Saturday, 13 June 2009

A World in 3D – It's RealD!

Okay... so a rather busy week and then to top it off I had planned to write a completely different post than this one. But, for reasons that will become apparent (I hope), I just had to write this one first and postpone the other one until my next update.

See, this Monday I spoke to a friend and colleague who absolutely raved about Coraline 3D. Now, as a big fan of both Neil Gaiman's book and director Henry Selick's previous, wonderful collaboration with Tim Burton (i.e. The Nightmare Before Christmas, in case anyone had missed that), it's almost a wee bit odd that I'd not already seen it, but I do believe the trailer simply didn't catch my interest enough. What I had seen seemed lighter and... fluffier somehow, than the book as I remember it.

As it is, I'm kind of happy that I hadn't already been to see it. Because if I had, it would most likely not have been Coraline 3D I'd gone for but the regular Coraline feature. I mean, why waste extra money on 3D, right? I remember 3D. It became rather fashionable for a while back there in my childhood in the 80s. Red and green glasses on the whole family in the sofa in front of the telly watching Creature From The Black Lagoon and all that. Followed by a wave of other TV stuff (especially directed at kids) as well as a few comics. Fun to be sure, but still... not something I'd spend a bundle of extra cash on, really.

Don't get me wrong. It's not as if I thought the technology hadn't advanced or anything. I simply just didn't figure it was my particular cuppa. Not something that I required, as it were. But my friend's raving was as much about the whole 3D thing as the film itself. How the two worked ever so well to create depth in the fictional world of the piece. And it was the latter that really sold it to me. I simply had to see this film... and in 3D.

The technology is new, to be sure. Gone are the red and green glasses, now replaced by some nifty looking "sunglasses" (though they're not really sunglasses, of course; the caveat on the package made this abundantly clear in about three different languages). RealD is obviously the term for this new 3D technology and it relies on polarized light in some fashion or other, from what I've understood.

Yet, what is most amazing, at least with Coraline 3D (and also seemingly with Ice Age 3, Up and G-Force from what I could tell from the 3D trailers they showed at the cinema; all looking really good to different degrees), was not the great technology in and of itself, but rather how it was used. There has always been an impetus to use 3D to reach out and grab the audience, scare them and figuratively poke them in their eyes (something which Coraline 3D does quite literally at one point, but at least with a very good reason). This is probably why the technology has often been applied to horror films (the aforementioned Creature from the Black Lagoon leaps to mind), and still is to at least some degree. I couldn't help noticing a poster for My Bloody Valentine 3D, a film for which I, despite all my newly found love for the RealD format, couldn't muster even the slightest enthusiasm.

Coraline 3D, on the other hand, uses the technology mostly to, as my friend put it, create depth in the fictional and animated world it projects. And with great effect, at that. The whole world came to life before me in a new way, and part of me think it's telling that it is an animated film that manages to do this so well (note that the trailers mentioned above, that caught my eye as well, are all for animated films as well). It may well be that animation knows, as it were, how to use the technology to help tell the story rather than (as effects of all sorts can be manhandled at times) using a story – any story – to showcase the latest and greatest in terms of effects.

In short, what this film shows is the profound and ages old practice of excellence in storytelling. Of using whatever effects, stylistic or technical, that you have at hand to tell the story, and tell it in the best possible way. This is no mere showcase of a proverbial fireworks display saying look-at-what-we-can-do. It is a sincere case of we're-here-to-tell-you-a-story-and-we-will-use-all-the-tools-available-to-us-in-order-to-tell-it-the-best-way-we-possibly-can. And a very successful case, at that.

It also hints at this being an ongoing option already for animated films. This is, I'll admit, an assumption on my part thus far, but one I'll stick with for the time being, taking the aforementioned 3D trailers into account (and let's remember that trailers are usually keen on showing off effects for effects' sake. So if that's not a burden in a trailer, it seems less likely to be a burden in the finished product).

All in all, I'm gearing up to watch at least two more 3D films before the end of this year: Pixar's Up and Disney's G Force. Worlds in 3D – it's RealD!

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