How Deep Do You Want It?

Embrace the madnessOver to the Onion AV Club, Noel Murray takes a moment to wonder whether the comeback of 3D is all that necessary — and whether the cinematic medium really needs the enhancement.

It’s got me thinking. I’ve been skeptical of the recent 3D revolution. The digital projectors produced a less than vivid image, smaller and duller than a 35mm print would have provided; the glasses gave me a headache if I wasn’t sitting in precisely the right section of the auditorium, so I’d have to take them off and watch the movie in Flat-And-Blurryvision; the IMAX versions of “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf” turned flawed films into flawed films with distracting stunt sequences.

But at a recent 3D screening of “Coraline”, finally, it all came together. Digital projection technology has evolved, so the picture was crisp and screen-fillingly large, and the Real 3D glasses stayed on my face for the full 100-minute running time with no ill effects.

More to the point, “Coraline” isn’t a stunt. It employs the 3D process as one tool among many — as an illustrative technique. Henry Selick doesn’t need to throw crap at the screen; there’s just one pop-out moment that I remember, and it’s entirely appropriate to the action on the screen. Otherwise, 3D tech is employed to let us marvel at the depth and complexity of the movie’s elaborate sets and backdrops, and maybe see a couple of things from slightly different angles than would have been possible in a 2D version. It’s there to draw us in, not shake us up.

And unlike the recent spate of 3D-enhanced CG features, “Coraline” was produced through traditional stop-motion animation, meaning that everything existed in three dimensions to begin with. Maybe that helps, though that should mean that live-action 3D productions would be less headache-inducing, and they aren’t, yet.

Still, further refinements are ongoing, and at the end of the year, when James Cameron releases “Avatar”, I’ll be very curious to see what the state of the art looks like. I’ll bring a couple of Excederin along, but I’m hoping I won’t have to use them.