Levinson: Three dimensions a 3-Don’t

By Noah Levinson

Disney World really isn’t that magical if you’re between the ages of 16 and 20.

You’re… Disney World really isn’t that magical if you’re between the ages of 16 and 20.

You’re too old to enjoy collecting autographs from costumed characters but too young to enjoy collecting alcoholic beverages from every country in Epcot.

But you notice something in places like Disney. A staple of amusement park entertainment is 3-D technology. It’s been using it since “Captain EO” in 1986, a 17-minute interplanetary adventure starring Michael Jackson and made by Francis Ford Coppola.

But 3-D technology has always flirted with Hollywood, long before the man behind “The Godfather” trilogy was directing sci-fi Michael Jackson-themed musical-exploits.

In the late 1800s, inventor William Friese-Greene patented a 3-D movie process involving stereoscopic images. Not until 1922 would “The Power of Love” become the first 3-D film available to theater audiences.

But once depression and war broke out, 3-D technology was stored away because of its high production cost and the public’s general disinterest in it.

Then the golden era of 3-D arrived in the ’50s, when three-dimensions dominated the screen. “House of Wax,” starring Vincent Price, would become a cornerstone genre flick of the time. Currently it’s available on Netflix, unfortunately minus the third dimension, but it’s easy to tell when 3-D would be appropriate — note the lengthy paddleball scene and then the extended can-can dance sequence.

An extended can-can dance sequence? But come now! 3-D isn’t for perverts! Or is it?

In 1969, a soft-core adult film titled “The Stewardess” was released. Chronicling the sexual encounters of an airline stewardess throughout Los Angeles, it would become one of the most profitable 3-D films of all time.

So maybe 3-D porn is a valid option. After a Google search of “3-D porn,” it turns out that even the adult industry is embracing the craft (see “Tommy Gunn’s Cummin’ at You!”).

But where did 3-D go after the ’60s? Where every Hollywood producer goes to look for a quick buck of course: remakes.

You could see “Jaws 3-D,” “Amityville 3-D” or other poorly constructed horror remakes full of squirting blood (like a Gwar concert without the mess).

There was even a 3-D release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” one of my favorite holiday mash-up films of all time. Too bad the only noticeable 3-D in it was added snowflakes.

Most recently, I decided to give “Up,” Pixar’s latest film, a 3-D chance. Like many times before, I left the theater unimpressed and with a headache, wishing I had seen the 2-D version instead.

Take the glasses off during a 3-D movie and you’ll notice the brightness of the screen changes completely. The 3-D glasses act like sunglasses, darkening and subduing the picture. Personally, I’d much rather watch the bright and shiny version.

Also, everything is 3-D is distracting. As soon as I start to get absorbed into the plot and characters, a giant freaking bird flies out at me and I remember, “Oh yeah, I’m watching a movie.” Way to go to ruin the magic, giant freaking bird.

But I don’t want to mislead you. “Up” really doesn’t take advantage of the pop-out-at-you effect. The majority of 3-D is used to highlight depth. The grass is in front of the house and the giant blimp is behind the characters — yawn.

Isn’t the task of the cinematographer to convey depth through only two dimensions? Isn’t that an important part of filmmaking that gets skipped over by using 3-D?

The novelty of 3-D was lost to me even before I discovered my mom was the tooth fairy — a terrifying night for a child — and I still don’t respect it as a technique. Some say that 3-D is the future, especially in horror, but I’d much rather have filmmakers take the time to find creative ways to scare me instead of relying on a frightening face jumping through the screen to pass off as shock value.

Truthfully, the only chance 3-D has left is with director James Cameron. The director of “The Terminator,” “Titanic” and “Aliens” has been working for the past four years on “Avatar,” a science fiction epic shot with the most advanced 3-D cameras known to Hollywood.

Perhaps Cameron understands something about the technology that other filmmakers don’t. He has been said to be one the smartest men in show business.

But until the release of “Avatar” later this year, I only want to see 3-D in amusement parks and next to Google searches for porn.