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In Defense of 3D
by Spotlight Mike

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Written by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron

A few months ago, I wrote a column railing against the evils of 3D (3D or not 3D: That is the Question). So why am I defending the same technology in this column?

Late last year, James Cameron, of TITANIC and AVATAR fame, as well as more than a few Ah-nuld action flicks, decided, that since he has produced the highest grossing movie in the universe, he and he alone shall bequeath the final decree on the future of direction of our Entertainment.

In an interview when questioned about the release of PIRANHA 3D and if it brought him any sense of nostalgia, Cameron replied with a stern response of "zero" and also went on to explain how believes that filming horror movies in 3D was a reminder of how it was used as a gimmick to "get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip". Below is an excerpt from the Vanity Fair interview:

"You've got to remember: I worked on PIRANHA 2 for a few days and got fired off of it; I don't put it on my official filmography. So there's no sort of fond connection for me whatsoever," he told them. "In fact, I would go even farther and say that... I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like FRIDAY the 13th 3-D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to
First 3D Televised Broadcast

First 3D Televised Broadcast
get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that's not what's happening now with 3-D."

"Cheapens the medium."

True, he has gone on to better things, but he's made enough money to at least be gracious about being canned for his first effort. Don't diss your roots, Jim-Bob! Everyone has to start somewhere and for Jim-MAY!, it was PIRANHA 2 whether he likes it or not (which he wrote under the pseudonym H.A. Milton), and before that, a 12-minute space opera named XENOGENESIS. In other words, horror gave The Two-Billion-Dollar Man his foot in the door.

When you really come down to it, if it were not for horror, 3D would have just faded away, just like it did in 1922 when the first 3D commercially released feature The POWER of LOVE came and went, and Disney's efforts in the Fifties didn't even have "legs" when their 3D features retreated from theaters into their own theme park (at one time, there was only Disneyland, for those as old as I can remember - if we can still remember).


In 1953, when Universal released IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, the genre finally took. Audiences piled onto theaters, put on those low-tech red-blue cardboard glasses, and ducked, dodged and screamed their way through ROBOT MONSTER, FRANKENSTEIN'S TERROR, and HOUSE of WAX, whose famous (or infamous, however you wish to look at it) paddle ball gimmick would be used in countless other movies. 3D Horror transcended the theaters, as the first 3D broadcast of the movie, The CREATURE FROM the BLACK LAGOON was aired on television. Everyone had to run out to their local corner store to get their cardboard glasses to marvel at this new gimmick. Granted, it never took, but it was a
Terrified Audiences

Terrified Audiences
gimmick they tried to bring a new dimension to TV horror movies. Though during the same time, 3D Westerns, and, yes, 3D adult films kept the genre going (I had the misfortune to be dragged into STEWARDESSES in 3D by my then-girlfriend who was curious. She dragged me out of the theater after watching a whole 10 minutes of the movie!), it was Horror that has kept 3D alive through the Seventies (ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN), the Eighties (JAWS 3D), the Nineties (FREDDY'S DEAD - The FINAL NIGHTMARE) to our New Millennium. When IMAX was introduced, the main features shown were Nature and Panoramic Scenery Vignettes - and Horror (HAUNTED CASTLE, SCAR 3D)!

Horror may be considered the red-haired step-child of cinema, but from the beginning of the last century, it has put butts in the seats of many a theater. And probably soiled a few in the process.

Does 3D Horror have a place in cinema? ABSO-FRIGGIN'-LUTELY!

What is the purpose of Horror? Simply put, it's made to HORRIFY you. I think everybody can get on board with that concept. Unfortunately with each successive generation, the ability to shock an audience gets increasingly more of a challenge. In 1903, the First Silent Movie ever made, The GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY featured an actor firing a gun straight at the camera. Patrons watching the movie actually fainted during the final scene where the audience thought they were actually being shot. Legendary suspense director Alfred Hitchcock was afraid that audiences wouldn't be able to stand the violence and the suggested nudity of the shower scene in PSYCHO. Today, those scenes could be shown on Saturday
2 Billion Dollars Adjusted Gross - Take THAT, Jimmy!

2 Billion Dollars Adjusted Gross - Take THAT, Jimmy!
Morning along with all the other live-acion kiddie shows. So, directors, needing to up the ante every year, have to throw more and more shock value in their horror. To that end, 3D is a godsend. Nothing will scare the crap out of an audience more than an axe or a body part flying off the screen out at you.

In the past few years, however, 3D has become "respectable." Films (yeah, ya gotta call them films now) like The DARK KNIGHT, HARRY POTTER and the HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, even kiddie movies like HOW to TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, and (*sigh*), AVATAR have made 3D the culturally acceptable art form it is now.


Audiences will still pile into theaters for MY BLOODY VALENTINE, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, and yes, PIRANHA 3D. Because when it comes down to it, ten-foot blue aliens and cuddly fire-breathing dragons are nice when you need the tiny tots to keep quiet for two hours, but there is nothing better than the thrill of an audience screaming at a disembodied head coming right at'cha!


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Jan 17, 2011 5:09 PM
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Your argument about horror and 3D makes a lot of sense. I guess since I don't horror, I'm even less likely to be excited about this headache inducing technology.
Mike Thomas
Jan 17, 2011 10:13 PM
[X] delete
It is an acquired taste that's unfortunately being shoved down our throats.

But, as incorrectly attributed to Voltaire, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it."
Translation: 3D is a tool, just like Technicolor. Just because you don't want to use it for horror, you shouldn't be the 3D police!

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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