— “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 1” will not be opening in 3-D, as originally planned. There wasn’t enough time to finish the conversion process and make the film look as good and three-dimensional as it should.
The onslaught of 3-D has turned into the biggest film industry marketing scam of the past couple years, unnecessarily turning perfectly decent films into pointless, sloppy exercises in depth perception and bad movies into headache-inducing endurance tests. That this final chapter of the Potter franchise will arrive in theaters in a way that respects its audience’s expectations of high quality is the most welcome news to moviegoers this fall.
Thank (and blame) “Avatar.” James Cameron’s perfectionism showed the world the possibilities of 3-D filmmaking. A visually ecstatic immersion into another world, “Avatar” enveloped the audience and held them for much longer than any gimmick-based product could have. Post-“Avatar,” the list of quality 3-D films is short: “Toy Story 3” and “How to Train Your Dragon” lead the pack. And it’s a small pack. Almost everything else is a carnival sideshow bait-and-switch. Here’s what went wrong:
Shoddy technical work insults audiences
The sudden demand to retrofit anything and everything into 3-D means films arrive at theaters seemingly half-finished. Post-production teams work around the clock under impossible deadlines and send out movies like the muddy, fuzzy, blurry “Clash of The Titans.” On multiple occasions, there were moments in that film that actually looked better when the glasses were taken off. That’s inexcusable. It didn’t help that the movie itself was already dopey and slow-moving. But the obviously rushed 3-D conversion of a film not shot in 3-D to begin with burdened the dumbly conceived product with the visual clarity of beef stew.
No one asked for a 3-D 'My Soul To Take' or 'The Last Airbender'
When a mediocre or flat-out bad film arrives in theaters, and it arrives featuring nothing especially striking to look at, and it’s arbitrarily processed in 3-D, it only serves to highlight everything the movie lacks. Without a good reason for the movie to exist in that extra dimension the glasses just feel all that more uncomfortable wrapped around your face. And there are still only two real reasons to release a film in 3-D. You either have that next game-changing “Avatar” on your hands or you just want to gratuitously throw stuff at the audience. With the volume turned up to 12.
“Piranha 3-D” and “Jackass 3-D” aren’t for everyone, but both movies deliver on the promise of 3-D as a silly entertainment gimmick and they do so with every bell and whistle imaginable. And while it can be argued that severed limbs, breasts, gore, body fluids and naked men being superglued to each other might not advance the cause of art (just don’t tell New York’s Museum of Modern Art, though, because they screened “Jackass 3-D” before it opened), it’s inarguably entertaining. Can anyone say the same for “G-Force” or “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore?”
That’ll be one $16.50 ticket for 'Alpha and Omega'
Few people saw "Alpha and Omega," the recently released animated “Romeo and Juliet”-inspired teen wolf mating comedy. And those who did forgot it as soon as they left the theater. What they won’t forget, though, is the inflated ticket price. In larger film markets that price can leave very little change from a $20 bill, certainly not enough for an $8 bag of popcorn. Sure, there are added production expenses involved in 3-D conversion, but eventually it’s going to be more cost-effective for audiences to buy an airline ticket somewhere and watch the movie on the plane.
Would you like an eye infection with that?
Assuming you’re seeing a 3-D film in a theater that bothers to light their screens properly, and that most of the technical aspects of your experience have been handled by professionals, you’re still going to have to put those glasses on to see it. Different processes for 3-D conversion mean different types of glasses in theaters. Some come individually wrapped and are returned to the manufacturer after use. Some are unsealed and are meant to be sanitized at the theater for use by tomorrow’s audience. And some are electronic, meaning they can’t be washed at all, only wiped down.
On top of that, you’re at the mercy of a band of low-wage teenage employees who don’t care what happens to you. Do you think all those kids are diligently sanitizing the non-electronic glasses, the same way they’re mopping up that spilled soda on the floor or cracking down on people who do nothing but text during the movie? Do you? If so then you’re going to love watching “Yogi Bear” wearing the glasses some grubby nine-year-old just dropped on the restroom floor.
The trend is here. It may subside a little, but the technology and the desire to use it isn’t going anywhere. There’s plenty more comin’ at ya. So what are audiences to do? Vote with ticket dollars. That’s the public’s only voice to remind the studios that the product has to be worth the extra money they demand for it, to remind them that all 3-D isn’t created equally and weeping during the last 10 minutes of “Toy Story 3” isn’t qualitatively similar to weeping from the migraine created by “Clash of The Titans.” Just because the next “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie wants to leap into your seat doesn’t mean you have to sit there and let it. It may have to get worse before it gets better, before audiences are fed up enough to ignore the come-on.
But until then, at least you can still enjoy Harry Potter with nothing more than your own two eyes.