D (cued, in a clever move, by a move on the soundtrack from full theater surround sound to a ’30s-sounding mono song): when I took the 3-D glasses off, the image brightened by several degrees, as if some dimming were necessary to get the stereoscopic effect working properly without relying on the old red/blue parallax method.
For the most part, judging from the previews in 3-D, that technology in movies is about where stereo sound was in the mid-sixties: full of crude effects for their own sake that call attention to the technology (like a xylophone whirling from channel to channel) and, in the case of the movie, take you right out of the story to notice the blinking dayglo text and marching ants surround of your website circa 1996. (I guess that’s two technological comparisons.)
By the way: can movie theaters please ban infants under age 3 from theaters? They cannot understand any movie, and therefore, they get restless and noisy. This showing was marred by a kid about 2 (as far as we could tell) squalling and crying throughout the whole movie. Dad apparently didn’t want to waste his eleven bucks, and it wasn’t until a couple of patrons (including, unsurprisingly to those who know her, Susan) shouted at the parents to take the damned kid out of the theater that Dad finally did so. Sorry: your admission price does not entitle you to ruin everyone else’s movie experience. As Dad was removing the crying kid, Mom spoke up in defense: “it’s a kids’ movie!” No, it isn’t. First: as I noted, animation does not a kids’ movie make: much in Up would be incomprehensible to little children particularly, even to teens. But even so: it certainly isn’t an infants’ movie. Movie theaters aren’t daycare centers (even in matinees – but this was an 8:15 showing). If you can’t afford a babysitter, you simply don’t go to movie theaters until either you can afford one or the kid is old enough to not wreck everyone else’s movies. Perhaps theaters should build soundproof, glass-encased areas, to which anyone with a child under age 5 or so is confined. That way, parents who insist on making Pixar their babysitter don’t bug the rest of us.