Exploding helicopters and man-eating fish: 3D is threatening to take over our cinemas—but there’s no need to panicby Sam Leith / January 24, 2011 / Leave a comment
“Baz Luhrmann, I will punch you in the face so hard, I swear your great-grandchildren will still feel the pain.” That, apparently, is how one amateur film critic on Twitter greeted the news that Luhrmann’s forthcoming film of The Great Gatsby may be in 3D.
At the other end of the cultural scale, we learned almost simultaneously that a new cinematic release in the Lovers’ Guide sex-education series—Igniting Desire—is coming out in 3D. Visitors to an early screening report that nine minutes in, the audience finds itself ducking to avoid a 13-foot erection sproinging out of the screen at them. Eek! (The question of who would go to the cinema to watch such a film is moot: but there it is.) So we have an erotic-cum-educational film produced in a format that on the face of it will kill its audience’s sex life for all time; and a literary classic given the same treatment as Piranha. Three-dimensional film-making, it’s fair to say, has gone wall-to-wall.
As you’d expect, the person quoted is not the only one to have reacted to the possibility of a 3D Gatsby like an onlooker in a Bateman cartoon. “If you’re spending time worrying about how to make Gatsby’s hat poke out of the screen,” Time Out’s film editor Dave Calhoun asked, “What else are you spending time not worrying about. Story? Dialogue? Pace? Acting? Character?”
Well, perhaps. But it seems only fair to give Baz Luhrmann the chance to prove he can walk and chew gum, or attend to visuals and dialogue, at the same time. Personally, I rather love the idea of the all-seeing eyes of TJ Eckleburg looming out of the screen as if directing their pitiless glare at me personally. And there is no reason to believe that, in and of itself, filming something in 3D is Kryptonite to seriousness.
It’s a technique that feels like a novelty; but in fact it’s just novel. When moving pictures first appeared it would have been hard for an audience to do much more than simply gawp at the fact that Holy Crap I Swear That Picture Is Actually Freaking MOVING. We got over that moment and we’ll get over this one.
Contra the school of thought that regards 3D as the unstoppable equivalent of a Japanese knotweed invasion strangling all worthwhile cinema, there’s another that’s confident 3D has jumped the shark and will shortly…