Halfway
through last night’s screening of The Last Airbender,
my girlfriend leaned over and whispered to me, “Will there be any 3D in
this 3D movie?”

I was relieved I wasn’t the only one.
For a little while I had wondered if I got bum glasses, or if perhaps my
depth perception had been suddenly snatched from me. But no, it was the
film. You may be paying extra money to see The Last Airbender in
3D this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be getting much of a 3D
experience.

This
seems to be the flip side of the Clash of the Titans disaster,
where the post-conversion 3D looked goofy and wrong. But at least that was 3D; Airbender looks more or less like a
completely flat film. Subtlety and nuance in 3D are to be commended, but
it would be helpful if the effect was sometimes noticeable.

Like
many other modern 3D movies, Airbender was shot to be 2D and converted
after the fact. What’s crazy about the flat 3D is that director M. Night
Shyamalan seems to have been composing his shots with great depth of
field, which should make a conversion easier. But even gimme 3D shots,
like a huge Fire Nation steam ship coming right at the camera, look just
like a 2D presentation.

Almost like a 2D presentation. As is
always the case with 3D, the picture is darker. In the case of The Last
Airbender
that means the film’s colors are
constantly muted, and two major nighttime action scenes become
indistinct. It’s like watching a film through… well, a film. But a
film of grime. It’s a pain in the ass.

The up side of a 3D movie being
barely in 3D is that it doesn’t seem likely to give anyone a headache,
unless it’s from eyestrain from trying to make out what’s happening in
night shots. But from a consumer point of view, post-conversion 3D is
once again showing itself to be a terrible scam. I know that this
process can
work, but it doesn’t seem
like anyone has made it work on a film that wasn’t specifically composed
to be 3D. But good luck finding Airbender in 2D – when I thought I would have
to pay to see the film I researched where it was playing, and the 2D
version is playing almost nowhere.


I
gave up on predicting the future of the latest 3D fad after many people
told me they actually liked the
3D in Clash of
the Titans
, but I can’t help but wonder if
paying extra money for a movie that is almost imperceptibly three
dimensional might not sour even those easily-pleased folks. God, I hope
so. I’m mostly done with the 3D stuff already.