Going to a motion picture in 3-D is like watching a movie and taking an eye exam at the same time.
A 3-D movie keeps slipping in and out of focus, especially in the area of peripheral vision. Oh, the noses of the actors are sharply focused, sometimes reaching way out into the theater within inches of where you sit, but the ears of the actors are a little fuzzy.
Each viewing of such a movie is complicated by a strange pair of glasses. You put on a radically unfamiliar pair of specs, aim your eyes at a movie screen the size of a warehouse and have no hope of getting good at using those glasses on the first try.
Mind you, I am an old hand at 3-D movies. The 3-D movie “Bwana Devil” came out in 1952 with mixed results. On the one hand, it had its three dimensional moments such as jungle natives with spears aimed straight out of the screen, seeming to be about to poke you in the eye.
On the other hand, in one bizarre scene, a woman was lying on her back breathing heavily. Something was amiss in the camera’s perspective, creating a disconcerting illusion of her nearest breast appearing to be twice the size of her farthest breast. That was a troubling sight for a teenage boy who was still somewhat ignorant of such matters.
Since then, in this new era of 3-D, I decided to give the process another chance, watching the movie “Avatar” in the modern technology. Body parts were not only all in proportion but the beauty of the exotic other-world jungle was frankly stunning.
On the other hand, if I didn’t hold my head just right, things got a little out of focus on the edges of the screen. I spent most of the movie trying to remember to hold my face just right while looking through those big honking frames.
In the murkier scenes, I was reminded of my annual eye exam where the doctor says, “Which is better, A or B? Which is better, this or this?” as he flips between one view of the tiny letters on the screen and another slightly out of focus view.
I have subsequently watched “Avatar” again without those pesky glasses, without 3-D.
Which is better, this or this?
I’ll take the one without the glasses, the one that doesn’t distract you from the story.
I’m assuming that the day will come when there is a way to see a movie in three dimensions without a clunky pair of eyeglasses on your schnozzle. In fact, the day may soon arrive when you sit there in the theater deep inside the story, surrounded by hologram characters, making you a spectator who is virtually part of the action.
But there is another choice: Let movie makers avoid dazzling us with so much technology that the equipment upstages the story. Liberate the script to tell a mesmerizing tale that suspends disbelief, marries your mind to the film and inspires your own imagination to enliven what you see and hear and feel.
No pair of glasses is half as effective in conveying a story as two organs of your own. And I don’t mean your eyes or ears. At the movies, when a good man triumphs in a test against evil, when a child dies in a mother’s arms, when the girl gets the guy and the guy gets the girl, there isn’t a pair of spectacles half as magical as your own believing brain and your own throbbing heart.Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.