What 3D takes away from a movie

Daniel Engber, for The New Yorker:

I liked the Herzog movie, as well as Godard’s, which made a fetish of its glitchy, sloppy stereography. But I worry that films like these reveal an overarching and myopic ideology, in which 3-D serves as anti-art, or as a tool for the puncturing of spectacle. That mixes up 3-D with the ways that it’s been marketed: it takes for granted that the format really does perform a kind of empty-headed pyrotechnics, and that it really is a marker of excess.

But the secret of 3-D—its central irony, let’s say—is that it isn’t any good for spectacle. Adding a dimension often serves to shrink the objects on the screen, instead of giving them more pomp; trees and mountains end up looking like pieces in a diorama; people seem like puppets. Action, too, suffers in the format, because rapid horizontal movements mess with the illusion and fast-paced edits in 3-D tend to wear a viewer out.

As the author notes, I think 3D is great for documentaries. I’ve seen two documentaries in 3D, and both provided a pleasing sense of immediacy—the same thing that breaks the wall of action movies. I think that’s what movie studios miss: that effect that sells expensive tickets doesn’t necessarily help tell a story. In fact, it can make things look smaller—as the article says—as if they’re in a diorama.