Monday, June 11, 2012

Can we compare 2012's 3D movies to early (2D) Technicolor classics?

Over the weekend I bought the Blu Ray for the gorgeous film The Red Shoes. Since its restoration in 2009, it has grown in its reputation amongst cinephiles, so the movie's remembered as a Technicolor gem. The colour used is painterly in tone, with vibrant reds that seem to pirouette off the screen. Glorious hues and fluid movement in a film like The Red Shoes remind us that 3D isn't needed to make movies seem 'alive'.

I mention this, because regular reader Andy tipped us about a great Tumblr post written by Rian Johnson. The post is partially about the "polarised polemic" being used in the 3D "debate". Johnson's opinions are worth considering, because he's a good director and writer (he made indie-hit Brick, followed it up with the under-seen Brothers Bloom, and he's about to kick our asses with the upcoming Bruce Willis / Joseph Gordon-Levitt time-travel thriller, Looper). Anyway, Johnson suggests that we should frame the discussion on 3D by looking back in time at the development of... colour.

Johnson recalls that, in the early days of cinema, we were happy enough to see colour hand-painted onto black-and-white images. As time went on though, we ditched that particular technique, but we didn't ditch the intent it represented. We came up with new tools and better applications of the technique - like The Red Shoes' gorgeous usage of Technicolor - but we never forgot the core goal was to provide beautiful images in colour to rapt audiences. It took us until 2001 to finally get full control over the tone of a feature film, when The Coen Brothers unleashed the computer-assisted O Brother Where Art Thou. That movie will be long remembered for its stunning, autumnal, yellow glow:

The Tumblr post by Johnson starts pessimistically about the way we're collectively discussing 3D, but he ends his post with the optimism of a gleeful fan-boy. The reason for his newfound enthusiasm is the realisation that we've got a long way to go. If we can agree that, in principle, 3D is something that most people agree is visually arresting... then we're going to have a wild ride in the next few decades. Johnson's comparison to colour allows us to compare where we're at with our usage of 3D in 2012. He suggests we might be at a point where our 3D is as blunt as the hand-painted films of the early 20th Century. If that's true, then the next stage in the development for 3D is likely to be as ground-breaking a shift forward as the difference between the image of Charlie Chaplin above and those around it from The Red Shoes. To Johnson, this upcoming evolution seems like a reason to be darned excited about the future of 3D cinema. To us here at 3Defence, it just makes us glad we live in an age where we can have our cake and eat it too. We can watch Men In Black 3-D in the multiplexes, and then return home to Blu Ray images like this as well:

Just in case you missed it the first time, you should read Johnson's full post here:

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