If you don't love the 3D movie experience, you're not alone
I saw the Pixar film Elemental this week. It's a story about Element City, where fire people, water people, cloud/air people and earth people all live alongside each other, sometimes uncomfortably. Some things about it work better than others, but it's impossible, I think, not to admire the inventive way it creates its world of flames and bubbles and flowers and puffy clouds, and the way all those things make up the characters it's about. On top of that, those characters live in a world of smoke, rivers, and all kinds of other — shall we say — earthly delights.
The screening I attended was in 3D. I tend to have mixed feelings about 3D, which can certainly have its impressive "ooh, neat" moments, but which I tend to find more a gimmick than a genuine advantage — despite the fact that these days, it works pretty well. Even as a person who wears glasses and is therefore not perfectly suited to putting 3D glasses over them, I had no trouble with the 3D presentation itself as far as appreciating and enjoying the different layers of visuals.
The problem is that, as you know if you've ever picked up a pair of the RealD glasses that you use for a film like this, it considerably darkens the picture simply because of the 3D technology. You can see it — they are literally dark glasses, and as sunglasses would do, they make the picture look, you know, darker.
Particularly with something like a Pixar movie for kids, and extra-particularly for one that's so dependent on a lively presentation of nature, it's impossible for me to believe I even saw the best version of Elemental. I feel certain that my appreciation of its colorful take on the world would have been, what, 30% greater?, if I had just watched it in a regular 2D presentation.
I've always been a bit of a 3D skeptic — the glasses are fiddly and just become more plastic junk, the gimmicks wear off, it gets distracting, and it introduces more opportunities for technical problems (there were some at my screening). And for a while, I felt like my side was winning the argument — you don't see as many random "but this time it's 3D!" sequels as you did for a while, what with Saw 3D and Piranha 3D and Step Up 3D and so forth.
Maybe this is tech that belongs in cheapie horror sequels, where it can be used for jump scares and tricks in a genre that relies on them, rather than in films that are designed to be visually joyful.
But one of the places 3D seems to persist is in animated kids' movies, which is the last place it belongs. Why would you want to watch an explosively colorful world unfold while wearing sunglasses? The people who create Pixar films are perfectly able to make those worlds immersive and unforgettable without exploiting a technology that degrades the experience on one level in order to supposedly improve it on another.
Honestly, maybe this is tech that belongs in cheapie horror sequels, where it can be used for jump scares and tricks in a genre that relies on them, rather than in films that are designed to be visually joyful.
Besides, who wants to try to make a squirming kid wear plastic glasses for two hours?
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