I'm not about to pretend to be a big expert on the art/technology of 3-D movies, but I do know a few things: 1. I once spent an afternoon on the set of the My Bloody Valentine remake, and (say what you like about the movie) those guys spent a lot of time working on a massive camera / monitor hook-up that looked like a cat-scan machine combined with a airplane cockpit. 2. As a child of the '80s, I grew up suffering through several horrid 3-D movies (research the year 1983, movie freaks), but even the worst of those flicks were created with the intent of being shown in 3-D. For all its lameness, even something like Amityville 3-D was composed, framed, and photographed with the three-dimensional exhibition process in mind.

But guess what, moviegoers? Someone out in Hollywood figured out a way to "3-D-ize" an already finished film. Yes, a film that was (again) composed, framed, and photographed with a flat surface in mind is now being retrofitted with a gauzy, tacky 3-D "conversion" process that may look great on the marketing materials ... but really suck eggs when it comes to entertaining an audience. Oh, and it's more expensive, too. Suckers.

The nicest thing I've heard about the 3-D version of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland experiment is this: "I'm not really sure why it was in 3-D." (I've heard much nastier things about the movie itself.) 3-D films -- be they actual 3-D productions or after-the-fact "conversion" jobs -- demand higher ticket prices, you see, which is why a perfectly and happily mindless piece of popcorn entertainment like Clash of the Titans will be arriving this weekend in both the wow-fancy 3-D and the "lame old" 2-D varieties. The studio makes a few more bucks from the families who wander into the 3-D presentation, but here's the problem: those ticket-buyers are wasting their money.

First off, it's a gimmick. If you're talking about Beowulf or Avatar, then maybe it's a gimmick bolstered by a fun / artistic idea or an otherwise legitimate purpose. But a gimmick all the same. I fully believe that Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron are trying to use 3-D technology to give moviegoers a new thrill. In some cases they're actively advancing the state of special effects, and therefore filmmaking on the whole. I'm still not a huge fan of the 3-D stuff, but at least I can respect those filmmakers' motives.

But to jam an allegedly whiz-bang 3-D face-lift onto a film that was never shot for such a presentation? It's a rather shameless marketing gimmick that seems to be making some solid coin -- and that sucks because the 3-D technology slathered all over Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans remake does nothing but mar the film. At best it's a forgettable nuisance (nothing in the movie truly "jumps" out at you; there's no real "depth of field" expansion; and the 3-D stuff does nothing to get you "into" the action that the normal film wouldn't) and at worst it's a visual headache that actively damages the film's production design and special effects. I noticed the surface of a tree that was "bubbling," and I thought it was supposed to be an evil tree until I realized ... nope, that's just the low-rent shake & bake "3-D conversion" process in action.

If I were someone who worked on the visual side of Clash of the Titans, I'd be pretty angry at how the flick somehow looks blurrier, gauzier, and decidedly less majestic when seen through those clunky 3-D glasses. And this isn't a knock on the movie. Our review will arrive on Friday, but I think Titans is a perfectly, obviously colorful matinee full of swords and sandals, monsters and mayhem. But I wish to hell the screening had been in plain old 2-D. Really, that format is good enough for me, Hollywood. Stop "improving" new movies before we even get a chance to enjoy them. The final chase in Clash of the Titans, for example, might have been a lot more fun if I could have seen the action clearly.

And to those moviegoers who want to avoid the trap, my advice is this: pay closer attention to your favorite film critics and movie nuts. They're the ones who know the difference between Avatar / Up / Beowulf 3-D and the dime-store light shows that are gradually crowding the multiplexes -- and really starting to piss those people off. And ultimately it will dilute the pool to the point where a "good" 3-D movie gets lost among the dozens of low-end "conversion jobs." Which would suck, really.

Come to think of it, the distributors should have to put "Shot for 3-D" or "Converted to 3-D" somewhere on their movie posters. They're hoping you'll think Clash of the Titans 3-D is somehow similar to Avatar 3-D, and that's such a specious connection that I'm tempted to scream "false advertisement."

Put another way: I'd rather watch Clash of the Titans on blu-ray than deal with all this silly nonsense.
CATEGORIES Movies, Cinematical