17 November 2008

Stereoscopic Fail Scarring the name of Digital 3-D Cinema

Scar 3-D (2007 / 2008)
Stereoscopic Fail Scarring the name of Digital 3-D Cinema

Scar 3D - promotional still

As Saw V is still running in cinemas and going strong, the public is clearly not tired yet of the old torture porn genre. But Scar 3-D (Scar 3D) just didn’t go anywhere. Released in 2007, it hit English theatres just two weeks ago in November 2008. Sadly, I have not yet been able to see Scar 3-D in my local 3-D cinema as they pulled it after only one week and it looks like other cinemas are pulling it faster than you can say: “3-D bubble”. As the movie was already out on DVD (in anaglyph 3-D), that makes for an odd situation of a film going from cinema to DVD to cinema to DVD, while never hitting any interesting boxoffice numbers. It must, then, have been a sly attempt by its distributor to cash in on the current good press 3-D cinema is getting. And by doing so, the press for 3-D cinema just got a lot worse again.

The fast removal from theatres should be a very strong indicator that this title should probably never have hit the cinemas. But because it did, it got seen by cinema reviewers and they have been giving it a 0% rating overall (Rottentomatoes average). Ouch! That is an epic 3-Dimensional fail.

"This is not our parents’ 3-D with silly red & blue glasses", journalists wrote. No, it is much worse than that: it is a non-existent entertainment shot and projected in digital 3-D. So what is the point of all the superior digital hoohah when the movie itself is painfully bad in the content department?

This is not just the failure of one movie. A 0% rating for a movie with good 3-D photography (judging from the trailer) says something about the use of 3-D for movies overall. The acting and drama in the trailer look like absolute dross, but the use of 3-D looks beautiful. Strong conclusions can be drawn.

Scar 3-D - 3D analgyph still

One of the four following statements must be true, partially or fully, for a 0% approval rating to happen to a 3-D movie with good stereoscopic camera work:

1) 3-D does not add ANY value to a movie, regardless of how bad it is and regardless of the quality of the 3-D photography.

2) No matter how good the delivery is of a movie (colour, digital, 3-D, CinemaScope), if the story, acting and / or direction is bad, it is a waste of time and money.

3) 3-D does not add extra revenue, audience draw or promotional value to a movie if the movie itself (story, acting and / or direction) is bad.

4) Scar 3-D has not managed to use 3-D in any way, shape or form that even resembles an improvement to the entertainment value of the film overall and the story, its characters and the direction in specific.

Scar 3-D - 3D analgyph still

These conclusions should not read as a major surprise. A colour movie is not better than a black & white movie just because it is in colour – that is absolute nonsense. Yet to current 3-D film producers and 3-D proprietors like James Cameron it comes as a shock. Wasn’t 3-D going to add the extra 2 Dollars to the cinema ticket price and wasn’t the audience prepared to pay this extra amount, regardless? You mean we are actually still having to make proper movies with real stories, proper acting and decent directing? Well snap!

This shock realization has happened twice before in cinema history, namely in 1953 and in 1983, when 2 or 3 decent 3-D movies were flanked by 100 exploitation titles. Surprise, surprise, 3-D has been having a really bad name ever since. The fallout of 3-D boom years has been devastating to the name of 3-D with film critics and the average film-going audience. Stereo 3-D film is barely just recovering from it all and already punters are booing stereoscopic 3-D when discussing the slate of 2009-2010 upcoming film releases planned to be in 3-D. Another box office 3-D bomb like Scar 3-D and the digital 3-D boom year may never actually happen. Because who wants to be associated with a medium that is used in sub-par film releases to draw the extra buck without delivering anything more?

Scar 3D - 3-D analgyph still

So what IS the hope for a prosperous 3-D film future? Let’s revisit the 3 statements of above.

1b) It is difficult to refute this statement, as the proper 3-D photography of Scar 3D did not add even 1% of a more positive review. Perhaps this is due to the fact that 3-D enhances, or enlarges what is presented on screen. So an enhanced bad trip becomes a really bad trip, while an enhanced dream of a picture will become pure heaven. 3-D really can do this, but keep in mind: stereoscopic presentation of your cinematic story amplifies and really exposes the quality of the presented imagery. A bit like super HD showing all the spots and wrinkles on actors faces, which can be a bitch when you were just going for an awe-inspiring high definition experience.

2b) More pleasant delivery of any material will at least take away the blame from the delivery format. Are your patrons walking out of the cinema after 5 minutes, well, at least it wasn’t because your film was in 2-D. But has 2-Dimensionality ever been a reason to stay away from a movie? Sure, movie critics will always find a reason to complain, so the better the delivery format, the more focus there will be on the content of the film. If the content is bad, the critic will write: “The 3-D didn’t help save the bad story”. If the presentation was in 2-D rather than in 3-D, the critic will write: “This movie was clearly shot to work in 3-D, because I couldn’t find any reason to like the story in 2-D”. Can you ever win with these guys? Well, perhaps by presenting a good film that is enhanced by great 3-D…

3b) Poor financial returns for some 3-D movies does not mean that Stereo 3-D cannot add financial value to a film release, as a good movie can benefit from the 3-Dimenasional addition, while really good 3-D, added to a really good movie, makes for big boxoffice success. But go figure, the key term here is ‘good’, not ‘3-D’.

4b) What does the budding 3-D film director need to do to make the 3-D add to the entertainment value of his picture? Enhance the volume of characters, flatten them out, create claustrophobic scenes, deep and wide vistas, poke scary and funny things at the audience, wow with geometric intrigue and dwarf or giantize scenery and characters? All that and more.

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