Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Asked A Question

Last month at the San Diego Comic-Con, Entertainment Weekly hosted a panel entitled “The Visionaries” -  a discussion with movie directors Alfonso Cuarón, Marc Webb, and Edgar Wright. I was fortunate enough to have made it into the audience of the San Diego Convention Center’s massive ‘Hall H’, and when the moderator asked for questions to be tweeted from the audience, I took the opportunity to ask the directors to address their use of 3-D in the motion pictures Gravity and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This led to a rousing discussion of the pros and cons of 3-D, with all three filmmakers voicing some very strong opinions.

Alfonso Cuarón, explained that there are many aspects of 3-D which he hates, including the reduced image quality of theatrical 3-D projection. He explained that he feels that 3-D is not necessary in most of the movies out today, because it is nothing but an afterthought, and not a creative one, but a financial one by the studios. That said, he still prefers the 3-D version of his film Gravity and planned it to be in 3-D from the earliest script four years ago. “At that time 3-D was still cool,” he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Marc Webb, who directed both the natively shot 3-D feature The Amazing Spider-Man and it’s upcoming sequel which is being converted, was also critical of the quality of 3-D theatrical presentation, and reiterated that 3-D should not be imposed on a production by the marketing department, but he also said that “It’s an incredible format, it has enormous possibilities” and said that 3-D can “be exquisite at it’s best, but it can also be terrible.”

Edgar Wright, best known for the horror/comedy Sean Of The Dead also criticized the overuse of 3-D, calling it a “blockbuster tax”. He said that he sometimes preferred to go to the flat versions of movies at the theater, but could see why some directors would want to make their films in 3-D. He went on to list Life Of Pi, Avatar, and Hugo as examples of 3-D done really well.

Overall, all three directors expressed the same concerns:

  • Maintaining standards of quality in theatrical exhibition is a problem. (I completely agree with this. I recently saw a movie that had an unacceptable amount of ghosting due to a subpar silver screen in the auditorium.)
  • 3-D applied as an afterthought does little to enhance a movie, and studio imposed 3-D for the sake of increased ticket prices is fueling the audience distaste for the medium.
  • And that 3-D, when planned from the beginning of a production, and executed by a director who uses it intentionally, can strongly enhance a movie.

The entire panel, and the answers to my question in particular, garnered a lot of attention in the media. Sadly, most of the press chose to frame the story as another “3-D is dead” piece, using sensational headlines such as ‘Are Comic-Con’s Top Directors Souring on 3-D?’ Personally, I appreciated hearing them talk about both the pros and cons as they saw them.