One of the best things about attending movies during the holidays is that the movies themselves are often a bit better, the holidays being the season for Oscar-worthy awards bait. Going to see My Week With Marilyn, for example, affords one the opportunity to see trailers for other “arty” films. This weekend I learned that going to see any film in 3-D affords one the opportunity for a headache… and a handful of 3-D trailers.
First up: Disney’s 3-D Beauty and the Beast, set to be re-released in January, 2012. Boy, that did not take long. The recent 3-D rerelease of The Lion King made more than 100 million dollars. Is Fantasia’s Wizard Mickey waving his magic wand over at the Disney Dream Factory and converting these classic animated features to 3-D overnight? Quick! Cram Pinocchio into the Flubbertronic 3000! We do not want to miss this gravy train.
This presents something of an ethical quandary, and I am afraid that I am on the fence. I am not often on the fence; I can usually pick a side. I do not like the fence. My weight makes it extremely uncomfortable to spend much time on the fence.
Why does everything have to be in 3-D?
Do not get me wrong; I love the idea of re-releasing the classics. Disney used to re-release their classics on a seven-year rotating schedule because every seven years there would be a brand spankin’ new bumper crop of chilluns who had never seen Snow White. Or Bambi! Or Fantasia! (Okay, maybe not Fantasia.)
This rerelease strategy guaranteed that generations of children had their first movie-going experience with a certified classic children’s film. Mine was Mary Poppins -- what was yours? Mary Poppins was the gateway drug to the rest of my imaginative life. Thank you, Uncle Walt.
The ubiquity of home video starting in the early eighties did away with theatrical rerelease. So should we be happy that these wonderful films are being rereleased at all, and swallow the bitter 3-D pill, or do we stick to our guns as purists and disagree with the whole thing on principle? Am I just a bitter old man railing against anything “newfangled,” or is this a much more complicated matter of aesthetics? The trailer for Beauty and the Bigger, Better 3-D Beast helpfully informed the audience that it would also be shown in old-fashioned 2-D in “select theaters,” so where is the harm?
TANGENT: I went to see The Lion King in 3-D, more out of curiosity than anything else. I thought the 3-D was underwhelming, though I had read rumors that Zazu’s opening flyby had been reanimated for the 3-D version, and that indeed was the single best 3-D shot. I did not think the famous stampede sequence looked much better, or even different; though by that point in the film perhaps my old, tired eyes had given up and were refusing to see the illusion of depth at all. I am thinking of having them replaced with new 3-D eyeballs.
AND NOW BACK TO OUR STORY… The trailers continued. Apparently, Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace is also getting a 3-D rerelease (February 2012.) The trailer for the 3-D rerelease begins with footage from the original trilogy, which I thought was an interesting marketing strategy. Is the (not really) subliminal subtext of this trailer a skeevy bait-and-switch? Is Lucasfilm blackmailing us into seeing the 3-D Phantom Now With More Menace by capitalizing on our affection for the original trilogy? Will the diehard Star Wars fan need to pony up for the woebegone shitty shit shitfest of Episodes I, II, and III to ensure that A New Hope will be rereleased in 3-D… in 2021?
I will say it is nice to see that, perhaps with this rerelease, George Lucas will finally realize at least a meager profit from these films. One can hope.
Finally, I saw the mother of all trailers: Titanic in 3-D. It was said to come from “the genius of James Cameron.” I always thought it came from “the genuine tragedy.” It featured that Celine Dion song at ear-splitting volume over footage of people dying… in my lap, courtesy of 3-D. (At no point in the trailer did Rose ever say, “Jack” or Jack ever say, “Rose.”) For a film that was converted to 3-D after the fact, the 3-D effects in the trailer were impressive. If I miss the 3-D rerelease of Titanic next April, do I know if my heart will go on?
For years I have wished that older, classic films were rereleased to movie theaters on a more regular basis. The theater I frequent has 30 goddamned screens—can’t management reserve just ONE for older films? I wish that the realization of my dream did not need to go hand in hand with a gimmick, a gimmick of which I feel most people have already grown weary.
The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast are classics. They do not need 3-D. Though I am not a fan of either Episode I or Titanic, both films have many fans and have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Titanic won the Best Picture Oscar. These films are finished—they are hanging in the Louvre—and all four managed to garner fame and fortune without 3-D.
BETTER YET: The main feature was Hugo, one of the best films I have seen all year. The movie focuses in part on early film pioneer George Melies, who has been an important component of my film class syllabus for more than 25 years, so I had the curious feeling as the film progressed that it had been made just for me. Other movie lovers will likely feel the same way.