Matt Jones

Comin' At Ya! … The 3-D Craze is Back!1

jawsThere’s a weird pattern in the history of 3-D cinema in that the craze seems to come back every thirty years. Interest in stereoscopic films began in the 1920s, then fizzled out a bit before the war. The first colour feature film was released in the the early 1950s, shortly after which a number of 3-D releases were successful, including a 3-D version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder.2

In the 60s, cinema-goers got their kicks through the use of psychoactive drugs, making 3-D glasses somewhat redundant. The 70s saw advances in technology making 3-D projection cheaper and easier, which lead to the next craze in the early 80s and culminating in the ultimate in three dimensional entertainment, Jaws 3-D, starring Dennis Quaid.

The thing in common with each of these periods of popularity is that they were all short lived; 3-D projection never became the default way to experience cinema. Maybe people realised that what makes a good film isn’t a rather poor illusion of an extra dimension, but a good plot, a good script and the development of characters you care about.

I can only imagine that a 3-D Jar Jar Binks will be a third more annoying. Now James Cameron’s Avatar is the second highest grossing film of all time largely because people are clamouring to see it wearing 3D glasses. Last week I was one of those people and while I found it quite entertaining in places, no amount of film making technology could mask the fact that this is a film with a weak and mostly silly plot.

On the back of the success of this film, Peter Jackson and George Lucas are said to be re-releasing their films with reworked 3-D visuals3 (I can only imagine that a 3-D Jar Jar Binks will be a third more annoying) and analysts are saying that 3-D _will _be the default way to see films in a multiplex cinema. I’m sure that cinema-goers in 1983 would have expected more when they future-gazed into 2010.