To 3D or Not 3D …

brent johnson and bill bodkin debate about hollywood’s sudden infatuation with 3D …

“Simply Put: 3D Sucks” by Brent Johnson

A funny thought popped into my head halfway through Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland: Somehow, I’d forgotten I was watching a 3D film.

That isn’t a compliment.

Burton, ever a visual visionary, paints wondrous images across the screen in the film. And while the story often drags and Johnny Depp surprisingly slips in and out of his Scottish brogue, Alice is stunningly fantastical.

But the 3D added nothing. No giant plants jumping off the screen. No optically arresting moments. All it did was cause me to wear awkward 3D glasses and make some of the scenes seem disorienting. And that’s annoying.

(Okay, so a few of the characters did seem rounder. Big deal.)

In other words, I’m a tad bothered if 3D is the future of film. I understood it when I saw Avatar. That movie was an experience that transcended traditional film. It made sense to have three dimensions when you had giant blue people gliding across distant planets. The 3D added to the experience.

But I got the feeling during Alice that 3D was nothing more than a gimmick to attract fans. And it worries me if a bunch of movies start making me wear uncomfortable goggles if the payoff is only going to be rounder characters.

Sometimes, if a film’s visuals are magnificent enough, 3D is overkill. A film like Alice would have been stunning in two dimensions alone. After all, Star Wars was in 2D.

After watching Alice, I did what I do with every movie: I read Roger Ebert’s review. And the master critic saw the same thing I did. I will end with a sample of his review:

“Burton is above all a brilliant visual artist, and his film is a pleasure to regard; I look forward to admiring it in 2-D, where it will look brighter and more colorful. No artist who can create these images is enhancing them in any way by adding the annoying third dimension.”

“Keep It Special, Keep it Select” by Bill Bodkin

To me, 3D movies are lot like eating ice cream at Cold Stone. You love Cold Stone, it’s delicious, but you can’t have it every day. It loses its magic, you don’t get excited for it anymore because it’s commonplace.

Right now, Hollywood is walking the same line the Cold Stone franchise ran (at least in New Jersey) a few years back — they are beginning to supersaturate the market. In response, audiences are eating it up in “gotta have it” proportions and movie theaters are desperately trying to keep up with the demand.

However, one day, the fad will fade. There will be a new 3D film every week just like there was a Cold Stone in every town and much like my favorite ice cream franchise, these films will dwindle down to a select few. And with less of a glut, the select few standing, will become special again.

Yet the long term doesn’t matter to Hollywood. The unmitigated success of Avatar and now Alice in Wonderland and more than likely Clash of the Titans, this means that more studios are going to pump out 3D films for the sake of making 3D films. Times are tough, people are more discerning with their cinematic dollar, so why not grab them with the spectacle of 3D?

Now let me clarify something; I really dig 3D films. I really got a kick of experiencing the underrated Monsters vs. Aliens and the uber-epic Avatar in 3D. The colors were brilliant, the picture was crisp and my innerchild liked when things flew off the screen towards. 3-D made these films more of an experience, one I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I don’t need all my movies to be 3D, much like I don’t think I need to re-buy all my DVDs on blu-ray, to fully enjoy them. Some movies, even if they are big budget epics, don’t need the 3D touch. It should be saved for something special.

With that being said, Hollywood is going to give us a big heaping helping of 3D ’till we can’t stomach it anymore. And then 3D will become a fad like Cold Stone, Quiznos, pogs and slap bracelets. All red hot pieces of pop culture that faded away fast, only to be remembered fondly years later — kinda like the 3D movie fad of the 1950s.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.


  1. Tend to agree with being selective as when to use 3-D but I would not be surprised if the electronics industry uses this to obsolete HD TV and Blu Ray.