Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fuzzy outlook for 3D

I like cartoons. Love monsters. And 3D. But somehow I don't think a bumper crop of family-oriented 3D cartoon monster movies from two or three studios is going to get the slumping motion picture industry back on its feet again. "3D is back, better than ever, and it's here to stay" is what I'm hearing, but what I'm seeing is a slate of the same old, and I imagine parents--the ones who pay the freight for the goggle-eyed tots expected to drive the business--will resent having to ante up again and again for the glasses, which add a few bucks to the cost of a ticket. I guess you can reuse them, as they're yours once you buy them, but what family will hang onto them for months at a time?

As for the upcoming films, well, it's hard to distinguish one digitally animated flick from another. The first live-action picture to use 3D in some time, Journey to the Center of the Earth, looks pretty undimensional from its trailer. (If Gertie the duck hasn't been retained from the 1959 original, I'm not going.) Only James Cameron's Avatar has the promise of using the technology in an arresting way, beyond throwing things at the small fry. I enjoyed Beowulf, which benefited from the extra dimensionality, and U23D, which had interesting depth-of-field photography, but audiences shrugged--surely the excitement over the Hannah Montana movie (pictured) had more to do with her than with 3D, which was along for the ride. 3D needn't be a fad, but with these sorts of pictures in the pipeline it's hard to see how it won't be.

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