Midsummer Check-Up on 3D
While the last example was the opposite, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a film that demands being seen in 3D. Werner Herzog claims this new documentary will be the only film he creates in 3D. After watching it, I can see why he used this method. A cave was discovered in France as late as the 1990s that ended up containing the oldest known cave drawings in the world. Some of the drawings are known to be over 30,000 years old. Herzog uses them as both a window into seeing what our ancestors felt and as a metaphor for the importance of expression. The idea that these drawings were created by early man for no practical purpose but to communicate ideas is at the core of the film. Eccentric scientists studying these caves are profiled briefly as well, much like in his previous documentary, Encounters at the End of the World. But the main point deals with what it means to be human.
The 3D is used to haunting effect here. Due to regulations for the preservation of these caves, the film crew is allowed only a certain amount of access. There are parts of the cave they aren’t allowed to walk on, and they can only film for certain parts of the year. That results in certain things we can’t see. 3D in particular is used to show us a certain pillar with paintings on it that we can’t see in its entirety. The contour of the pillar is paramount to the image. We are left feeling frustrated and fascinated by what could be just around the curve of that stone. Also, the contours of the walls in the cave are integral to the painted images. At one point, they move their light sources around to enhance the illusion of movement in some of the painted animals. The crags in the walls are fascinating in 3D. This use of the technology is sophisticated. It’s not about gotcha moments of things coming out of the screen. It’s not about making action seem more “actiony.” It’s using the effect to enhance the meaning of the film. And that is one of the highest forms that art can take.
Now, again, I will never argue that all movies need 3D. For instance, X-men: First Class wasn’t in 3D, and I applaud them for it. I thought it was a terrific superhero film with a fun sense of period and some thrilling action. But it didn’t need things popping out of the screen. I doubt The Hangover 2 would be helped by Zach Galifianakis being able to sweat over the audience or the monkey jumping out of the screen. Super 8 may just prove to be the best movie of the summer. It was able to deliver thrills the old fashioned way: editing, pacing, good scripting, and characters you genuinely care about. And that is perfectly appropriate for that story.
On the other hand, in my last article I had mentioned that video games are a 3D frontier that will prove to drive this technology. I just read about Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and how the presentation for it at the E3 show was outstanding. Read that article here. For those who may not be familiar, the Uncharted series is one of the best things that’s happened to video games. The first installment was a better Indiana Jones movie than the last ACTUAL Indiana Jones movie was. It had scale, a sense of peril, great voice work, a script that delivered genuine surprises, ancient gold, evil drug lords, forgotten temples, rocket launchers, jeep chases, and twists involving creatures that were terrifying. The second game added multi-player, more characters, and still more suspense from dizzying heights. Drake is such a charming character that a film version that will undoubtedly kinda suck is in the works. So this new version, according to the reporter at least, is in 3D. I’m just telling ya, this is the stuff that’s going to drive the industry. And used like this, while people like Roger Ebert may argue that video games can’t be art (I disagree), at the very least they can be raucous entertainment.
Now, I’m about to go see Green Lantern in 3D. We still have Captain America and Harry Potter in 3D coming up. I’m approaching all of these with cock-eyed optimism. Yes, 3D ticket prices are too damned expensive. But I’m still holding out hope that they will be worthwhile. Keep your fingers crossed.