Monday, 5 April 2010

In your face, Hollywood

Call it two steps forward, one step back. James Cameron spent longer on Avatar than on most of his marriages, in the hope that he could make 3D technology a viable story-telling tool, rather than a gimmick to drive up ticket prices. This was no 'smell-o-vision' novelty - it was the future of cinema.

So he's probably feeling a little disheartened to see how quickly Hollywood has raced to dig out those old polarised-lens glasses in the hope of repeating his multi-billion dollar success. Virtually every major movie heading to the big screen has been hastily retooled to ensure that audiences are kept ducking in their seats and waving their arms hopelessly in front of their faces.

This weekend, cinema-goers were treated to Louis Leterrier's remake of Clash of the Titans, replacing dated Harryhausen stop-motion effects with shiny new CGI, and even more dated Harry Hamlin with flavour-of-the-month Sam Worthington (hot off Avatar, funnily enough).

Although reviews were fair-to-indifferent, the real criticism was directed at the film's crappy attempt at a multi-dimensional spruce-up. As the LA Times critic commented: "It's doubtful that records are kept about this sort of thing, but consider the possibility that 'Clash of the Titans' is the first film to actually be made worse by being in 3D."

The problem is, Clash and other movies like it, weren't filmed with 3D in mind. Instead, they were completed in 2D and then converted on the cheap. Well, OK, 'on the cheap' is a comparative term, given that conservative estimates place the cost of that extra dimension at around $120,000 per minute.

Asked for his opinion, Cameron was diplomatic, simply pointing out "It's never going to be as good as if you shot it in 3D... They're converting 'Clash of the Titans' in eight weeks. But I'm guessing six months to a year to do it right."

Nonetheless, the extra five dollars per ticket to see Medusa's ophidian weave wriggling in your lap helped the new version of Clash of the Titans to a stellar $60million opening weekend.

Interestingly, while the debate was raging about the film's depth-enhancing effects, viewers in California were unwittingly treated to a fourth-dimension for no extra cost. During mid-afternoon screenings on Sunday, just as the monstrous Kraken rose from the sea, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Southern California, giving movie-goers a rumbling, shaking sensation that even ILM couldn't fake.

For the majority of audiences, it seems that this new retelling of Greek mythology makes for an instantly forgettable experience, no matter how many dimensions you happen to see it in. As Michael Bay said in an interview recently, "You can’t just shit out a 3D movie". However, as he's successfully proven on more than one occasion, a Transformers movie can be easily evacuated from Hollywood's bowels.

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