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Heresy of the Week – We need to get over our CGI fixation


pilot farscape

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

CGI has made incredible leaps and bounds over the past few decades, resulting in incredible visuals. But the film industry’s headlong rush down the computer-generated highway, it is fast attaining a singular dominance, in danger of eclipsing not only other effects techniques, but plot and character development too.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week: In defence of endings


money fort unfinished peter jackson CAD

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

With series increasingly in vogue in film, TV, books and games, the value of a satisfactory sense of finality has gotten lost in the mix. Branding and marketing weight wins over story, meaning that ideas get flogged well past the point where they should be laid to rest.

Read on…

Dear cinema, we need to talk…



Dear cinema

I like you. I like you a lot, and have done for a long time. I don’t think this will come as a surprise to you, I haven’t exactly been coy about it.

I do, however, think that our relationship has been in many ways one sided. I feel like I’ve forgiven you for a lot. Not just the bad films, or the experiments gone wrong (I actually sorry of like those; your capacity and willingness is one of my favourite things about you), but the endless reboots and remakes, and the continual chances you keep giving to the likes of Michael Bay and Quentin Tarantino. I even came back after the disgracefully limited run you gave The Awakening.

Despite all of this, I always end up back queuing at your box office, walking down your sticky aisles, and sitting in your uncomfortable standard seats (not for the likes of me, the luxury of premier).

But I think your latest obsessive fad may be staining our relationship too far. I am, of course, talking about 3D.

Oh, it was exciting when it first appeared. Thick-rimmed indie glasses, the niggling headache as I staggered out into the cool air after the credits had tolled. And it even managed to put enough if a gloss onto Avatar that for a moment we didn’t notice what a shallow remake of Pocohontus it was.

But it’s three years later, and like three dry rot you try to ignore, it hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s got worse.

3D cinema is like hoverboards and jetpacks. The future continually promises them to is, yet every attempt ends in disappointing failure, and the idea is put back into the science-fiction box only to be brought out and obliviously tried again a few years later.

It was okay whilst you were offering 2D alternative showings. I could watch and enjoy your films without the headaches, and others could do as they chose.

I first noticed your attitude change with Dredd 3D. I should probably have guessed from the title, but I didn’t think it would be 3D only. I was hurt. I was disappointed. But I told myself it was a one-off.

And now it’s that time of year when we all like to watch a good horror film. No, not Paranormal Activity 4. I said a good horror film. Though whether Silent Hill Revelation will be any better is uncertain.

But that doesn’t really matter, because you’ve done it to me again. Yes, you’re only showing Silent Hill Revelation in 3D. I could cry.

So tonight, in order to enjoy (maybe) some psychological horror I’ll have to wear those uncomfortable spectacles, and have the paracetamol standing by. Oh I’ll do it. We both know that. It’s how abusive relationships like this work.

But I won’t be happy, cinema. Not like I used to be with you. Because it’s become clear to me that this isn’t some passing phase, it’s not something you’ll get over. You care more about 3D than you do about me, the audience.

Cinema, I’m sorry, but I think we need to see other people.

On 3D


When 3D first started rolling along and becoming the latest cinematic bandwagon, I was a bit uncertain. Avatar being the first 3D movie I saw probably didn’t help matters too much. But my opinion of it has, for a long while, been that it is nothing short of a gimmick, an excuse for cinemas to charge more for tickets, and for uninteresting and derivative films to be able to shout “Look at me! Look at me!”.

In my defence, look at the titles we’ve seen with 3D so far: My Bloody Valentine, Final Destination 4, Clash of the Titans, and so forth. Scarcely innovative filmmaking. I’ll add that I haven’t seen Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, so I might be talking out of my arse completely and that may use 3D in a completely different way. But I doubt it.

The thing about 3D is that I have yet to encounter a film where it’s actually incorporated into the plot, rather than being stuck on. If a film was to actually use the 3D element integrated into the plot (God knows how; I certainly don’t) then it might become the innovation that the film industry wants it to be.

That hasn’t happened yet, and I’m still not completely sold on 3D, but I’m a little more positive about it. What happened? I saw Toy Story 3 the other day.

Avatar's use of 3D graphics was distracting and gimmicky...

Let me explain. When I saw Avatar in 3D, I was underwhelmed by it. And I mean in general- the story was so-so, the acting was fairly bland, and it was longer than my bladder was comfortable with. But aside from that, the 3D was a distraction from the film. I couldn’t follow the storyline as well, because every so often I caught myself stopping to admire the scenery. In the end, the film became more about the graphics than the story, which really should be a death knell for a film. And the most damning thing of all is that I’ve since seen it in 2D, and if anything it came across better.

Watching Toy Story 3, however, it wasn’t quite like that. Maybe it’s because the story was stronger (it was outstanding), the characters more engaging, and the film as a whole more complex, but I didn’t feel that the fact it was in 3D lessened the experience, or detracted anything. It was simply there; and I was focused on the film for the whole duration. Now, this might just be that Toy Story 3 was a much better film than Avatar, but if I’d seen this first, I’d probably be a whole lot more optimistic about 3D.

...whereas in Toy Story 3, it faded to insignificance next to the film.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Toy Story 3 was a great film, but I’m certain it would have been every bit as good as in 2D. The 3D graphics were still just as unnecessary, but here they were a neutral force. I was able to focus on the film, and enjoy the story (and, yes, tear up at the end) without having to stop every few minutes to think “OH MY GOD! IT’S IN 3D!”.

3D is still problematic, in my opinion. The glasses are a pain, and it has a tendency to cause headaches (Toy Story 3 didn’t, for some unknown reason, have the same disorientating effect on me that Avatar did), not to mention being exclusive of one-eyed audience members. But I suppose it not being a problem is the first step on the road to it being a good thing. It could, I think, be a great force for interactive entertainment, used with the right idea. Nintendo are going to be the first to use it with gaming, releasing the 3DS at some still-vague point in the future, but honestly I expect it will be another gimmick-fest, like its big brother the Wii.

We may have to wait some time to see whether 3D can be the film revolution that the film industry are so desperate for us to see it as.