Can Avatar: The Way of Water save 3D movies from extinction?

Tthere is a lot going on here Avatar: The Way of Water. It might sound ridiculous to suggest that a sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time could be a gamble – but it is. Thirteen years have passed since then avatar first hit screens. The film landscape, meanwhile, has been bared by declining viewership, bullish competition from streaming services, and dwindling investment in original ideas. James Cameron has kept the budget for The way of the water under wraps but has admitted it was “really bloody expensive”: according to the veteran filmmaker The way of the water has to become the “third or fourth” highest grossing film of all time just to break even. Beneath this game of tight balance sheets and capitalist madness, however, something else may be at stake: the future of 3D.

It’s almost impossible to talk about 3D movies without mentioning them avatar; it’s the Citizen Kane of films that require silly lenses to appreciate. But it was far from the first attempt to unleash the true potential of 3D. In fact, filmmakers had been experimenting with 3D projection since the earliest days of cinema, leading to a brief boom in the 1950s. (It was widely believed that the fad had peaked with Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful 1954 thriller Choose M for Murder.) However, there were disadvantages – namely the cost (prints required twice as much film and often two projectionists) and the frequent motion sickness. The 1980s saw the kinks begin to be ironed out, and a resurgence beckoned with the advent of Imax screens. In the 1990s and 2000s, the popularity of 3D movies skyrocketed. There was a lot of children’s films and genre fare – Journey to the Center of the Earth; Superman returns — and soon-to-be-beloved modern (and not-so-modern) classics (Star Wars; titanic; The Lion King) got the old Third Dimension Spit-Shine.

Of course, the format wasn’t without its naysayers. It was a gimmick, they argued. Maybe, but this gimmick took over multiplexes. avatar was the first film that looked like it could fully quell the doubters – a huge blockbuster hit that was designed entirely for the 3D experience. The immersiveness of 3D did justice to Pandora’s fantastical landscapes and plant life; even those who lambasted avatar‘s script and plot had to acknowledge the film’s technical brilliance. 3D had finally arrived.

But the public’s love affair with 3D turned out to be more of a summer flirtation. A few more prominent releases in this format were to follow, including those by Peter Jackson The Hobbit and Alfonso Cuaron heaviness, the latter being considered another high point for the format. But as soon as avatar started to leave theaters, enthusiasm for 3D began to wane – although 3D movies are arguably more ubiquitous than ever. As Cameron recently stated in an interview with Yahoo!that the number of 3D-capable screens worldwide has increased from 6,000 to 120,000 in the last 12 years. “It has found its level as a consumer choice,” he said. “If people like it, they can see it in 3D. If not, they can see it in 2D.”

However, it has been years since the release of a film in 3D has been a topic of any conversation. Blockbusters are rarely screened in 3D for critics; Even with movies grossing billions of dollars, the fact that they will be released in 3D doesn’t deserve much of a mention. It doesn’t seem to have any real artistic effect anymore. The format is now just part of the whole racket, another optional “add-on” to consider if you want sweet or salty popcorn or what size of fizzy drinks. Personally, I don’t think “consumer choice” should really find its way into art. Given the time, money and technological artistry that went into it The way of the waterNor am I convinced that Cameron is convinced that this should be the case.

It doesn’t help, of course, that most of the biggest 3D releases are shot without the third dimension in mind. It is often cheaper and more efficient for studios to convert films to 3D after they have already been shot. The quality of these conversions varies significantly, with the shabbier end of the spectrum resulting in laugh stocks like 2010 battle of the titans, a film whose chilling 3D editing was denied by director Louis Leterrier and which some critics even accused of “derailing the 3D revolution”. The other disadvantages have also become more and more obvious. Ticket prices are higher. The image quality is often worse. And… those glasses.

But the format never quite lost its potential. Away from the excitement of Hollywood, some filmmakers have managed to innovate using 3D for creative purposes. Legendary French author Jean-Luc Godard used 3D for his 2014 film Goodbye to the language, shooting with custom built cameras and breaking many of the long held visual conventions of 3D filmmaking. In 2018, Chinese director released Bi Gan A long day’s journey into nighta one-of-a-kind, dream-like film that switches to 3D for a breathtaking hour-long tracking shot.

Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully with one of his sons in the long-awaited Avatar: The Way of Water


The value of 3D as a unique selling proposition for cinemas should not be underestimated. With the so-called cinematic experience increasingly threatened by streaming services, a 3D screening is something of a thing Avatar: The Way of Water is able to offer viewers an experience that they cannot approximate at home. There was a modest market for 3D TVs for a brief period in the 2010s, but demand soon fizzled out. (The BBC and Sky abandoned 3D programming fairly quickly, and production on 3D televisions has since ceased entirely.)

If The way of the water 3D will save from extinction remains to be seen. Some may no doubt argue that it is not even necessary to save. But it’s about more than ticket sales. When we see avatarThe lush, watery vistas of , which surround us like one big celluloid bear hug, might remind us – and other filmmakers – why anyone would even bother with 3D. This is not a battle for 3D’s short-term financial viability, but for its soul. If Hollywood really wants people to see 3D as more than just a cynical upsell gimmick, it’ll need more than stereoscopic glasses.

Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters December 16th Can Avatar: The Way of Water save 3D movies from extinction?


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