Movies coming at you

October 7, 2011 1:40 am

More than 15 years has passed since “The Lion King” originally destroyed Box Office records and crushed the spirits of children around the world when young Simba nuzzled his father’s lifeless body.

On Sept. 15, the childhood classic returned to the theaters, again ruling movie return numbers during its two-week limited run.

The only difference this time around is the needless addition of post-conversion 3D, that has sadly become a sign of the times.

Consider “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II,” “Tron,” “Captain America,” “Thor,” “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” and “Shark Night.”

All are recent films shown in 3D in major theaters.

Gimmicks bring audience

The concept of audience immersion into a film was something director William Castle (known for the original “House on Haunted Hill” and “Thirteen Ghosts” that were both remade in the past decade) developed for his movies in the 1950s and 1960s.

Castle was the master of audience participation. He’d have devices in the audience, including the use of 3D glasses with the “Thirteen Ghosts” film for viewers to see the ghosts. He was a master of tricks and gimmicks.

This sort of thing became more and more en vogue as the development of more sequels came about. In the 1980s, it seemed every third film in a franchise got the red/blue treatment. Examples: “Jaws 3D” and “Friday the 13th” in 3D.

And like the fad it was, it died out and didn’t show up on the radar again – for some time.

Changing the game

That was until James Cameron, of “Titantic” fame, made the blue-cat people remake of Pocahontas known as “Avatar.”

Criticisms aside, Avatar showed how 3D could be used in new and creative ways seamlessly integrating live action and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) on a three-dimensional plane that felt smooth and realistic.

The film grossed $2.7 billion at the Box Office and it started a resurgence of the use of 3D in recent films.

Scratch that, it started an explosion.

Nearly every major blockbuster out there is moving the way of in-your-face scenery.

Beginning of the end

Hollywood has done what it does best: beat a good idea into the ground without a lick of passion or creativity.

The last two years has had more 3D films than one would’ve seen in probably a lifetime.

It would be fine if it wasn’t for ticket prices jumping up an additional $5 extra or the plain fact that nine times out of 10 the films presented in tres dimension are nothing more bashed out post jobs.

Films such as “Avatar” and “Transformers 3” were made for 3D.

The technology was utilized throughout and shaped the production of both movies.

Many of the films that followed weren’t meant for 3D, so instead of actually filming with the Cameron/Pace Fusion cameras, editors were forced by the studios to simply try replicating the effect on the computer.

That’s why films such as “Clash of the Titans,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “The Last Airbender” look so poor, the chief crime being a non-modification of overall screen brightness.

That’s why some movies are really hard to see on account of the film being dark (similar to a Tim Burton film, such as the original “Batman”) and it becomes harder to see after putting on sunglasses in a pitch-black theater.

Film companies, thankfully, seem to be slowly catching on account of huge drops in 3D ticket sales.

Earlier this week Sony Pictures announced starting in May 2012 it will no longer pay for 3D glasses to be sent to theaters.

That might leave theater owners wondering what to do.

Pay for the glasses meaning an even further increase in ticket prices or slowly drop 3D support after just converting theatres with expensive projectors?

Either way, people are beginning to realize not to bite at hype that simply doesn’t exist.

3D is overused in film, but there are good examples

Tron: Legacy

Twenty-eight years is a long time to restart a franchise’s engine, let alone do an actual continuation of the story and not a simple reboot.

Disney’s long over due sequel was simply begging for the 3D treatment with blitzing fast light-cycle races and gravity bending in your face disk wars.

Throw in actor Michael Sheen dressed up as a Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie, a pulse-pounding score by Daft Punk and the movie became a digital frontier realized in a way that was only implied from creator Steven Lisberger original 1980’s cult classic.

Resident Evil 4

The “Resident Evil” film franchise, like the zombies that roam its movies, defies logic and nature.

The films have gone from painful adaptations in name only to a hit video game series to a crazy devil may care action horror series.

The movies are actually getting better and more entertaining with each sequel.

The forth film, “Afterlife,” uses the same cameras from the movie “Avatar” for surprisingly great effects with rocky performances so campy it would make B-movie star Bruce Campbell blush.

Transformers 3

3D was a godsend for moviegoers around the world hoping to actually understand the action scenes in a Michael Bay film.

Bay had to slow down his editing and compose sequences with greater depth and understanding given the limitations that shooting in 3D adds.

He actually makes brilliant decisions and does the best action work of his career.

Next to avatar this is probably the best usage of 3D effects utilized recently. The last action scene clocking out at an whopping 45 minutes has to be seen to be believed.