Few things are more annoying than gimmicks. The dictionary defines a gimmick as "a concealed, usually devious aspect or feature of something, as a plan or deal." Like how stores lure you in for sales on Black Friday only to have very, very limited quantities of the items advertised. That’s how most people have always thought of 3D- a flashy label they slap on otherwise mediocre films to get someone- anyone- to show up on opening day, a sign that the film is not good enough on its own.
Thanks to advances in the way filmmakers use 3D, it is finally becoming more than just a gimmick.
Anyone who has seen Disney’s A Christmas Carol, based on Charles Dickens’ holiday mainstay, can tell you that 3D has now become art. Rather than toss orbs at the audience’s face or point sharp objects at them teasingly, director Robert Zemeckis uses 3D to give us an awe-inspiring depth of field to beautifully composed shots and to lend real texture to the crags and crevices of his characters’ faces and the environments they inhabit. The CGI characters look all the more real because of the 3D and less like video game marionettes. Indeed, the audience finds themselves drawn into the world because of the 3D, rather than being distracted by it.
Zemeckis’ Christmas Carol and the upcoming Avatar from James Cameron represent a new wave of 3D movies. With groundbreakers like Forrest Gump, Terminator 2, The Abyss, Titanic, and Contact under their belts, these directors have reinvented the way Hollywood uses visual effects to tell stories. And they are not alone. Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and George Lucas are also joining the push to make 3D more than a gimmick, each planning their own movies using the new technology.
There has been some resistance from critics and set-in-their-ways moviegoers. For many, the stigma of 3D, evoking such bombs as Jaws 3D, has them turning their noses up in discontent long before they even enter the theatre. Purist critics decry 3D, despite advances and differences in usage, as mere distraction from the story and gimmickry. Then again, before Spielberg proved how awe-inspiring CGI can be with his towering Jurassic Park creatures, critics poo-pooed the technology as nothing more than a fad. Before Peter Jackson used motion capture to give us The Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum, one of the most haunting characters in modern cinema, critics gave the technology a thumbs-down. Critics and more traditionalist moviegoers, it seems, prefer not to go on faith, but on things seen.
No doubt, with such forces as Spielberg, Cameron, and Lucas behind this technology, 3D will soon take its place as another powerful tool of the film medium.