In revenue terms, The Walt Disney Company is the biggest media conglomerate in the world. Most people will tell you that’s because it consistently develops quality entertainment products of wide appeal to children and families. The cynical among us will say it’s because The Mouse never stops looking for ways to stick his hand in your pockets. Indeed, the theatrical re-release of Pixar’s Finding Nemo, a wonderful film that nevertheless premiered less than 10 years ago, gives both groups ammunition.
But it’s even easier to be cynical now that the film has been updated with 3D effects. A growing number of film critics and cash-strapped parents have called for an end to 3D, arguing that the higher ticket costs don’t justify the experience, which rarely seems enhanced and is often worsened by essentially watching a film through a pair of sunglasses. The novelty has definitely worn off, but the practice shows no sign of stopping.
I myself tend to avoid 3D whenever a 2D option is also available. Yet I thought I’d give Finding Nemo a try, not only for the chance to see one of Pixar’s very best films on the big screen, but also to see how the 3D format renders its unique underwater world.
If you need a refresher, Nemo is the story of a clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks), a timid and overprotective single father who is forced on an epic quest across the vast ocean when his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) is picked up by a SCUBA-diving dentist for his office aquarium. Marlin is helped along the way by Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a blue tang fish with a severe short-term memory problem, and the two narrowly escape numerous perils in their search. Meanwhile, Nemo is recruited by Gill (Willem Dafoe), leader of the fish tank, to plot an escape and return to the sea. It’s a truly special film, with a moving story, laughs, thrills, excellent voice performances, lush visuals, and stirring music. Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it, 3D or no.
What makes Nemo such a standout among other animated films is its massive attention to detail. Colourful reefs and dozens of aquatic and bird species were meticulously researched and reproduced here with as much realism as a Cousteau documentary. Combined with the soundtrack, it’s possible to become misty-eyed just watching the characters swim around their home. On top of this, there are the water effects – waves, bubbles, currents, and even floating algae add to the visuals. And so I ask, with all of this detail so incredibly immersive in itself, surely 3D can only enhance it? Once you simulate depth among even the particulate matter in the water, Nemo must surely be one of the most realistic films ever adapted to the format.
Well, sadly, the 3D is once again underwhelming, and here I can finally articulate the problem.
Here’s the thing, filmmakers: if you want us to be wowed by 3D, you need to give us the “wow” moments. Not once in recent memory have I heard children squeal during a 3D film the way they do when they first put on the glasses and that massive “Recycle your 3D” graphic leaps off the screen at them. You need to stop focussing on “subtle enhancements” to the environment and give us full or increased depth. We need to feel the abyss stretching beneath Marlin. We need to recoil from Bruce the Shark’s hundreds of gnashing teeth.
But you can’t do that, can you? Because then, you won’t have a product of quality anymore. You’ll have a cheap thrill ride, where the visual effects overwhelm the story. On top of that, you’ll give us all vertigo and migraines over the course of an hour and a half. Neither is a welcome result, so instead we continue to get safe, bland, barely-noticeable 3D that doesn’t justify the cost.
The continued use of 3D in this way makes it easier and easier to be cynical. And that does a real disservice to a superb film like Finding Nemo, which has every right to be enjoyed on a big screen.
Tags: movie review