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Does 3D Technology Really Improve the Movies We Watch?

women wearing 3d technology glasses

Filmmakers like James Cameron, who created Avatar, have proven to Hollywood just how lucrative 3D is to films. Does 3D technology improve upon the movie experience?

The movie industry, like other forms of entertainment, is subject to fads, and what Hollywood ends up embracing tends to trickle down to other forms of entertainment. For as long as there have been movies, producers and studio big-wigs have strived to make the movie-going experience something special.

William Castle, director and movie producer, was well known as the “king of gimmicks.” For instance, for the 1959 Vincent Price horror film The Tingler, Castle had buzzers installed underneath the theater seats, and whenever the titular creature appeared on screen, the seats were buzzed, presumably sending the 1950s audiences straight to the hospital for heart attacks.

3D Technological Advancements and Headaches

One gimmick that has persevered is the use of 3D. Over the years, the technology has improved from the classic anaglyph method (the glasses with the red and cyan filters) to the current high-tech use of LCD shutter glasses.

The problem I have with the current 3D craze is that it doesn’t add anything to the movie experience, while at the same time inflating the price of a ticket. If you want to see Tron: Legacy in 3D, you can expect to pay $2.75 or more over the cost of the 2D ticket. And, what do you get for your money? You get a movie that has a darker contrast due to the process in creating 3D (although this isn’t as much of an issue with animated features); you get movies where the 3D effects amount to shoving stuff into the audience’s faces. And, for someone like me, who already wears glasses, the awkwardness of having to wear a second pair of glasses is an unwelcome addition since 3D movies already give me a horrible headache. Surely, I’m not the only person to walk out of Avatar with a splitting headache.

James Cameron, King of the World

Speaking of Avatar, I blame James Cameron for the current wave of 3D movies. Cameron proved to Hollywood just how lucrative the 3D market was (as of November 10, 2010, Avatar had grossed over $760 million dollars, according to the Internet Movie Database).

It was such a hugely successful film that other studios rushed to take their finished 2D movies and convert them to 3D. Clash of the Titans famously received this kind of makeover, with the film receiving poor reviews and a Metacritic score of 39.

The Phantom Menace in 3D

darth vader from star wars

Even George Lucas jumped on the 3D bandwagon. He announced on September 29, 2010, that he was going to release the entire Star Wars saga in 3D, starting with The Phantom Menace in 2012. Frankly, did the world really need to experience this mediocre film again? The idea of Jar-Jar Binks in 3D gave me nightmares. Sadly, this trend does not seem to be ending.

I certainly am not opposed to enhancements to movies that create a richer experience, whether it’s the advent of color films (black and white still has its place, of course) to improvements in sound technologies (for instance, watching Apocalypse Now with a remastered audio soundtrack). For me, at least, 3D does not make for a more enjoyable movie experience. I may be in the minority with this opinion, but until 3D technology has matured and developed into something more than a gimmick, I’m going to stick with good old-fashioned 2D and not walk out of a movie theater with a pounding headache.