Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

‘Frankenweenie’ is just one reason why 3D films are not going away

Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton at the premiere of Frankenweenie at the London Film Festival

Earlier this week Kieran Turner-Dave shared his thoughts on why the 3D format is doomed to fail. Liam O’Brien recently saw Tim Burton’s newest gothic offering ‘Frankenweenie’ and explains why he thinks the format is far from dying.

I saw Tim Burton’s latest film last week at the Liverpool One Odeon. It was an eventful screening, to say the least. A couple in the row behind hollered, “Why is it in black and white?” throughout the first half of the picture, crying: “But the trailer was in colour!?” (I suspect they believed they had bought a ticket to Hotel Transylvania).



A few years prior in the city’s FACT centre, angry youths stomped out of Zhang Yimou’s Hero because it was “in foreign”, and some years ago I was evacuated from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe because someone chucked a brick at the screen. But on this occasion, the naysayers were silenced – and I believe it’s in part down to how the 3D technology was used.



It’s easy to dismiss 3D as a fad. I must admit, as someone who must layer the glasses over an already thick pair of prescription frames, it can be cumbersome. Those on the fence over 3D tend to split it into good and bad. So Martin Scorsese’s Hugo = good 3D, while Clash of The Titans = bad 3D. When Toy Story 3 came out, its creators said that 3D was so subtly integrated that the viewer should forget they’re watching a 3D film.



But in Frankenweenie’s case, it’s the exact opposite. You notice the 3D elements; they pop out. It is reminiscent of those 3D rides they put in Disney World to give the more voluptuously-bodied some shade. And it’s a film that begs you to turn to your companion and shudder with happy disgust at what you’ve just seen.



Not that 3D has saved it from a poor box office performance. It grossed just $11.4m in the US over its opening weekend, while the inferior Corpse Bride summoned $19m in the same frame seven years ago. It will make its $39m budget back (and more, besides the merchandise will be popular over Halloween), but it’s another financial dud for Burton in a year that has already burdened cinemagoers with the release of Dark Shadows.



A couple of days ago, a blog was posted on this site suggesting the 3D model is broken, citing the recent Dredd as an example. Dredd has thus far grossed $23m worldwide, less than half of its budget, and the fact it’s in 3D was played up as a major asset in TV adverts and trailers.



I have a problem with the claim that 3D is dead because of Frankenweenie and Dredd’s box office results: it’s like the silly idea the Batman franchise was dead after Batman and Robin. I can think of a fair few reasons why Dredd did so badly. The trailers promised an adolescent boy’s fantasy, and then served it up with an 18 rating. While the plot resembled something you might find written by culturally deadened GCSE students: a cyber judge clears an apartment block of smacked-up gangsters, starting on floor 1, then floor 2, and right up to – no joke – floor 200. The lead villain, hilariously non-acted by Lena Headey, is a prostitute turned drug lord (how’s that for smashing the glass ceiling, women’s lib?). The judge’s mask covers his eyes, precluding any involvement with the character.



One suspects Dredd will one day turn a profit through DVD sales and rentals, but I genuinely believe Lionsgate studio won’t give a hoot either way after The Hunger Games’ unprecedented success.



Those who hate 3D are going to have to deal with it for a good few years at the very least. Of the top 10 films at the worldwide box office so far this year, those filmed in 3D rank at numbers 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10. Number two, of course, is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, but Warner Bros is champing at the bit for a 3D Batman.

For the top movies, such as the Ice Age franchise, Dreamworks’ animated pictures and Marvel’s superhero movies, 3D can potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars to the final gross. Not only because of the price premium, but also because of 3D remains so popular in China and Japan.

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