3D Technology has dominated cinemas for the past few years, and there’s has been a recent surge in taking old, classic films and giving them the 3D treatment. One has to wonder how much this decision is based on actually trying to enhance the experience of these classic films, or if it is just a moneymaking ploy.
There is much debate as to whether a classic film should be enhanced in this way. Does it take away from the original qualities of the film, or does it bring something new? Last year James Cameron’s Titanic was re-released in IMAX 3D, and a film of that technological scope was an incredible experience to see in an IMAX theatre. I felt as though I was on the boat with Jack and Rose; it really drew the audience right into the experience. Not everyone feels the same way about toying with the classics. I spoke to some of my fellow film critics on the topic and they had nothing positive to say. It was a popular opinion that enhancing an old film into 3D discredits the director’s original vision, though it’s interesting to wonder if the 3D technology had been available at the time, if the director would have made the film in that way.
The Wizard of Oz, which premiered at Locarno in a digitally remastered version, was notable 75 years ago because of its use of Technicolor, which was a new technology at the time. Many people feel betrayed by the fact that this film is being revived with 3D technology, because it discredits the original triumph the film had in its release in 1939. It’s easy to see the situation both ways. I find that it can be a truly special experience to watch certain films in 3D, and it has always been intriguing to me when a film gets a 3D re-release. The box office would also prove this correct, the most successful example being Titanic 3D, which grossed almost a billion dollars more for the film. Other films to experience the success of the 3D re-release include a crop of Disney films, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Finding Nemo to name a few. The trend suggests that more films will continue to do this and more profit will be made in their name. For the most part however, I feel like this is just a way to make money.
Sometimes the technology works for these films as it elevates what is already an incredible image. Oftentimes however, it does not differ much from the original quality and can be seen as a waste. The screen itself feels closer and it is more like you are in the movie, but there aren’t things flying out from the screen at you like they would be in a film intended to be 3D from the start. The Wizard of Oz in particular is a film that does not need to be seen in 3D, as the technology does not enhance the image in any spectacular way. For me, the original quality of the film is a marvel in itself, and I am content to watch it without wearing glasses. It takes away from the magical quality that the standard version of the film has.
It feels like audiences are being cheated out of their money with the promise of an incredible cinematic experience, but the truth is a lot of these films can be seen in the comfort of your own home and still reach such an effect. Some films of course benefit from being seen on the big screen, but being shown in their standard format is enough. The Locarno Film Festival also screened Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 35mm, and seeing that on the big screen was an overwhelming experience. I believe that what is more astounding is the classic, original quality of films. If more were screened as retrospectives focusing on the elements that made the movie so unique for its time were shown in theaters, that would be something worth paying for. The magic is in how it was made, not in how we can enhance it.