Movies like ‘Gravity’ bring legitimacy to 3-D cinema
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 22:10
When’s the last time you’ve seen or heard of a film playing in 3-D? “Pacific Rim,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” and “Man of Steel” are just a few examples of the now seemingly ubiquitous trend in cinema. The concept of 3-D films is quite enticing—a completely immersive movie experience where the film seems to transcend the screen itself. While the concept seems promising, it doesn’t seem as though most films have really capitalized on its true potential. For a lot of movies, the 3-D aspect seems like a novelty at best and outright gimmicky at worst. The ever so slight sense of depth and horrible tacked on scenes where objects are unnecessarily flung towards you don’t strengthen the argument that 3-D is the best thing to happen to cinema since sound and color were introduced, which is often how it seems to be marketed. There were a few films here and there, such as James Cameron’s wildly popular “Avatar,” where the 3-D effects were particularly well done, yet they didn’t seem to add a whole lot to the film itself. To me, the current incarnations of 3-D cinema seemed to be not much more than a cheap diversion, even a hindrance to the progression of story telling and art direction—that is until I saw Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity.”
Before I had seen the film, the premise of “Gravity” seemed rather thin to me; how could there be a movie set entirely in space with only two main characters and still keep my interest piqued throughout? The answer lies not only in the film’s excellent performances and pacing, but also in its brilliant use of 3-D. This was the first film I’ve seen where the inclusion of 3-D was not only well executed, but absolutely essential. The movie was a portrayal of the horrors of Newtonian mechanics as well as every astronaut’s worst nightmare and the viewer experiences every moment of it. You can feel your heart beating faster and faster as debris hurls towards you at blistering speeds, you brace yourself against an impending collision with a spacecraft and you feel the claustrophobia of a space suit as you spin helplessly about amid the vastness of space. The 3-D effects are intertwined deeply with the film’s emotional impact, to the extent that if one were to see “Gravity” in 2-D it would not be nearly as thrilling or intense. In fact, it would be a different movie entirely. I came away thinking that this is the way 3-D should be done if it is to be taken seriously as a natural progression, or at least tangent of the media.
With the rise of home cinema and its increasing sophistication and quality, the argument for going to the movies is starting to lose some of its strength. Aside from seeing the latest releases, there isn’t as much of an incentive as there once was. The advent of 3-D was partly designed to change that; to offer a viewing experience that could not be experienced elsewhere. However, with the upcharge ranging from an extra $3 to $6 per ticket, most moviegoers opt for the 2-D version instead. In fact, the overall number of people attending 3-D films has declined to 33%, down from 43% in 2012. In addition to the added expense, this decrease can be attributed to viewers not finding much additional value in the added 3-D effects, as they choose to see the 2-D version of the film.
I believe there’s a solution to this issue: 3-D films should be created with the effects at the heart of the narrative, so strongly interconnected that one cannot, or should not, exist without the other. The effects would not feel tacked on like an afterthought to make a quick buck. Rather they would serve to actually enhance the film. The result would be a cohesive and unique piece of cinema that demonstrates the power of modern technology alongside tried and true techniques. If 3-D were used this way, it truly would be a natural progression for filmmaking, creating new cinematic experiences that simply were not possible before.