3D or not 3D – that is the question

House of Wax (1953)
Starring: Vincent Price
Directed by: André de Toth

That’s right – the first major 3D feature film to hit society was way back in the 50s. Scared of that tiny box in the corner of the living room keeping us all from the cinema seats, the American movie industry tried to entice people in with this horror number. The story of a disfigured serial killer with a dodgy wax museum directed by a bloke with one eye (he couldn’t even see in 3D), it was a critical and financial success. Even if it did give everyone motion sickness.

Jaws 3-D (1983)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale
Directed by: Joe Alves

Apart from someone with the stunningly awesome surname MacCorkindale being used in this movie, this second follow-up to Spielberg’s 1975 thriller Jaws used 3D to combat the new threat of the VHS. It’s just as well, I mean those VHSs almost got out of control. Although one of the highest grossing movies in its year of release, Jaws 3-D was suitably rubbish. Criticised for just about everything from the plot to the acting, the 3D element was also slated for its gimmicky feel. Well, with a name like Jaws 3-D, I don’t think they intended to probe the intellect of the average audience – the 3D bandwagon is just fine for making mega bucks. But it showed that people wanted more from the invention than a massive mouth popping out of the screen – ask and you shall receive.

Up (2009)
Starring: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai
Directed by: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

It might have taken another quarter of a century but we can always rely on our loveable, snuggable Dis-Pix studios. They never fail to provide us with a heartfelt movie about the little bit weird and Up was no exception. This is the story of a 78-year-old man who ties hundreds of helium balloons to his house and floats across the world to realise his dreams at Paradise Falls. Stuck with an annoying, rotund boy scout, a giant bird and a talking dog the adventure is more than he bargains for – and it’s in 3D! It was the first animated and 3D film to open the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 and the first of Pixar’s films to be released in Disney Digital 3D. A far cry from the gimmicks, this was a more subtle use of the extra dimension that didn’t distract from the story – thank you Pixar!

Avatar (2009)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana
Directed by: James Cameron

Eating our cash quicker than a plague of those pub quiz machines (just another 50p…), James Cameron’s 3D epic Avatar<> needs no real introduction. Breaking all kinds of records to achieve its place at the top spot of highest grossing film of all time – beating Cameron’s previous teeny weeny success, Titanic – this film was a breakthrough for 3D cinema. Cameron waited some ten years for the technology he needed to make this, but hey if you’re making $2 billion every decade or so then what’s the point in doing the job regularly? It might just have been the story of Pocahontas with blue people, but with 3D it became a truly immersive and eye-popping experience.

Piranha 3D (2010)
Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Richard Dreyfuss
Directed by: Alexandre Aja

Like boobs and gore? Who doesn’t? Female assets are used to their full potential, there’s underwater lesbian action and a mental amount of fish eating every inch of flesh in sight. Ridiculous remake of the 1970s spoof of the aforementioned Jaws, boobs, butts and vomit jump out of the screen in a nostalgic use of the gimmicky origins of 3D. No brains needed for this one, just be content with the chaos as it plays out onscreen in more dimensions than is perhaps necessary. It was never going to be an Oscar winner, but it reminds us that 3D can still be quite fun and silly.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska
Directed by: Tim Burton

Weird, warped and wonderful, Tim Burton’s brain explodes on screen once again in the usual array of colours – but this time with an added dimention From Helena Bonham-Carter’s massive head to Anne Hathaway’s floatiness, Alice in Wonderland gave Burton fans a more highly defined view of his wacky imagination. Worth it just to dive into the three dimensional depths of Johnny Depp’s crazed green eyes, this movie was another win for 3D. Grossing over $1 billion worldwide, whatever the film may lack in plot is certainly made up for in spectacle thanks to the new and improved cinematic technology.

The age of 3D is upon us. Whatever gags and spoofs have gone before, it is starting to emerge as a more serious art of cinema (piranhas aside). Werner Herzog has been converted to it for his latest film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and with the likes of Spielberg’s Tintin, and the final chapter of The Pirates of the Caribbean due to hit our screens in 3D this year, there’s no escaping the onslaught of the extra dimension. So kiss goodbye to the brain-hurty, nauseating experiences of old and get out your cheap Ray-Ban-inspired specs out for some 3D viewing.

So the question is, where do you stand on 3D? Talk to us…

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