Backwards Compatible: The good, the bad and the ugly of 3-D

Will Podlewski, Columnist

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It’s hard to love 3-D. Halfway through the 2000s, it was a fresh development, building off a technology that had been previously reserved for the campiest of the campy movies from the 1950s and incorporating it into entertainment in exciting ways. However, as with any new and explosive trend, it was overused by businessmen who seemed to only see dollar signs in their 3-D glasses. And now, as 3-D has begun to leave the public consciousness once again, it’s all the more appropriate to take a look at the best, worst and downright ugliest uses of 3-D over the past five years.

The Good: The Nintendo 3DS

Released in North America in March 2011, Nintendo’s revamp of its famous dual-screen handheld elicited more confusion than excitement when it finally hit store shelves. With a clunky design and an extremely limited number of games in its launch window, it seemed the 3DS might end up going the way of the dodo. However, Nintendo’s latest portable system proved its glasses-free 3-D screen to be far more than a gimmick, breathing new life into re-imagined N64 ports like “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D,” while also seamlessly and effectively integrating it into new titles like “Kid Icarus Uprising” and the endlessly wonderful “Mario Kart 7.”  And with the recent debut of the expanded 3DS XL resolving much of the original’s hardware flaws and awkward design missteps, it seems as if the 3DS is here to stay even as this most recent 3-D fad begins to fade.

The Bad: Up-Converted 3-D Movies

Some movies, like James Cameron’s “Avatar,” are just meant to be seen in 3-D. They were conceived as 3-D movies and filmed with 3-D cameras. But after the 3-D movie boom began in the late 2000s, movies that were genuinely 3-D became quickly eclipsed by films that were originally shot in the conventional 2-D and then “up-converted” to 3-D in post-production. While nothing more than a cheap cash-in by film executives to capitalize on the 3-D craze, an unfortunate side-effect was a slew of movies that were actually made to look worse by the inclusion of 3D elements, like “Prometheus” (whereas some, like “Clash of the Titans,” sucked equally in two dimensions or three). However, it seems audiences have spoken with their wallets: Up-conversion is not worth the investment when it comes to box office returns.

The Ugly: 3-D Glasses

Here’s a little tip for all you fashionistas out there: 3-D glasses do not look good (Pro tip: they look even more stupid if you punch the lenses out). Whether for cinema use or for the comfort of your own couch, it’s pretty hard to deny just about no one looks attractive with a big chunk of plastic on their face, especially when it’s just to watch a movie. What’s worse is some studios have actually capitalized on this grotesque fashion statement to advertise their films. From special Darth Maul “Star Wars” glasses to cringe-inducing promotional pairs for “The Hobbit” coming out later this year, 3-D glasses have managed to become even lamer.  And although glasses-free 3-D TVs are just beginning to hit the market, it may be some time before this ugly necessity becomes a thing of the past.