Can Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Harold & Kumar save 3-D?


Image Credit: Munawar Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images

It hasn’t been a great summer for 3-D cinema. For one thing, attendance in 3-D theaters is dropping — possibly because people are unwilling to pay the added surcharge, but more likely because American moviegoers have gotten tired of paying extra money for a darker image. More disturbingly, however, there was no breakout film this summer that absolutely demanded to be seen in 3-D: No panoramic How To Train Your Dragon, no neon-spectacular TRON: Legacy, not even a cheesy thrill-ride like Jackass 3D or Piranha 3D. The one film that actually seemed to justify the 3-D was Transformers: Moon over Memphis, and even that was ultimately undone by Michael Bay’s inability to stage giant-robot-action as anything more than digital robo-sludge.

Despite growing complaints, 3-D isn’t going anywhere. In fact, some of 2012’s biggest films offer intriguing possibilities for the form. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, and the new Spider-Man reboot are all being filmed in 3-D. If nothing else, these films will probably look better than the 3-D conversions that darkened Pirates, Captain America, Thor, and most other films this summer. But first, this fall sees two master filmmakers attempting 3-D for the first time: Martin Scorsese is delivering his children’s film Hugo, while Steven Spielberg is following in the footsteps of his former protege Robert Zemeckis with the motion-capture cartoon The Adventures of Tintin.

Can the two directors salvage 3-D in the wake of the extra dimension’s disappointing 2011? More to the point, can they do something genuinely different with the form? The other upcoming 3-D films have a depressing sameness about them: More animated films (Happy Feet Two, Puss in Boots, Arthur Christmas) and the Clash of the Titans-esque Immortals. In fact, the only other distinctive-looking 3-D film.. .is A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, which (based on the trailer, at least) looks like a movie-length deconstruction of the whole stupidity of the 3-D craze.

I recently saw the original 3-D print of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, and it’s actually remarkable to see what the great filmmaker did with the format; it’s the rare movie that uses the added dimension for something more than “arrow in your face!”-style thrills. (Same goes for Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, probably the quietest 3-D film ever made.) If Scorsese and Spielberg can wring something new out of the format, we might still be looking at the dawn of an extra-dimensional revolution in cinema. If not, then prepare yourself for a difficult 2012.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
Box office preview: ‘The Help’ hopes to sweep away ‘Spy Kids,’ ‘Conan,’ ‘Fright Night,’ and ‘One Day’
‘Pirates of the Caribbean': Why didn’t more American moviegoers opt to see Jack Sparrow in 3-D?

Comments (16 total) Add your comment
  • UGH

    Who want’s it saved? Normal movie tix are too expensive as it is. 3D is too gimmicky.

  • Rag

    The 3D in “Dial M For Murder” was so realistic that instead of watching characters in a movie, it looked like actors standing on a movie set. I’ll go with the 2D.version, thanks.

  • RyanK

    I have no problem paying extra for 3D, as long as it’s actually good. Avatar really set off this giant craze, and yet I don’t think I’ve seen a movie sense that has had 3D even close to it. Maybe some animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon, and Up, but certainly nothing live action.

    • RyanK


  • Sammie

    3D is a total waste of money.

  • Josh

    Just a correction… I believe Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was actually filmed in 3D, not post converted like the other ones you mention.

    • jerry

      You’re right, it was filmed in 3D.

  • just me

    3D was crap in the 50s and it’s crap now. Let it die.

  • kevin

    Ticket prices is why pirated films are so popular. Lower the price and stop being such greedy a-holes.

  • Plastic Jesus

    Studios keep releasing these films in 3-D, people keep seeing them. It doesn’t matter that the 2-D versions earn a larger percentage of the box-office totals. When the 3-D versions no longer sell a single ticket, then the studios will realize that moviegoers no longer want an ugly product at a higher price. As of right now, many still want to see 3-D movies, no matter how murky they appear.

  • Mikie

    I saw “Dial M for Murder” in 3D about 20 years ago and loved it, and hope it comes around here in Seattle sometime. Hitch choosing a stage play for 3D was brilliant, and he was smart to save the best moments for two bravura scenes: during the attempted murder of Margo (with Grace Kelly reaching back into the audience) and when the inspector presents the key right to us.

  • Nick

    I just don’t understand why so many people opt to see these movies in 3D. It makes the colors so dark and dull. And the idea of it in the first place is really not that fascinating. “Oooh, something looks like it’s popping out of the screen, how cool!” Lame.

  • Jason

    As with other people, I have no issue with paying an extra 3 dollars for 3D (I know it is more in other areas), if it is worth it. For the fall season, I plan on only seeing two 3D movies, maybe even one. 2D is currently better though in my opinion.

  • jerry

    Moon over Memphis? Is that a joke or a mistake?

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