While 3D is all the rage now, and thankfully its death knell may be sounding, it can be easy to forget that 3D is not a new Hollywood trick to get butts into seats. There have been 3 distinct periods of prevalent 3D films in cinemas, one in the 50s, one in the 80s, and the one in which we currently find ourselves. And one of the films that helped kick of the 3D revival in the 80s was a spaghetti western called, rather appropriately, Comin’ At Ya 3D.
It should be stated upfront that Comin’ At Ya 3D is first and foremost about the 3D gimmick. I won’t go so far as to say it’s not a film, but it’s definitely a case of style over substance and the story always takes a back seat to the in your face 3D effects. That’s not to say that the 3D doesn’t at times enhance the story being told, but it’s clear that the 3D is the big selling point here. No one was expecting Oscars for acting on this one.
That said, Comin’ At Ya 3D is a lot of fun. If there’s something that could conceivably be thrown at the screen given the confines of a period Western, you can pretty much bet that it’s going to be thrown at the screen. It definitely takes a kitchen sink approach.
The opening credits set you up perfectly. Snakes, beer bottles, snakes on beer bottles, the sequence truly has it all and, of course, they’re coming right at the screen. I haven’t done this in forever, but I actually found myself reaching out towards some of them. I haven’t seen things pushed that far towards the audience in most modern 3D films, though that’s probably a good thing as it’s hard to do that in a way that drives a narrative. They also put the camera at a low angle and drop stuff on the camera creating shots like coins dropping on the floor and grain falling through fingers. It’s a nice use of 3D that I hadn’t seen before.
We move from the credits to an equally impressive sequence wherein a pair of sibling bandits disrupt a wedding. They shoot the groom, leaving him for dead, and making off with the bride. What’s so interesting is that scene is presented in black and white with only one element of color in each shot, bright purples and pinks and of course the red of the blood from the gunshot wound. I was initially stunned to see a stylistic choice made in more modern films like Schindler’s List and Sin City appear in a film from the early 80s. However, the end credits of this new version showcased several scenes from the film with altered color choices, which makes me wonder if the wedding scene was stylistically re-colored for this re-release version of the film, or if that’s actually how it was in the original cut. It’s a nice touch either way.
The wedding sets up the basic story. Obviously the groom doesn’t die and once he recovers, he heads off to chase down the brothers. The brothers are on their merry way across the countryside, looting and collecting women for what is essentially a traveling harem. After a little back and forth between the brothers and our intrepid hero, the film culminates in a good old fashioned show down in a town square.
While the story isn’t anything new, that doesn’t stop from being fairly enjoyable. Genre staples become staples because they tend to work, and revenge stories are often crowd-pleasers. While this one is a bit more mediocre than others, it is slightly enhanced by the 3D. One sequence in particular shows our hero being attacked by a Native American. The Native American throws spears at him, which of course end up flying directly at the camera. When that doesn’t work, the warrior switches to flaming arrows, which criss-cross the screen in a dazzling array that utilizes the 3D effect while simlutaneously adding to the confusion and peril that our hero finds himself in, trying to escape from a small shed that has been set on ablaze by the arrows. It’s one of the few scenes where the effect becomes more than just a gimmick.
The Upside: The 3D generally looks very good and the film itself is a lot of fun.
The Downside: The gimmick does get a bit old sometimes and the Western story is fairly basic. The 3D image seemed just slightly too crossed to me which may make it more difficult to watch for some viewers.
On the Side: Drafthouse Films has acquired the rights to the new version of Comin’ At Ya 3D. There was a large 3DTV set up in the lobby of South Lamar all week showing clips from the film off 3D Blu-ray, so we can assume a 3D Blu-ray is probably in the works and possibly some sort of limited theatrical engagement as well.