This article was originally published in the 2011-2012 academic year.
It’s mind blowing! It’s eye popping! It’s spectacular! It’s every positive, hyperbolic adjective you could possibly think of, and it’s being shoved right in your face – both literally and figuratively! I speak of course of that gloriously overused marvel of technology known as 3D, which has single-handedly been both one of the most successful and one of the most pointless features introduced into the world of media in recent times. With Christmas just around the corner, is it worth embracing all of the new 3D-based products that are hitting the market and putting them on your list?
Let’s be frank here – 3D is, was, and always will be a novelty. It is neither an evolution nor a revolution. It is simply a pretty visual gimmick that makes you feel a bit more immersed in what you are seeing. To this day there has not yet been one instance where 3D viewing is absolutely essential, and you’re just as likely to have as much of an enjoyable time without utilising that extra dimension. But it seems the general public likes a bit of a novelty and that’s why 3D is taking over at the moment. No longer can you sit through a series of film trailers without at least half of them being advertised as being in 3D, and now they’re trying to make us buy 3D televisions too so we can watch all of our favourite shows with a whole new sense of depth. My response? Well, imagine a sort of groaning guttural sound, and that’s not far off it.
My main issue with 3D is that it’s being whored out as a way of conning people out of their money. Want to see the latest blockbuster in 3D? Why, of course you can – but that’ll be another however many pounds please, all for the privilege of getting to sit in a dark room wearing a pair of moronic glasses. The worst part? 99% of the films that use 3D (which, coincidentally, feels like 99% of all films made at the moment) do it in such a half-baked, completely useless way that the better experience would probably come from watching it in 2D – that way you’re saving money and you don’t have any embarrassment. The reason for this is that, simply, the majority of films aren’t designed for 3D. It’s just a tacked on special effect. When 3D is used properly in a film as a complement to the feature presentation – most frequently in animations, I’ve noticed – it works beautifully. In anything else though? Save your money.
The same goes for 3D TVs. Most shows aren’t designed for 3D and so it’s just a silly extra for the time being. If and when they start making channels dedicated to well-implemented usage of the third dimension, then I’ll take it seriously. Right now though, these products are just expensive wastes of time (and apparently you have to charge up the glasses? That’s just beyond stupid!). Sure, a 3D football match might look cool at first, but as the old cliché goes, the novelty will soon wear off. Besides, if I wanted to see Wayne Rooney in 3D, I’d just go to see a Shrek film.
The only time 3D has ever felt truly relevant to me has been when playing Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS over these past few weeks. And no, it’s not because I’m a gaming fan or because I’m a massive advocate for glasses-free 3D. It’s because with every other 3DS game I own, I’ve invariably kept the 3D off to save battery power as it’s not added anything vital to the experience. Mario, on the other hand… the plumber knows how to get things right. I haven’t turned the 3D off at all for it, as the added depth can be crucial to making jumps and finding hidden passageways. But even so, 3D gaming has a long way to go before I’ll believe it truly is the best way forward because, like with film and TV, there’s just not enough examples of it being done enough justice to make it worthwhile.
So that’s my take on the matter. If you really are craving a novelty this Christmas or if you just have more money than sense, then 3D might be for you. For everyone else, I suggest staying well clear from it until the people implementing it start getting their act together. If we just keep throwing money at them for poor and lazy efforts, we’ll never get rid of the rubbish. They’ll probably even try to find some way of getting 3D into printed media to swindle us further… wait a minute, they actually have had 3D editions of newspapers in the past, haven’t they? God help us all.