A lot of people have their panties in a bunch over the recent spat of 3D films. Roger Ebert alone has tweeted about it roughly 7000 times and mentioned it in literally hundreds of reviews. What are the complaints? 3D is just a gimmick. It adds nothing to the filmgoing experience. It dulls and muddies the image. It’s just an excuse to jack up ticket prices.
Okay, there are some good points in there. But there’s also some that can be argued. The biggest 3D success yet has been James Cameron’s Avatar. Everyone seems to be in agreement that while the movie was pretty bad, it did some interesting things with the 3D technology. Most people credit that to the fact that Cameron used high tech 3D cameras, and didn’t just convert film to 3D afterwards. I would argue that Cameron’s success in the medium had more to do with the blocking and construction of his scenes, which all made sure to painstakingly utilize the possibilities of a three dimensional image in order to create a deep, layered field of action. What Citizen Kane did to revolutionize focused action occurring both in the foreground and the background, Avatar did times ten.
What everyone is able to agree upon, though, is that 3D conversions look absolutely terrible. Last summer’s Clash of the Titans has become pretty much the poster child for pointless, poorly executed 3D conversion. Well now we have a dissenting voice in the room when it comes to the viability of 3D conversion, and it’s coming from Jonathan Liebesman, the man on deck to direct the Clash sequel, Wrath of the Titans. It seems he has decided, despite how much 3D conversion ruined the look of Louis Leterrier’s first film, to shoot the sequel on film and convert it to 3D as well. He has a couple things to say on the matter, some of which sound like good points to me, and some that sound like bad ideas.
First the quote that makes me see red flags, “I think the second one…we’ve got a great cast, the same cast, and I want to ground it in a similar reality to say Battle: LA, like have that real grit to it. And within that, you have the fantastical creatures. So really bring it down to something recognizable, realistic in the costume and the way it’s shot and the lighting, lots of atmosphere like what Ridley Scott does, and put fantasy into that.” Words like “gritty” and “realism” have really become buzzwords when it comes to genre filmmaking, especially after the success of The Dark Knight. But I have to question if that is the proper direction to go for a 3D film. For a process that notoriously blurs and darkens the image on the screen, is a “gritty” look really what you want to be shooting for? Isn’t that the last look you should be utilizing?
Despite this, Liebesman goes on to make some points that actually reassure me a little, “From the start, Clash 2 has been conceived as a 3D picture. The sets, the way I’m going to shoot the choreography of the shots, because what we’re gonna instead of say 4 shots we’re gonna do 1, I’m even gonna shoot it in a 1.8:5 aspect ratio. Sam Worthington put me in touch with Jim Cameron, we spoke a lot about aspect ratios and 3D. He said something that really stuck with me, which was, 2D scope is 2.3:5. That feels scope in 2D, for 3D he felt like 1.8.5.” So, unlike most of the people who have made 3D films in the last year, even those that have shot natively on 3D cameras, Liebesman is putting a lot of thought in to how he blocks his scenes to create an image that can only be achieved in the 3D medium. And he’s talking to James Cameron, the only guy who has impressed me trying any of this stuff yet.
As far as the limitations of the conversion process, Liebesman has this to say, “The clincher for me was Warner Bros. showed me how far conversion had come. They showed me Chris Nolan Inception converting for the DVD, they showed me Harry Potter being converted. So now what we’re doing is, I wanna shoot film, we’re gonna have what are called stereographers on set who are guys who are sitting there advising you.” I’m still very skeptical about this, but if Liebesman says that 3D conversion has come a long way in the last year, I guess I will have to take his word for it. Hopefully what he says is true, and if we have to deal with every movie coming out in 3D, at least they will no longer look bad.
What’s your opinion? Have you given up on 3D? Do you have any hope for this sequel to deliver the goods?