Sunday, 8 July 2012

2D or not 2D. That is the predictable pun.

I've been to the cinema twice in recent weeks. The first time was to see Prometheus. I'm a longstanding fan of the first two Alien movies, and I've been content to pretend the other sequels and spin-offs don't exist. I was very excited in the build up to the new movie, especially considering Ridley Scott was at the helm. How could it possibly fail?

Well, it didn't fail exactly, but it was a great big ball of existential 'Meh, so what?' In terms of storytelling, the movie was bogged down by its own pomposity. In the process of questioning the purpose of mankind's existence, it forgot the purpose of its own: to entertain.

But that wasn't my biggest issue. My real gripe was with the 3D presentation. Of course, I could have opted to see it in 2D at the same theatre, but I thought I'd better go the whole way and see it as the director intended. I'm not sure if the director intended me to see it as if I was looking through two toilet rolls and a pair of sunglasses, but that was the effect.

I've seen a few other movies in 3D, including Avatar, which probably made the best use of the technology, albeit within the confines of a so-so story. Toy Story 3 looked good, especially tied to a stellar story, and The Avengers had enough fun and bombast to make the indignity of putting a pair of glasses over the top of my own glasses worthwhile. But given the choice, I could live without this whole 3D thing. I don't think the extra dimension added a great deal to Toy Story 3 or The Avengers, which were good movies regardless of any gimmicks. I'll happily watch those again in 2D. But next time a big blockbuster that I need to see in the cinema comes out in 3D, I'm going to go with the 2D version.

The other movie I saw on the big screen recently couldn't be any more different to Prometheus. My favourite movie ever, starring my favourite actor, and directed by my favourite director, got a cinematic re-release a couple of weeks ago. Billy Wilder's The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, was shown in the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast. Because it was a Monday night, it only cost three quid. Three measly pounds to see an indisputable classic, fully restored in a brand new print, in one of the nicest movie theatres you'll ever visit. Bargain or what?

I loved every minute of it, enjoyed spotting details I'd never seen before, and relished the gasps of horror from the audience when Mr Sheldrake (played by a delightfully oily Fred MacMurray) offers Fran a hundred dollar bill for Christmas.

One thing struck me most of all: the set of CC Baxter's office floor, the desks receding into the distance, row after row, the brutal flourescent lighting above the workers crammed together like battery chickens. You want some depth of field in your movies? You want to feel like you can reach into the picture? Well, you don't need to stick a pair of goggles on your face. Just watch The Apartment and enjoy the Oscar-winning skills of Edward G. Boyle and Alexandre Trauner.

The biggest movie of this year, after the record-breaking success of The Avengers, will undoubtedly be The Dark Knight Rises. I wonder if any studio executives took director Christopher Nolan aside and whispered in his ear, something like, "Chris, how do you feel about going 3D on this one? What do you say? Everybody's doing it..."

I'm very glad Nolan has resisted any pressure he might have been under to follow this trend. There's huge expectation weighing on the third part of the Batman trilogy, and while I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Nolan will pull off the near-impossible feat of another triumph, I'm confident it'll look spectacular, and not a single soul will miss those batarangs flying out of the screen at them.

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