Disney-Pixar’s “Up” was the first movie I saw in 3-D, and it blew me away with its enthusiastic play with story, dialogue and eye-candy scenes. Unfortunately, the viewing experience seemed more comfortable without the special glasses. And when it ultimately boils down to critique, 2-D and 3-D versions of the same film seem synonymous in all variables except further viewing vigor.
The same goes for the 3-D version of “Avatar.” While truly breathtaking, the film could still be viewed and appreciated in 2-D without any of its message or gist diminished. Fans of 3-D movies claim that newer 3-D flicks keep getting better with newer technology and practiced technical skill. However, this progress has been described only in subtle ways. Its brilliance does not resonate throughout because chances are, the viewing experience of watching 3-D movie A will be the same with 3-D movie B. It is a common feeling that it seems not so novel anymore.
Based on the theatrical market statistics of 2009 by the Motion Picture Association of America, 3-D movies comprised 1 percent of the total box office earnings (US and Canada) from 2006-2007, 2 percent in 2008, and 11 percent in 2009 of $10.6 billion. 2010 data are still pending, but 2-D earnings outweigh it tremendously. The growth of 3-D shows undeniable promise and should not be neglected, but it still awaits a theoretical plateau.
“Toy Story 3,” “How to Train Your Pet Dragon, ” and “Alice in Wonderland” earned so much for the movie industry in 2010, but watching each in 3-D was not an option chosen by most viewers. The higher-rated movies absorbed a larger percentage of being watched in 3-D, while those next in rank had more viewers in 2-D.
It is true that 3-D transforms a well-rated and well-loved movie into a valuable heirloom for more generations to appreciate and enjoy through a more dynamic, perhaps “fresh,” lens. For movies that are not so well-loved in their 2-D versions, however – movies that are flawed in one way or another to begin with – the labor of showcasing it to be 3-D seems wasteful.
3-D movies do not deserve a special category at the Oscars at present because it has not been perfected yet. It still is on, what we might call, experimental exhibition. But if cinema presentations in 2-D and 3-D embrace each other with a uniform modality of delivery, it dictates the celebration of motion picture. 3-D may well strengthen a nominee’s bid for an award, but it is currently feeble in gaining praise on its own out of individual technical merit. If the technology it employs actually becomes essential to the film – something that the film’s plot cannot do without – then that would be proof that 3-D filmmaking has evolved into its own genre, deserving of special attention and distinction in award ceremonies such as the Oscars. Perhaps someday, when 3-D technology offers more than visual enhancements here and there to the original 2-D versions, a separate awards category would not just be appropriate, it would be warranted.
Motion Picture Association of America. (2009). Theatrical Market Statistics. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from http://www.mpaa.org/Resources/091af5d6-faf7-4f58-9a8e-405466c1c5e5.pdf.
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