Tuesday 11 May 2010

3D or not 3D?

On Sunday night I went to the cinema and, like last time, I bumped into Ketrick and Laura from around-here-but-also-San-Francisco; It seems that we only meet in the dark – which is probably just as well because although Laura is strikingly beautiful Ketrick and I are pretty frightening.

This time we all agreed the film to be excellent, so much so it was unnecessary to say more and instead we made an appointment for next week to see Robin Hood.

On this occasion though we sat down to watch Tim Burton’s Alice, which has finally made her way to our local picture palace.
I’ve seen the film twice now, once in 3D and once in 2.5D, or whatever it is I usually see things in, so I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert.

I am a little confused by all this dimensionality, partly because of my age obviously – I still wear trousers around the waist – partly because of my pathological hatred of Facebook and any new technology that begins with either a letter (or a number) and partly because of my brother-in-law.

You haven’t met him in this blog before so let’s cal him Andy for sake of anonymity (andynomity maybe) - he is one of three brothers that tormented my wife during her childhood and whom she loves to bits now.

Andy works for a company that is installing 3D capability in cinemas across the nation (England) and I recently, after my first viewing of Alice, engaged him in conversation about the potential for the 3D experience to sweep the world.

The conversation was a bit one sided.

“So, Andy, when I look at things here in Balham what am I doing – 3d-ing or what?”

“Well Chris, most human beings use what is known as binocular vision to perceive depth and see the world in 3D. The binocular vision system relies on the fact that we have two eyes, which are approximately 3 in apart. This separation causes each eye to see the world from a slightly different perspective. The brain fuses these two views together. It understands the differences and uses them to calculate distance creating our sense of depth and ability to gauge distance. A simple way to understand this principle is to hold your thumb up at arms length and close one eye. Then try closing the other eye. As you switch between open eyes you should see your thumb "jumping" back and forth against the background. To see how much of a difference the binocular vision system makes, have a friend throw you a ball and try to catch it while keeping one eye closed.”

At which point he tossed a jar of peanut butter at me, which I didn’t see coming as I had a thumb near my nose and one eye closed and I was left with a sticky dent in the chin.

Not far from where he lives is one of the ugliest parts of London, which I won’t mention less the good folk of Streatham take umbrage, and a month or two ago. March I think, they were showing Alice in 3D and I joined the queues.

I wasn’t sure where to sit –usually I like to get swallowed by a film; I hate to have heads between me and the screen and in my local picture palace I have the choice of the front four empty rows. Here I was a bit late, the place was full and I figured that my viewing experience would be made or broken by good or bad seating. I ended up central, I thought that might be important, and to do this I had to sit in the front row.

If you haven’t yet been to a 3D movie there is something you need to know.

Don’t sit in the front row.

Normally I wear my glasses when I watch a movie and there was no one on hand to advise me as to whether I should wear both my normal glasses AND the special 3D ones, so I did.

When I left the cinema at the end of the film my spatial understanding was so confused i found myself unable to negotiate steps and I had to be carried from the cinema by medical staff.

Last night the film was in non-3D (D I guess) so I was able to leave under my own propulsion and I even got to shake hands with the owner (and kiss Laura goodnight!)

So? What’s the verdict?

Go see it in D. I found the 3 part just distracting, even if I did like the butterfly joining me in the auditorium at the end. A good film is story and acting first – remember my favourite is Casablanca, and THAT was in black and white with NO butterflies – and this second time was an opportunity to enjoy the script and the performances much closer.

Johnny Depp steals the show and he’s bigger than 3D anyway and as mad as a hatter, a great portrayal –intense, funny, loveable and with a hint of danger and Mia Wasikowska was excellent as Alice, transforming from the slightly tetchy teenager of the beginning to the ravishing warrior of the end.

The script was good, the story inventive – it’s a sort-of Alice Through the Wonderglass – costumes were a ball, make up a carnival and the sets were wonderland.

I find it difficult to make a complaint – educated or cynical – about the entire experience and I can’t wait to go and see it for a third time.



DaveESLetc said...

Interesting! I haven't seen a 3D movie in the theater since they showed Plan 9 from Outer Space in a lecture hall when I was in college. I have no idea what this new 3D experience is like.

I'm planning to go see the new Hubble IMAX movie, though, which may or may not be in 3D. I hear it has some spectacular space footage, though, which sounds pretty neat.

Take care!

popps said...

Hi Dave, thanks for dropping in.
I don't think the experience is much different though the glasses themselves are a bit more substantial.
When i was a kid we had a toy that was a sort of three d hand held viewer - it is a bit like that.
the best thing - don't forget to turn around and look at everyone!