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Do 3-D movies suck?

Roger Ebert: “Ask yourself this question: Have you ever watched a 2-D movie and wished it were in 3-D? Remember that boulder rolling behind Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” Better in 3-D? No, it would have been worse. Would have been a tragedy. The 3-D process is like a zombie, a vampire, or a 17-year cicada: seemingly dead, but crawling out alive after a lapse of years. We need a wooden stake.”

Actually, yes. I’ve viewed many 2-D movies and wished they were in 3-D. Pretty much any Chinese kung fu and sword fighting movie comes to mind.

You can read Roger Ebert laying out his argument for why 3-D movies suck right here. He’s essentially saying that it goes contrary to our evolutionary instincts and that no movie can be better in 3-D than it is in 2-D. Of course, I wholeheartedly disagree with this reasoning. One easy criticsim of Ebert’s stance deals with his insistence that the 3-D effect is “distracting”. Well, isn’t it arguably just as distracting when you watch a film in 2-D that was originally designed for 3-D? Don’t all those yo-yo shots bouncing towards the camera hurt that very same film when not viewed within the context of their original intent? And if so, then how can you argue that the 2-D version of that same film is superior to the 3-D version?

Another Ebert quote: “The idea of a movie, even an animated one, is to convince us, halfway at least, that that we’re seeing on the screen is sort of really happening. Images leaping off the screen destroy that illusion.”

I don’t get this statement at all. It’s pretty silly on the face of it. Let’s put aside the fact that he hurts his own argument by using words and statements like “halfway at least” and “sort of” in his own statement, but I wonder how many people out there really believe that what they see on a movie screen is really happening? I understand the point of view that feels movies are rooted in a viewers understanding of real world events and actions and that that is how we access films as we view them. That’s a valid argument. But to say that 3-D “destroys the illusion” is no more valid than saying a CGI Transformer “destroys the illusion” of reality in a 2-D movie. I remember seeing the Terminator 3-D “ride” at Universal Theatres and was enthralled by it. It didn’t “destroy the illusion” of the film world for me just because I saw a T-800 shooting bullets that were whizzing by my head.

When 3-D is done effectively, it can be an incredible tool to enhance the movie experience. I don’t know about you guys, but when I instinctively duck my head when something flies towards my face, that means I’m pretty much inside that 3-D world. If Ebert is correct, that the technique “destroys the illusion” of reality, then why would I even react in that manner? Ebert’s article, to me at least, comes across as more “Grumpy old man who just doesn’t get it” than a well thought out argument. What do you guys think? Feel free to post your comments.

Oh, FYI to Roger Ebert in the event that he is reading this: I would have LOVED to see that boulder chasing Indy in 3-D!

20 Comments

  • Posted August 26, 2008 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I don’t have any really formative experiences with 3D movies or any special affection for them. However, I don’t appreciate Ebert’s “my position is right, now everyone get onboard” attitude. These are movies, they are art & entertainment… sometimes it might just plain be FUN to see something in 3D.

    So… what, if you go have a good time with your kids watching Spy-Kids 3D… Ebert thinks you’re a dumbass or something?

  • Posted August 26, 2008 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I don’t think Ebert is saying you are a “dumbass”. I think he’s arguing that 3-D films are simply inferior to 2-D films because of his “destroys the illusion” line of thought. Ebert is coming at this from a scholarly, philosophy, and aesthetic sensibility, not a “movies are just fun” angle.

    I went and saw Spy Kids 3D because of the 3D aspect of it :) I’ve never even seen the first two

  • Fake Larry
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    That “grumpy old man” should get it, since 3D films were invented when he was a kid.

    I just watched him on another horror movie documentary. I think they should stop having him on horror movie documentaries.

  • Posted August 26, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Ebert’s “destroys the illusion” argument is stupid. There was this guy on Destructoid’s video game podcasts who was always railing against cutscenes and other things that “took him out of of the game.” Anything that broke the illusion of his video-gaming experience would set this guy off.

    I wanted to smack the guy. I’m like: Dude, sooner or later you’re going to glance down and see that you’re holding a little plastic joystick with colorful buttons on it, at which point I guess you’ll have to chew yourself out for destroying the illusion by taking your eyes off the screen for a moment.

    The experience IS an illusion. Movies ARE illusions. I can totally “get into” a movie, get scared by what I’m seeing, be exhilirated by what I’m seeing… but I don’t ever go on some wacky brain-trip where I actually believe I’m in the world of the film. If 3D can be used to make a movie fun in a different way, then I’m all for it.

  • Posted August 26, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if a movie is in 3D or not, we could have the best movie ever and it’s still going to be good in 3D or not 3D. I’m all for 3D but I wouldn’t go see a movie that I knew was crappy just because it was in 3D.

  • MaT
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    well there is some validity to a “destroying the illusion” argument. For example, when we reviewed The Mist, we noted that the badly done CG tentacles helped take us out of the movie and the frightening moment the filmmakers were trying to convey. So i can understand the illusion argument to a point. Stuff can be done poorly.

    But what Ebert fails to realize is that a lot of 3D stuff is done well and doesn’t destroy the illusion at all.

  • Posted August 26, 2008 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never seen one good movie made for 3D. Not one.

  • Posted August 26, 2008 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I think certain styles of movies are definitely great in 3-D. Yeah, I’m saying I enjoyed F13:3-D and even the terrible ending of Freddy’s Dead.

    I’d love to see more cartoons in 3D. The ‘exhibit’ at DisneyWorld is pretty fun.

  • Arson Cuff
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    3D doesn’t usually do anything for me

  • Posted August 29, 2008 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    By Ebert’s reasoning, if you could somehow re-shoot Casa Blanca as a 3D film it would no longer be a good film. That’s clearly retarded. Good content is good content, 3D or not.

    Ebert asks, “Why do 3D movies suck.” A better question might be, “Why have so few good films been shot in 3D?”

    Probably for the same reason so few good games have been developed for the Wii. The industry still sees 3D as a gimmick that they can rely on to sell weak content to their customers. If people will go to see a 3D film just for the effects, where is the motivation for filmmakers to craft an interesting plot or write engaging characters?

  • stephen
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I agree with Changwa. There has not been one 3-D movie worth watching because it was clearly made to be an effects laden story in order to emphasize “3-D” (it’s still not 3 dimensions, mind you. it’s merely the “illusion” of 3 dimensions. saying it’s a 3d movie is misleading). The computer graphics used to give a supposedly 3-d effect are quickly outdated and have only one trick in the bag so they get quickly tossed out. they are money makers for the first few months and then quietly disappear. since there is no hope of longevity (3-d at home??), the story is not so important. the same is true about most “2-d” holiday weekend movies.

    The real question is why do people want movies to be 3-d? is it the missing part of a movie’s realism? It is important to remember that movies aren’t supposed to be fully real so any effect is fair game, but then, isn’t it how we use such technologies? A bad movie is a bad movie regardless of any effects and visuals shouldn’t be a crutch for a horrible movie (ahem, spy kids 3d).

    Those who want to make 3D movies can learn from pixar and animation studios who pushed crap for years, but recently found a new audience ready for new technology with soild storytelling like in The Incredibles and even Toy Story.

    until then, i’ll pass

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    well it’s interesting that people DO seem to have different reactions to a film in 3-D.

    For example, the latest My Bloody Valentine flick did not get nearly as well reviewed in 2-D as it did in 3-D.

    I think the main reason people have disappointment with 3-D is that they go in expecting a certain type of thing to happen, namely that shit will fly towards your face constantly. When that doesn’t happen, it tends to cloud the judgement of the film itself.

    I’m waiting for James Cameron’s Avatar. Word on the street is that it is supposed to revolutionize 3-D. Cameron has an incredible reputation for pushing the boundaries of fx technology and is a great filmmaker. Could he be the guy to change how we view 3-D?

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Yup. I liked MBV3D – but I wanted a lot more stuff flying at my face.

  • g.d.smith
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The real problem with 3D films is they end up looking like pop-up books. They’ve improved but they still look like flat images in front of flat images. And the glasses still give you eye-strain. And for that matter why not just go and watch a play. They’re so 3D the actors are actually there. And even if the system worked perfectly the films wold still be 1D because the the scripts and character development are so bad.

  • charity
    Posted September 6, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    3d movies suuuucccckkk!!!! why do they keep destroying good movies by making them in 3d?

  • Posted February 18, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I do agree with the first quote actually. But, your arguments regarding the next two quotes are true. Actually, 3D movie are would be fine if the producers or directors know which scenes are appropriate to be 3D. If all the scenes are in 3D, that would be weird.

  • Changeling1125
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    the original post is omitting part of ebert’s argument that, I think, is key to the reason why 3D movies are really gimmicky in nature. After the section that MaT posted, Ebert says that:
    “There is a mistaken belief that 3-D is “realistic.” Not at all. In real life we perceive in three dimensions, yes, but we do not perceive parts of our vision dislodging themselves from the rest and leaping at us. Nor do such things, such as arrows, cannonballs or fists, move so slowly that we can perceive them actually in motion. If a cannonball approached that slowly, it would be rolling on the ground.”
    This is precisely the problem with 3D. We see all these 2D people and environments and objects interacting, and then all of a sudden one of these people or pieces of environment or objects are ejected from that plane. As g.d.smith states, these separate pieces aren’t actually three dimensional, they are just 2D images pasted in front of another 2D image. I like looking at photographs, but having a pop-up photograph kind of distracts from the ambiance. I like that analogy I just thought up– 3D movie/tv would be perhaps more accurately called pop-up movie/tv. Movies are just still pictures presented in fast sequence, so pop-up/3D movies are just still pictures with pop-up pictures presented in fast sequence. Sure, it might get your heart rate going in fast-paced action movies, but it would distract from movies of subtlety and detail–the kind of movies I would want to see again.

  • Fatstogey
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I agree with Ebert. 3d is very lame.

    For 1 thing the 3-d effect is not high resolution content.
    For 2 its like a distorted perspective. Yea it hops out of the screen at you but its perspective is ridiculous.
    No its not fun. I just spend $30 to get in there with popcorn n drink. I want story and plot.

    Movies are about stimulating your mind with the story. Not cheap effects. Effects you have to look like a moron and wear ridiculous paper glasses to view. LOL

    If it were real 3D, that was in perspective, and not “cartoon” like. Well then we’d be talking. 3D, in its current capacity, detracts from any story and or plot in which 3D effects are applied to. Its complete nonsense and a gimmick to entertain little children who focus soley on visual stimulai. So if your over 10 put your binkie down and leave the 3D movies for the lil children.

    LOL I searched this cause i was mad. I went to see Avatar and they had 3D only. I had to return my tickets when the woman handed me some glasses. The website did not say “3D only.” Either way save the 3D for some dumb disney story for kids. Finding Nemo or something. Other than that. A movie like “Clash of the Titans” would be a perfect example where the 3D “effect” would seriously detract from the movie. Im sorry but its merely a gimmick and i wouldnt mind it for fun here and there but i also dont wanna pay full price for it.

    Because it is detracting from the actual value of the movie. And i didnt read eberts thing but his “im right and thats it” attitude is absolutely correct. If you disagree than your being taken in by a dumb gimmick. I want HI-D content. Not stupid gimmicks from 1950s.(idk when the first was but i know its not any recent technology.)

    Either a. your old and the gimmick was cool when it first came out and your stuck int he past and dont know what real awesome looks like
    b. your a little kid

    God 3D movies make me so mad. “here lets make a 200 million dollar movie.” “yea and lets make it so you need 1$ paper glasses to see its cartoon like 3d projections, that are less defined than the original content.”
    LOL NO!!!! Bad movie studio. Bad. Save it for Pixar or something. Nobody else lol

    And i know its in 2d too but not at my movie theater. WEAKSAUCE.

  • MaT
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    bunch of cry babies up in this shit.

    what is this, xbox live?

  • Posted October 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    It´s sad that todays proceedings movies unrecoverable the beauty movies had in earlier . Though it´s fun to jazz ultra inebriated tech , I shoot the that movies were prefabricated hindermost then

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