We all know the story. In a panic to find a spectacle that could provide a bit of magic and a higher ticket price for the cinema, the studios turned again to 3D. Thanks to technological advances and a long vacation from the third dimension, it all seemed fresh and new again (even if the bulk of it was put together with rushed post-conversion). Whether you believe it’s just a fad that’s on the way out or believe it to be grand revolution of the art, time is the only one who has the final word on it, but for now the truth (like in all things) probably lies somewhere between those two extremes.

And it’s a lack of extremes that make Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese the wisest public speakers on the subject. Here’s Spielberg at Comic-Con last year:

“I’m certainly hoping that 3D gets to the point where people do not notice it, because once they stop noticing it it just becomes another tool and an aid to help tell a story. Then maybe they can make the ticket prices comparable to a 2D movie and not charge such exorbitant prices just to gain entry into a 3D one, with the exception of IMAX, where we are getting a premium experience in a premium environment, but to show a 3D movie in a similar theater in a multiplex next to another similar theater showing a 2D movie. I’m hoping someday there will be so many 3D movies that the point of purchase prices can come down, which I think would be fair to the consumer. Not every movie, in my opinion, should be in 3D. There’s a lot of stories I wouldn’t shoot in 3D. But, you know, there are movies that are perfect in 3D.

And here is Scorsese’s recent response (via Variety):

“I agree with Steven. I had always been interested in 3D, and I thought it made sense for Hugo. Generally, whenever there’s a new technological development, there’s a corresponding sense of excitement. The same thing happened with the introduction of three-strip Technicolor and CinemaScope and Dolby. And then everyone remembers it’s only a means, not an end. Real 3D is beautiful, but it’s just one choice, one tool among many, and you only want to use it if it’s the right tool.”

These are two masters of the art form who both proved last year that they could elevate the usage of 3D. The key here is that the tech can’t be viewed as a savior for the industry, which is how it was re-introduced. It has to be seen as a tool, and since you wouldn’t cut a board in half with a tire iron, you shouldn’t slam 3D into a film where it can’t be of any use.

Story has to come first, and if 3D can be used to enhance that experience, to provide a sense of wonder alongside vibrant characters, to bring something already engaging into greater focus – then it can be something truly powerful.

However, as it stands, a bad movie in 3D isn’t just a bad movie – it’s one you paid more for. Spielberg and Scorsese shouldn’t just be celebrated for their stellar use of an updated tool, they should be commended for speaking so levelheadedly about it.

Here’s to comparable ticket prices and craftsmen who know how to use their tools.


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