“Let the past die. Kill it!”
Kylo Ren’s calm, yet threatening monologue from Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi (this isn’t a spoiler — it’s in the trailer) couldn’t be more apt for the 3D version of the movie. It sucks. It’s the worst way to watch Rian Johnson’s flick.
3D movies — as a format in movie theaters — need to die. Movie studios should kill them. But they won’t unless we, moviegoers, grab Ren’s tri-bladed lightsaber and stab this technology in the heart and twist it until 3D’s lifeless body falls off the catwalk and into the abyss.
A colleague invited me as their plus-one to an early screening of The Last Jedi hours before it premiered in U.S. theaters and I was beyond pumped until we made our way into the ridiculously fancy iPic Theater — the place had reclining seats, complimentary popcorn, and on-demand food services at the press of a single button — at Fulton Market in New York City.
Mouth agape at the VIP theater experience, my heart sank as I looked down on the table between our private seats and saw the worst thing to ever go hand-in-hand with movies: 3D glasses.
In all the excitement of getting to watch The Last Jedi early, I didn’t even realize we’d be watching the 3D version.
I felt a rush of déjà vu. It was at that moment that I knew I was going to be disappointed. Not because the movie wouldn’t live up to all the hype, but because the visual experience was compromised.
You see, I had been in this very same situation before. Two years ago, I had nonchalantly walked into a 3D showing of The Force Awakens on opening weekend thinking how awesome it was to not have to sit in a theater packed with hollering fanboys only to leave unimpressed by the movie.
It wasn’t until I had rewatched The Force Awakens in 2D a few days later that I realized why it was such a letdown on the first viewing. It wasn’t because the movie was mostly a remake of A New Hope but with new characters. It was because I had seen it in 3D.
3D turned a fun and entertaining movie into a sack of garbage. It robbed The Force Awakens of its vibrant visual essence.
What I saw through my 3D glasses wasn’t J.J. Abrams’ grand vision, but a dim and muddied up version with gimmicky 3D effects that didn’t impress at all.
And that movie dread reappeared as I slipped on my 3D glasses and The Last Jedi’s opening crawl appeared on screen.
The Last Jedi looked nothing like what I was seeing through the 3D glasses.
I tried to give the 3D version the benefit of the doubt — maybe the technology had gotten better in two years? — but that optimistic view didn’t last very long. About 30 minutes of unimpressive 3D effects, I flipped the shades up to see what I was missing, and, oh, what a difference I saw.
The Last Jedi looked nothing like what I was seeing through the 3D glasses. Instead of blacks and grays, the planet Ahch-To was bright, rich and very green. Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran) wore a jump suit that wasn’t colored dark poop brown, but was actually a yellow-greenish tan. Same goes for Porgs.
And OMG, I could see more distinct outlines and details between the First Order’s starships and the blackness of space.
The difference was just so drastic that I would have taken my 3D glasses off and watched the whole movie and all of its greater dynamic range if not for the whole double-vision image on the screen.
So much of our experiences are impacted by color. It influences how we think and how we feel. It sets the mood for everything. In 3D, color takes a backseat to silly depth effects, and that’s a real shame because all of the beauty of the cinematography and production design is stripped of the fundamental characteristics that connect you to it.
The Last Jedi is shot beautifully. Johnson and his crew went all-in on the visuals, creating set and character designs that beg for your full attention. Watching it in 3D is a disservice to all the work that went into sweating the cinematic details. You might as well be watching the 2D version with sunglasses on (you’d save yourself the extra cost for 3D, too).
There was a brief period where 3D was The Chosen One. It was supposed to bring balance to the movie industry. It was supposed to be the next big thing for moviegoers, and really up the video ante.
But it wasn’t. It’s trash. And the worst thing is that the overpriced money-grab continues to exist. Some people blame Asia, where 3D movie revenue from ticket sales is growing. But that growth is artificial. In Asia, 3D movies are often the only viewing option, so it’s not like anyone gets much of a choice.
In the U.S., 3D is on the decline, but it’s far from dead. So long as people keep paying to see blockbuster movies in 3D, Hollywood’s gonna keep dishing them out, even when it knows the format is inferior to the plain 2D version.
Thanks to 3D, I now have to watch The Last Jedi again in 2D to take it in properly, just like I did with The Force Awakens. I just know it’ll be less disappointing when I can actually see what’s really happening.
Don’t be like me. Do the right thing and stop supporting this crap. TV makers have all but abandoned 3D as a selling point for their flat screens. Even Nintendo, the company that once pushed 3D games on its 3DS has essentially given up on the eye-popping format with 2DS XL.
3D is on life support and it wants its plug pulled. Let’s do the humane thing and disconnect it.