File 03: “Part 3(D)”
Living in Australia has many pros; I need not bore you with a list, I’m sure you’ve all heard words and phrases like: beaches, sunshine, ‘quality of life’ and so on and so forth. Living on the other side of the planet has also innumerable cons: terrifying local fauna, sweaty public transport, et cetera, et cetera. For the expatriate filmgoer the biggest con, besides a tendency for Australian audiences to talk loudly during screenings, is the feeling that one is so far away from everything. It inevitably takes time for films from oversees, generally the smaller ones, to reach these shores. This week my frustration at not being able to find a single, solitary picture-house showing Kill List turned slowly-but-surely to anger, then sorrow. This sorrow was (thankfully) short-lived as, upon spying an advert proudly boasting an upcoming showing of The Lion King, I was overcome by a wave of total and utter confusion. After living in the UK for some twenty-odd years I am quite familiar with the occasional wait as a new release makes its way across the Atlantic, but I was not prepared for this. The standard-bearer of the Disney renaissance was hitting Australian cinema-screens fully seven years late. Mercifully my confusion was not long-lasting as once again I was reunited with my faithful friend, blind fury, as I noticed the most hateful letter-number combination currently being used in cinematic circles: 3, and indeed, D.
I am well aware that many people far more intelligent and eloquent than I (Roger Ebert for one) have gone before me to criticise the current three-dimensional boom and that I have relatively little to add , but my patience has been tested for the last time. The moment at which I was informed that a retrospective 3D-fitting of one of the most beloved family films of the 1990’s was “as I’ve never seen it before”, was the moment I turned my back on this most heinous of optical inventions. It was the music, the characters, the death, loss and personal growth of the young Simba that made The Lion King the wonderful film it is. That and the fat, flatulent pig. The 3D, or lack thereof, was never an issue. Need I remind you that “hakuna matata” means: “No worries”, it does not mean “ruin my perception of depth and give me a headache with your stupid, plastic glasses”.
I’ve never had a problem with 3D when it was acknowledged for, and used as, the gimmick that it is. Flying body parts in horror films or talking, sneezing, donkeys on theme park rides were always fine, and may still be; but the shift towards 3D as the rule and no longer the exception feels like a joke that stopped being funny a long time ago. The retrospective adding of 3D to 2D films may be the most profoundly irritating use of the medium. Mark my words, The Lion King will inevitably be one of the first of many. The Nightmare Before Christmas and first two Toy Story films suffered a similar fate and it’s not hard to see more 3D versions of once-loved films accompanying forthcoming Blu-Ray releases. In my mind’s eye it’s all-too-easy to picture Mary Poppins bursting forth from the screen attached to her umbrella, Mick Travis’s sadistic punishment “improved” by unnervingly sharpening the focus of the entire frame (the better to show each cane stroke on his young buttocks), or Harry Lime’s memorable monologue accompanied by wisps of floating, CGI thistle.
There has always been and always will be a place for 3D in the cinema; but my hope is that its grip on the hearts, minds and wallets of cinemagoers becomes considerably weakened.
A glance at the listings for a nearby cinema tells me I shall have to wait until the end of January until I am able to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy projected in two perfectly adequate dimensions. It’s quite a long time for me to wait; what a shame all this 3D nonsense wasn’t similarly delayed.