Put Away the Glasses

“Toy Story 3” … in 3-D!

“Incredible Me” … in 3-D!!

“Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” … in 3-D!!!!

It’s like a bad punch line.  Only, instead of “that’s what she said,” you get “…in 3-D!”

The credit (or in my opinion, the blame) for all this goes to “Avatar.” So far, people around the world have spent $1.5 billion to watch blue people reenact “Pocahontas.” Eighty percent of them did so through a pair of 3-D glasses.

“Avatar’s” success (and projected $1 billion dollar return on investment) spawned an immediate and seemingly unstoppable stream of copycats. Over the next two years, the movie industry is expected to release 60 more movies in 3-D.

Why so many? (See billion-dollar figure above).

3-D movies appeal to studios because the profit margins are bigger and the product is technologically difficult to pirate, which is good for the industry. The problem is on the consumer’s end—adding 3-D does not enhance every movie.

With “Avatar,” the 3-D made an otherwise flat film exceptional.  No one watches “Avatar,” or any other James Cameron movie, for plot or characterization. 3-D rescued “Avatar” the same way that Leonardo DiCaprio and thirteen-year-old girls rescued “Titanic.”

With “Step Up 3-D” (now playing at a theater near you), it’s hard to see what 3-D will bring to the table. Though, as always, I could be wrong.

The problem with 3-D is that it still feels, with a few possible exceptions, gimmicky, a bit like those flash-dried space shuttle ice cream packets that the Museum of Natural History sells in its gift shop. It doesn’t add anything to the story. It’s visually distracting. At no point during a 3-D movie does the viewer ever get to forget that he or she is watching a 3-D movie.  There are those moments, when the snake coils in preparation to strike, or a snot-faced kid is about to sneeze, when I can bet, with 99.9 percent accuracy, that something unpleasant is going to come flying out at me from the screen.

Why does anyone pay for that? I could get the same treatment for free at the local daycare (the kid, not the snake). The appeal of Saw VII in 3-D (yes, it’s happening) is beyond my imagination.

My other gripe is that 3-D doesn’t even look real, which is an extraordinary fact when you consider the fact that a closer replication of reality is 3-D’s main selling point over 2-D. It’s supposed to feel like real life. One day, this may be possible, but today’s technology doesn’t come close. Today, 3-D actually looks less real than 2-D. One internet commenter accurately described 3-D’s visual effect to a cardboard pop-up book.

So, for now, I’ll pass on the 3-D and keep the extra five bucks. It might just be enough to buy that extra-large blue raspberry ICEE, though it probably won’t cover the tax.

Mengfei Chen is fifth-year international studies major.  She can be reached at mengfeic@uci.edu.