People will tell you that 3D is here to stay. I’ll just say it’s..here. Throughout the history of 3D it has come in and out of popularity, and while we are certainly in its most popular phase it has disappeared before. If 3D wants to stick around what must it do to be taken seriously? The way we are looking at it today, with many interchangeable points and a huge subjective bias, is to see which of the genres that feature the technology most heavily uses it to the greatest effect.
Notable Mentions - Friday The 13th 3D, Piranha 3DD, Saw 3D
Pro - Most of the uses in 3D horror films is William Castle style gimmickry which can really add to the shock factor of these films. The kinds of horrors that employ 3D either came out at the height of the horror film as exploitation, drive-in movies, or are highly influenced, if not homages, to that era. As such, the 3D also makes sense contextually.
Con - The biggest weakness for these films is also their greatest asset. The gimmick aspect of 3D can be highly entertaining, but more often than not is something that takes us out of the film. Horror is a genre reliant on immersion, and bad 3D can be as bad as naff SFX for making the audience more aware of the mechanics of the film instead of being engrossed in the film itself.
Superhero Movies/Comic Book Adaptations
Notable Mentions - Dredd, Superman Returns, The Avengers
Pro - The use of 3D can heighten the power of these films as a contrast to the sources. Going from a beautiful 2D image on the page, the 3D can both heighten the differences to the source material as well as the spectacle of the action. After all, there is no better genre for an operatic battle or epic physical feat.
Con - The blanket use in the genre does not allow it to gain legitimacy in the “high brow” critical sphere. I’m not saying they are all terrible, but it’s keeping the genre bogged down in B-Movie territory and keeping it from gaining the praise it can deserve. Obviously 3D is not the only reason Tom Hiddleston has yet gain a supporting actor nom, but it can’t be helping.
Notable Mentions - Avatar, Pacific Rim, Gravity
Pro - Sci-Fi and Fantasy films are inherently harder to buy into than other genres, being based around ideas or settings that are either fictional or situations that are fantastical. The largest hurdle for a mainstream audience is getting them to buy into these worlds. 3D can be a fantastic aid for this, adding to the depth and grounding to the events unfolding in front of us, no matter how fantastic.
Con - When utilised poorly, as with all 3D, it detaches, but this is a particular problem for Sci-Fi. It makes the alien settings all the more alien, and instead of bringing us further in to the film we are pushed back out and left to marvel at how wrong they have got it.
Notable Mentions - Hugo, Toy Story 3, Up
Pro - A big tick in the kids film box is the audience being far less fussy about film quality. Children have a tendency to be less worried about the film itself and more the spectacle experience within. They don’t look for plot holes or mind if a character isn’t well rounded. All they want is to be entertained, and 3D offers them that in spades.
Con - The problem comes when these kids grow up to watch an old favourite they haven’t seen in years, only to be greeted with a big slap to the face. In most cases, the 3D overrides a lot of the story elements in favour of gimmickry, leaving us with style over substance and many a ruined childhood memory in the coming years.
Notable Mentions - Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, Ghosts of the Abyss
Pro - A documentary enters into an unspoken contract with the audience; what you will see will be true or real. When executed properly, 3D documentaries can bring a real immediacy to what we are seeing, making us pay closer attention to the details. It can do what great films should do and make our lives outside the cinema more spectacular, forcing us to look at the world around us in a different way.
Con - Unfortunately this is so often not the case. Instead, we are mainly treated to films used to sell 3D TVs and IMAX tickets. These films, to me, create the opposite effect. They detach us from what we are watching, making it all less real (one of my problems with the upcoming war film Stalingrad 3D), which is defeats the aim of a documentary
If you are a film addict and not one for having films ruined by special effects or poor 3D quality I would consider what you are looking for in your 3D TV before you decide to buy one.
I personally feel that of all the above genres, Sci-Fi/Fantasy is the one that works the best with 3D. Of all the genres listed, the fantasy film is the one that can display the truly amazing, which is, as far as I can tell, the true calling of 3D. Of course all films require a level of investment from the audience, but in no other is it so necessary. However, it is because of its ideal use that when the 3D is piss poor, it falls flattest. Once you’ve been treated to a wholly fleshed out world like Avatar, everything else looks like Battlefield Earth.