In defence of 3D: when it rocks … and when it doesn’t

July 29th, 2013

Appliance Talk TV, Audio & Electronics TVs

Last night, I went to the 3D extravaganza that is “Pacific Rim”. I bore witness to this flick in the oh-so-inspiring environs of Event Cinemas Bondi Junction.

And I was summarily entertained, immersed and blown away.


At a time when our collective love-affair with 3D seems to be over the honey-moon period into a “hey dude, let’s see other people” phase … it was a salient reminder that, given the right content, 3D can live up to its own hype.

The scenario: I had a couple of free passes and nothing planned. An amigo and I had wanted to see Behind The Candelabra (‘cos watching an outrageously flamboyant Michael Douglas is a no-brainer) but that was sold out. My attention was drawn to this big, stupid summer blockbuster. In 3D. Naff, high-voltage, block-busting comic book stuff. And hey – what’s wrong with that?

That it was also directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the visionary behind one of my fave’ films of all time, Pan’s Labyrinth, was also a neat incentive. But I knew what I was in for: a big, dumb movie designed to bust-the-blocks at a multiplex cinema near you. Apt, I’d say. This is Bondi Junction Westfield. When in Rome.


So they charge me extra for the 3D experience, ‘cos the free tickets don’t cover the surcharge that eye-popping immersion calls for. I’m grumbling but I hand over the six bucks. It’s there.

And then I get into my seat and have a multiplex experience. Watching commercials on the big screen. Sitting there in the dark, for a full twenty minutes. Epic thrills brought to you by the redoubtable Val Morgan. Then a bland still image picture comes up on the screen:


Aaaand, then, finally (after another five minutes of ads, in 3D, shimmers before my eyes) with a great flare of imagery, blazing light and subwoofer-thumping, the movie kicks into gear.

And lo, it is a piece of wondrousness.


Here is the premise:

A time/space portal somewhere in the Pacific Ocean is delivering gigantic CGi monsters to wreak havoc on the world’s cities (including Sydney). The only thing that can stop them is purpose-built “Jaegers”, king-kong sized robots, each controlled by two kick-ass pilots in symbiotic mental embrace. So far, so stupid.

Add to this the corniest of human stories – the Top Gun with the traumatic past is coaxed out of retirement to fight one last time, teaming up with the unproven, unpredictable newbie. Butts heads with Commander gruff-alpha-dude with the heart of gold who secretly respects said Top Gun’s rebellious ways – while enjoying a rivalry with an egotistical douchebag fellow-pilot who eventually proves his worth in a heroic act of selflessness.

But, here’s the thing – it worked. The dazzling plus-sized fight-scenes, the richly detailed futuristic world, the gung-ho shenanigans. Two things really helped: Del Tormo’s gift for story-telling, which is strictly amazeballs. And the 3D.


When it rocks vs when it sucks

Here’s where I’ll qualify the praise. No, this isn’t a realistic immersive experience. 3D is an experience of heightened reality. It bursts, pops, explodes. When a mummy monster gives birth to a baby monster which comes squealing and roaring toward the camera in a splatter of teeth, flailing limbs and amniotic fluid, it’s pretty damn effective.

total-recallEye-popping, in fact.

Stitched together with a bunch of other amazeball sensory moments, it threw us (uncomfortable 3D glasses-and-all) into a bright, colourful, dynamic comic-strip world. With the caveat, of course, that the most subdued domestic scenes in Pacific Rim had a vitality which would’ve been inappropriate or absurd in any other cinematic context.

What’s weird, however, is when a mofo like Martin Scorcese comes down so unequivocally on the side of 3D. He said it was the future of film. When it seems to us that 3D won’t be able to present anything like emotional intimacy with any kind of subtlety. Small-scale human drama, real life. Nah.

3D is hyper-cinema. Built on action, horror and adventure. The immersiveness (a word people who sell TVs can make up) is in the action that seemingly spins around you. Reaches out toward you. And threatens to put a knife in your groin.


And before you say it – this doesn’t JUST need to be a cinema experience. Firstly, many TVs are huge. 55 inches and more (the bigger is, of course, better when it comes to 3D) … and there are also 3D projectors available. Don’t underestimate the advantage of being closer to that beautiful screen and having it all to yourself. Especially if you have a surround sound system positioned about you to bring the soundtrack to life.

On the other hand, if you’re not into the kind of spectacle that Guillermo Del Toro’s dreams are made of, don’t be surprised if you never get into 3D. Don’t expect anyone to make a small-scale human drama for you to enjoy in 3D any time soon. It’s just not the right medium for that.

Richie is a Sydney based writer with sophistication, flair and hair. Aside from blogging and writing for Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he is also a new playwright who had his first play, ‘The Local’ performed last year at the Sydney Fringe Festival. He is also the wicketkeeper for the Gladstone Hotel Cricket Club and his favourite appliance is any 3D Blu-ray Home Theatre System that can be delivered to his house free-of-charge in the near future. He was the lead singer of Van Halen in 2002. Google+

2 responses to “In defence of 3D: when it rocks … and when it doesn’t”

  1. Mark Bristow says:

    I loved Pacific Rim. Yeah, the story and characters were simple, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially when giant monster-punching is involved.

    In addition to the crazy-awesome 3D visuals, I was rather chuffed by the major role of Aussie characters in the story – while they didn’t quite get the accents right, they did nail the attitude.

    “We can either sit here and do nothing or grab those flare guns and do something REALLY stupid!”

  2. Richie Black says:

    Agreed. Although they could have got genuine Aussie actors to play those characters … there are enough of them out there!

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