I have a feeling that Devin will probably chalk this up to the fact that since he moved to Los Angeles, I’ve probably invited him out for beers something like ten times, and I’ve never gotten a response.* I am simply – as the headline states – calling bullshit on the idea that IMAX and 3D are gimmicks.
Storytelling has been around for thousands of years, before the written
language was even invented. Perhaps early some early hominids felt that
words were gimmicks, designed to distract the audience from what was
happening on the cave wall. The point is that storytelling is just as
much about the experience of what you’re seeing with your eyes as it is about
understanding what’s going on in the story with your brain, and when one suffers, both suffer.
At their core, the movies have always been about gimmicks – about
wowing the audience – and while new filmmaking technologies allow
today’s storytellers to create more elaborate and more complex
experiences, they’re trapping them as well. The ability to tell new
stories will always be limited by the capabilities of the available
Look at the history of modern cinema:
First you have Muybridge’s photographs, then the zoetrope, then the “magic lantern”, then the lightbulb, then standards were implemented that shrunk some camera negatives down from a whopping three inches (talk about large-format) to a more manageable 35mm size. Optical printing and special effects were commonplace in the days of Pathe (circa 1903; see Dream of the Rarebit Fiend and Magic Boxes). Then came sound, then color. While the anamorphic process was devised almost thirty years prior, the full-scale rollout of a widescreen format in 1953 (Cinemascope, Vistavision, Cinerama, et al) was the studio’s desperate attempt to lull viewers back into the theaters after TV took a big wet bite out of the theater experience. 3-D was also invented in the 1920s, enjoyed novelty-status in the 50s (probably also in response to the TV threat), and waned all the way into the 80s. IMAX was developed in the 70s, largely as a special large-format/dome exhibition format. Computer graphics begat watery pseudopods, liquid-metal killers, dinosaurs, aliens, and a new age of cinematic trickery.
The Jesuit philosopher Teilhard de Chardin once observed that “The history of the living world can be summarized as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen.”
So I say embrace IMAX. Embrace 3-D. Remember what it was like to watch a VHS tape after seeing DVDs? Remember what it was like to watch a DVD after getting a Blu-Ray player? With ever more perfect eyes, how could we not want a more perfect way to tell a story?
*Although he did buy me lunch at a Chinese buffet (I’m a cheap date).