When Up opened the Cannes film festival earlier this year, a few jumpy commentators were quick to declare that 3D film making had been accepted by the mainstream. Perhaps they were right. In fact, they almost certainly were, considering the barrage of new 3D films that are hitting the cinema, aimed at kids and adults alike. However, to me it feels a little more like 3D technology is being shoved down our throats. 3D’s growing ubiquity has started to make non-3D films look low budget and almost lazy. Bear in mind I’m talking about big films here, I don’t think 3D will find its place in independent cinema any time soon. Will the inevitable growth of 3D instil a level of snobbery in our kids which will change the fortunes of smaller studios whilst further swelling Disney’s financial coffers?*
After the first 5 minutes the novelty of 3D wears off and you forget that the image you are seeing is even in 3D. At points in Up I flicked my 3D specs off my face, and there was virtually no difference, excluding a blurriness to the unpolarised images. This is largely present when the action takes place indoors. On the other hand overt exploitation of the 3D technology has its own pitfalls. Up does not go in for a gimmicky use of 3D as earlier 3D films like Journey to the Centre of the Earth did. You could describe this as a choice of subtle and cohesive use of 3D over using the film as an excuse for a technological showcase. However, this puts the film in the Catch 22 situation of downplaying the very technology which we are paying so much for.
This price hike is another thing that worries me slightly. Though cinema prices are spiralling ever upward, 3D puts even more strain on the purse strings of parents. Will we end up with a situation in which only the middle and upper class kids can afford to go and see 3D movies whilst their less fortunate friends are stuck with 2D? Or with no film at all as smaller multiplexes only offer the 3D version of a given film? What it comes down to is the question of why the consumer should be forced to subsidise this advancement in technology. I suppose that is the nature of the business side of cinema.
In my opinion the far more important advancement is the digital projection itself. Anyone who went to see the remastered and digitally projected versions of Scarface, Spartacus or The Blues Brothers will know just what I am talking about. Higher resolutions, brighter pictures and richer colour pallets are what digital projection is all about. It even made the action scenes in Transformers 2 comprehendible, though didn’t manage to save the film from being about as fun and brief as an eternity spent gargling glass shards.
You may have noticed that this is not exactly a review of Up so much as a wild rant, a dust mote of ineffectual and underdeveloped protest in some metaphor or other. Up is good. It is not great and doesn’t represent the best work Pixar have ever done, but the animation is spot on and the concept itself is engaging, if not entirely original. I personally preferred Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs because it was far more escapist and fun, with more verbal jokes for the adults as well as visual puns for the kids. I think that perhaps Up made me sad more than it made me happy because of its nostalgic opening which charts how the vibrancy of youth and an idealised past is compacted into bitterness by old age and death. But then I believe there is some kind of requirement that ensures Disney films fondly reflect on the past whilst criticising urbanisation, globalisation and the capitalist fuelled ambivalence of today’s world. Which is odd…**
Things do pick up and the final note is essentially life affirming. There is even a suggestion that the imperfection of the traditional family model can be solved through extra-familial mentoring. But elsewhere it is business as usual as Disney’s standard agenda is taught to another new generation.
*A quick note about the thinly veiled evil of the Disney Corporation. If you go and see any kids film at the cinema, 3D or otherwise, after the initial slew of trailers for other films, Disney have their own allotted trailer section right before the film starts. It’s not even limited to before Disney productions such as Up. Also, spellchecker wouldn’t let me put corporation after ‘Disney’ without capitalising the C. I know it’s technically correct, but it feeds nicely into a fast forming conspiracy theory.
**Just check out the Disney-owned town of Celebration in Florida. The stomach turns.