A brief history of the use of 3D in films & why I dislike its use in modern cinema

The use of 3D in films is nothing new, it didn’t begin with Avavtar like many people think. In fact, if my research is correct, then the first patented test for the use of 3D came in the 1890’s by pioneer William Friese-Greene, who projected two films onto a screen and allowed viewers to look through a stereoscope which would then combine the images. This method however, was not suitable for use in cinemas, and so the first recorded 3D film was The Power Of Love which was released in September of 1922. The Power Of Love is now considered lost, which is a shame because as it’s such an early innovation in film it’s an excellent piece of cinematic history. 

3D continued to be used over the years in many films, doing well for itself during the 1950’s and earning much praise in this period.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that 3D films had somewhat of a resurgence. Although looking at it now the quality of films put out is questionable to say the least. With releases like Amityville 3D, Friday The 13th Part 3 and Jaws 3D, it seemed the use of 3D was restricted to poor horror sequels, which also just happened to be the third in the series. The marketing men had it so easy back then.

One of the great nineties blockbusters Terminator 2: Judgement Day, directed by James Cameron, brought about its own 3D spin-off called T2 3D: Battle Across Time. An attraction which featured at several Universal Stuidos theme parks. T2 3D was considered a sequel of sorts to T2 and featured all of the main cast from the movie. Opening in May 1999 the attraction only recently closed on December 31st 2012.

James Cameron is a pioneer of 3D. Applying the technique to his 2003 film Ghosts Of The Abyss, which was a documentary revisiting the wreckage of the Titanic. His biggest accomplishment however, came in 2009 when Avatar was released in cinemas, a film that took James Cameron 15 years to develop fully and is now the highest grossing film of all time.

Too many films have used 3D recently, not as method of film making necessarily, but as a means to fleece audiences and fill the pockets of cinema chains and studio execs. To me 3D is a gimmick, always has been and always will be. Some films are made especially for 3D, others are post converted. In fact most are post converted into 3D and end up looking like pop up books because of this.

I always try to avoid watching a film in 3D if at all possible. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, as was the case with Dredd 3D, a very good film but one that needn’t have been shot in 3D.

The only two films I have ever enjoyed watching in 3D were Avatar and Tron: Legacy. Nothing else, to me, has benefited from the technique. Apart from those two films, I have never found the technique to enhance the quality or story telling aspects of a film in any way. Maybe that’s not what other people are looking for when they go to see a 3D film though, after all it is a visual technique. A technique that people have to pay £10.10 to experience at my local Cineworld. Ask yourself though, would Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy have benefited from the use of 3D at all? If you’re unsure about that, I can tell you the answer is no.

My disdain for 3D remains firm. Apparently sales slipped slightly in the US last year but remained strong in other territories. Hopefully though the world will soon come to the same conclusion as me and realize that paying over £10 to wear some silly plastic glasses at the cinema is a privilege we can live without.

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