Roger Ebert: Why I Hate 3D (and You Should Too)


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A sober-minded case against the viewing technology that’s captured the imagination of studio executives everywhere.

I’m not opposed to 3D as an option. I’m opposed to it as a way of life for Hollywood, where it seems to be skewing major studio output away from the kinds of films we think of as Oscar-worthy.

For myself, I’m both leery of 3D and leery of dismissing it too quickly. I think that James Cameron is essentially correct when he asserts that serious and groundbreaking movies will be made with the possibilities that 3D technology offers. But I’m afraid that those will be few and far between — in the short run, anyway. Even Cameron’s “Avatar” seemed as if it would’ve been more enjoyable without the added dimensional illusion, and ultimately I wanted to see it in 2D before I really decided whether I liked it or not. 3D strikes me as a novel sensation not unlike a roller-coaster, except it goes on for two hours. I like roller-coasters, but I don’t want to ride even the very best of them for more than five minutes.

  1. Hollywood has always been annoying about spectacle, don’t blame 3D. It’s really a matter of the maker and the audience. I’ll cautiously use How to Train Your Dragon as an example: a charming well-told story that used both animation and 3D to transport us even further into the fairytale. Had Cameron spent 2 of that $500 Million on a better screenplay, we wouldn’t be so worried.

    The question to me is, which filmmaker will come along and treat 3D like HD, as another tool in the toolbox used to build empathy for characters, immersion in different realities and relationships to stories?

  2. Avatar definitely is enjoyable without 3D. I’ve seen the movie 5 times to date, once in 2D, three times in 3D, and once on BluRay. Simply put, Avatar is an absolutely stunning movie, with or without 3D. That said, I saw the movie three times in 3D because Cameron’s method of 3D was absolutely brilliant. If film makers can learn to apply 3D on a per-film basis and use it only when it will add depth to a film, then I openly embrace the concept.

  3. I say we move to 1D film.

    Just kidding. But seriously, film and art in general are moving towards more immersive technology. 2D pictures, 3D sculptures, 2D moving pictures, 3D moving pictures. It makes no sense to attack the medium. There will be good uses of 3D and bad uses. And there will be good and bad uses of full immersion virtual reality when that comes about.

  4. I saw Avatar in 2D first in order to be able to judge it independet from the 3D technology and I must say that it is a really stunning well done movie – and at least for me – more enjoyable in the 2D version. It’s the world Cameron creates, that I miss and want to go back to. The 3D version only made exploring the world more difficult for me as just the part of the image, Cameron wants me to look at, are rendered sharply.

  5. Similar negative reactions from some critics and the public accompanied the switch from silent to “talking” pictures and then again when movies switched from black and white to color. People just don’t like change and aren’t willing to give the new forms time to develop and mature before declaring that they are inferior and not necessary.

    Like it or not, films are going to be in high definition and in 3D in the future while some die-hards will continue to make 2D films the same way they continued making black and white films in the past.

    It’s not like we are going to say, “Oh, I prefer to see movies in 2D so let’s stop making 3D movies.” There are more innovations still to come and we won’t be going backward into the future.

  6. I’m another who first saw Avatar in 2D, then in 3D. It was amazing the first time, and only less-so the second — but not because of the 3D effects, which I found superb, rather because I knew how the story ended.

    As shown with the latest version of Alice in Wonderland, however, 3D effects definitely cannot save a film that lacks in other areas.

  7. With HD televisions, movies have to do something. I can’t tell you how many times in the past year where I thought to myself, “I can just wait for the BluRay, it’ll look just as nice, and plus I can watch it in my underwear”

    Just like newspapers, all movie theaters have now is the medium, the format. So they can only up the movie going experience, with 3D, Dolby and such.

    I just wonder how quickly theaters are going to adopt smell-o-vision once 3D televisions hit the tipping point.

  8. I totally agree with this, it drives me crazy that cinemas are pushing the 3D more than the 2D.

    I seen Avatar in 2D, then went and seen what the fuss was about in 3D. I have to say there were only one or two things I thought looked good in 3D. I preferred the 2D version, you see the detail and don’t get blurry images that you have to almost squint at to see properly.

    A cinema close to me (of which I always go to) put Clash of the titans on a few different screens at all times of the day when it came out. A week later the 3D version was on a few screens and still on various times of the day. However the 2D version was only on twice a day at stupid times and only showing on one screen.


  9. Avatar is just not a good example. Not a single bit of originality coming from the creator of Terminator made the 3d parade a bit boring to me.

    I still have to watch a good 3d movie to know if movies are or arent moving in a direction I’m comfortable with.

  10. The “roller-coaster” reference doesn’t make sence. We view our world in 3D. Should we tier of that?

  11. 3D is awesome… but it’s just FX. Good FX can make an okay movie good and a good movie great. Bad FX can do the opposite.

    Avatar was lame and predictable (but I’m the only one that thinks so?). I saw it in theaters and *loved* it because of the 3D. I mean… seriously, how cool was it to have *all* the stuff 3d and… in focus?

    @voroan: unfortunately, I don’t think they would have put that extra money into the script. That’s just the way it is.

    @Martin Rayala: Exactly. Awesome point. I declare you the winner.

  12. @Andrew Clark: To be honest, I get tired of the real world after about 5 min, too 🙂

    And for the record… I have fond memories of getting to Busch Gardens Williamsburg when the park opened and riding the Loch Ness Monster over and over (1st roller coaster they open each day, and no line because it was so early)

  13. I think 3-D is a fad. Or at least the way 3-D is being pushed right now. The decision to make 3-D movies is 99% financial. The success of Avatar doesn’t hurt the movie houses. Ultimately a great movie is still about story.

    Imagine the film “Rain Man” or “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 3-D.” It would be ridiculous.

  14. If 3D, by definition, makes the experience worse (e.g. by limiting the director’s ability to use focus as a visual tool or by lowering the brightness), then I’m obviously against it.

    However, if we assume that these technological limitations can be overcome and that 3D really can provide a more immersive experience, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be used to amplify the characteristics which make a great movie great.

    In my mind, the big question now is whether filmmakers who don’t yet know how to add value with 3D will be able to resist the immense financial pressure to use it. If yes, then 3D will only be used on movies where it’s more than a novel roller-coaster; if not, the short-term will bring about a lot of gimmicky, annoying movies that use technology for its own sake.

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