It seems that ever since the monumental success of James Cameron’s Avatar, Hollywood has been churning out 3D movies left and right, from action blockbusters to superhero movies, and even dramas such as The Great Gatsby. Avatar wasn’t the first ever movie to be released in 3D but it was certainly the most successful, as it currently reigns as one of the highest grossing movies of all time and, though it seemed to me that after Avatar more and more movies are being released in 3D, some older titles are now even being re-released with 3D to be viewed again, which only make me further believe that this is a growing trend. And so began the onslaught. Hollywood production companies shipping out 3D movie after 3D movie, so much so that now it’s come to be expected that a newly released film will have a 3D and a 2D option when going to the cinema. It’s safe to say that 3D movies have kicked down the door in the film industry and it’s left me thinking; are 3D movies and digital cinematography the end of cinema?
My answer to that question is yes, but before you stop reading this article, hear me out. I’m an avid admirer of film, even a self-proclaimed movie buff. For me movies are about so much more than being entertained. For me it’s about the art behind it, from the directing to the scriptwriting to the effects to the cast. So when I’m asked if 3D and the use of digital film is the end of cinema, I say yes, because that is all that Hollywood is making nowadays in a bid to make more money and wow people with special effects. When I say Hollywood I generalize quite heavily, as there are still some directors working in Hollywood today that are advocates for cinema as an art form. In terms of ‘veterans’ still working today, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan have both spoken out against 3D and using digital film. Both directors shoot all their films using film stock, Christopher Nolan is even shooting his upcoming war epic Dunkirk in 35mm and 70mm film, and Tarantino has shot all his movies using actual film rather than using digital projection. Denis Villeneuve, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Darren Aronofsky, are all great film makers that still use 35mm film stock in this day and age. For someone that loves film and the art form that it is, these directors are all shining lights in a world dominated by digital media.
Now for me to speak positively about digitally shot 3D films is rather difficult, as I’d take a regular 2D movie over a 3D one any day, however there are some directors that find a balance and do it right. One example would be JJ Abrams, who when tasked with rebooting the Star Wars franchise chose to shoot using 35mm film, but also render it in 3D. This gave the movie it’s raw, nostalgic feel from the originals, but also brought in something new and innovative. George Lucas went in the opposite direction with the prequels, not using 3D but using digital film to shoot everything and showering every scene with special effects. Look at what Peter Jackson gave us with The Hobbit Trilogy, shot in digital 3D and sixty frames per second, the end result looking like a BBC low budget drama with over the top special effects that are, albeit impressive, simply not what cinema is about.
Sadly we’ve hit a crossroads in movie production nowadays. More and more movies are being released as clear money grabs, laden with special effects, normally released in 3D and are normally just a mess. Granted it has been this way for a long time, but with technology progressing as it is it’s only bound to get worse. Movies are made for the populace now, and not for the fanatic. There’s so much money pumped into passable and even bad movies that there just isn’t an end in sight those that love film. Now you can sit there and say “Why shouldn’t movies be for everyone? Why should only great movies be made?” and at the end of the day it all comes down to opinion, and this is just mine. Make average movies for the populace, but don’t compare them to art. You wouldn’t compare a football player to a swimmer, because they’re competing in different sports. That is the difference between real movies and those released as cash grabs. I’ve watched many films in 3D that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but it’s never been because I viewed it in 3D, it’s because it was simply a good film.
Cinema is about expression through moving pictures, telling a story on a screen. Films have the ability to make us laugh, cry, and bring out every other emotion in between, and they should be celebrated for doing so. We live in a world so dominated by technology and digital media that we forget to appreciate the real hard work that goes into certain things. We’re not too far gone. There are still directors out there that say no to digitization and embrace film for what it really is, and I think it’s about time that everyone stops and takes the time to sit back and really enjoy a movie for the art form that cinema has always been. As I write this article I hope that I’m wrong and there will be a sudden turn around, where suddenly the majority of directors working in Hollywood will revert back to using film, and put less effort into the wow factor of special effects and more effort into actually creating art. It’s a pipedream, but I’ll always have hope.
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