Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seeing in 3-D

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday Divinipotent and Mr. Daily went to see the movie Avatar in 3-D at an IMAX theater. It's a remarkable film on many levels — heroic heroes (of both sexes) and villainous villains, a roller-coaster story that shifts from sweetness to disaster and back again several times, and most memorably, dazzling special effects. Among the latter, two things really stand out.
1. The giant leap in animation that turns towering blue aliens into people you care about, somehow completely avoiding the creepiness of the uncanny valley.
2. The phenomenal, wondrous 3-D experience the film offers.

My first experience with 3-D was the utterly unconvincing 1960 film 13 Ghosts (although I do recommend this charmingly goofy introduction by director William Castle). Those were the days when 3-D meant wearing paper eyeglasses that, if memory serves, were given away as premiums with Cracker Jacks and breakfast cereals.

I've generally avoided 3-D ever since, so Avatar was a genuine revelation. For starters, no more paper eyeglasses; these days the theater provides big plastic goggles. But it's what happens once the movie begins that is so amazing. Everything really does seem to happen right in front of your eyes. Talking about it is pointless, of course; go see it.

Meanwhile, thanks to a preview, I've already discovered the next title on my must-see list: Hubble 3-D, a film shot with an IMAX 3-D camera on the Hubble telescope when NASA astronauts made the final repairs in May 2009. The image below was taken during that mission; Hubble 3-D makes you feel as if you're right there.

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