While the jury was out before James Cameron‘s “Avatar” opened on whether or not 3D would be a one-time novelty or a new trend, the absolutely massive success of that film meant the format was here to stay. And while we could argue about whether or not it has been used artfully or simply as way to get a few more dollars out of your wallet (in case you missed it, we discussed that in depth right here) the bottom line is that with more than 25 movies arriving his year in three dimensions, those funky glasses aren’t going away anytime soon.
Re-releasing catalog titles in the new format has proven to be a new cash cow for studios, particularly Disney who had a surprise hit last year with “The Lion King.” We’re not even two months into 2012 and we’ve already seen “Beauty & The Beast” and “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” get re-upped into theaters, and this spring “Titanic” gets into the water. Cameron was a very early critic of post-conversion, but by all accounts he’s been taking a painstaking approach to the whole thing to make sure he does it right. The filmmaker and Fox have already been showing off a portion of the film in advance to press (indeed, we were impressed by footage unveiled at Empire Big Screen last year) but Roger Ebert seen the whole thing and banged out the first review. And he thinks the movie was just fine the way it was.
Now, a bit of a note. Firstly, Ebert has long been a critic of the format citing the dimmer resolution and clunky conversion that makes viewing a headache, or the 3D limp and ineffective. Last year, he even boldly (if prematurely) declared the format dead. Thus, it’s not exactly a shock to read the following:
“Titanic” was not shot for 3D, and just as you cannot gild a pig, you cannot make 2D into 3D. What you can do, and he tries to do it well, is find certain scenes that you can present as having planes of focus in foreground, middle and distance…No matter how long Cameron took to do it, no matter how much he spent, this is retrofitted 2D. Case closed.
….If you’re alert to it, you’ll notice that many shots and sequences in this version are not in 3D at all, but remain in 2D. If you take off your glasses, they’ll pop off the screen with dramatically improved brightness. I know why the film is in 3D. It’s to justify the extra charge. That’s a shabby way to treat a masterpiece.
Oof. This is likely not the words Fox wanted to hear from the leading critic of land, but they’ve still got time to make some amends. As you might remember, last year Michael Bay shipped out specifically brightened prints for “Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon” to counter complaints of a dimmed image. And we will not be surprised if we hear an announcement in short order that they will be doing the same.
But Ebert gets right at the heart of the problem with redoing catalog titles by asking: Did you miss any dimensions the first time you saw “Titanic?” We all know the answer to that, and this will be the biggest hurdle of all that Cameron and Fox will need to jump to convince audiences to pay a hefty fee to spend over three hours watching a movie they’ve already seen, that is only partially converted to 3D that adds little to the overall experience.