In a hole 

Off with 3-D's head and, eventually, Alice's

I love the song and dance they give you at a 3-D movie when you tell them you brought your own glasses. The pair you neglected to "recycle" in the big plastic bin outside the theater last time because you thought, hey, next time I won't need another pair and I'll save two dollars. You're welcome, wallet! You're welcome, Earth!

"Sorry, it's just there's a $2 surcharge on the movie because of the high production costs. But you get the glasses."

Listen, girlie, one feels like saying, knuckles whitening ever so slightly around one's redundant 3-D glasses. But you can't fight city hall. A practical understanding of economy, not to mention ecology, is likewise redundant here: yes deposit, no return. And then they rub it in during the previews, chirpily urging you to "recycle" your glasses as you leave the theater. What do they do with them all? Melt them down to make new 3-D glasses? Send them to Africa? Um, sell them again?

And high production costs? You've got to be kidding me. I don't recall Kevin Costner insisting I cough up extra to bail him out of Waterworld. Cry me a river, Pixar and Dreamworks. Why are your high production costs suddenly my problem?

I don't know enough about the new 3-D process to say with certainty that this "surcharge" is a scam, but I suspect it is. Anyway, I paid the stupid thing and took the second pair of glasses. The kids love to wear them, particularly for running into things at high speeds. It also occurred to me that if I wore two pairs I might be able to see into the fourth dimension during the movie, although I forgot to test this hypothesis.

They are kind of fun. When the cue comes on the screen for the audience to please put on its glasses, you rub elbows across 60 years with a bygone era, almost feel as though you could be sitting in one of those iconic photos of 1950s moviegoers in dresses and smart suits wearing 3-D glasses. Then the first thing you see in 3-D is a cat food commercial.

click to enlarge Come play with us, Alice. Forever and ever…
  • Come play with us, Alice. Forever and ever…

Then the usual passel of interchangeable Pixar/Dreamworks trailers with droll rodents and tomboy heroines with snarky attitudes and freakishly adult bodies. Oh, surprise, a new Toy Story in 3-D. Then a trailer for an upcoming Kenny Chesney concert movie in 3-D. Then a Phish concert movie in—wait for it—3-D.

That's when it comes home to you that the new 3-D is more than just a fad. Lots of people want this experience, or can be made to want it, in more ways than just to make horror movies slightly scarier and chase scenes more breathtaking. You have to wonder what it holds for the future of pornography. And imagine what will happen when, if they haven't already, Hollywood's tech-nerds learn to pull this most lucrative of dimensions out of already-existing movies? George Lucas will make another billion dollars re-issuing Star Wars. Likewise Peter Jackson, and perhaps soon afterwards I shall live to see a childhood wish fulfilled: being able to see down TV ladies' blouses by standing over the TV and looking down at an angle. Purists will defend the threatened second dimension as passionately as they once denounced the colorizing of black and white movies.

Is 3-D the new talkie? People don't often realize what a horrible impact sound initially had on the art of film when it was introduced in the late '20s. The most lackluster scripts were rushed into production to meet the demand for talkies, talkies, talkies. Already-finished silent pictures were hastily encumbered with crude soundtracks, a process called "goat-glanding" after a medical fad of the ti—

What's that? Oh, right, Alice in Wonderland. Well, I didn't much care for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Technically it's everything you'd expect, and pointless. Burton is hardly an artist in need of another dimension; in fact, the sudden availability of this third dimension in some ways reveals the limits of an imagination that once seemed limitless in just two. 3-D almost feels like an afterthought here: a latter-day goat-glanding. Burton doesn't exploit the medium as shamelessly as some, which is a relief in a way, but isn't exploitation the whole point of 3-D?

Our first glimpse of Wonderland is almost wince-inducing, so crammed is it with Burtonian bric-a-brac. To be fair, I have to wear my 3-D glasses over my regular glasses, so maybe I'm not getting the optimal effect. But there was just nothing in this movie I was interested in seeing. I really don't see what others do in Johnny Depp—the new "madcap" Johnny Depp. Me, I never forget for a second that I'm watching Depp being a hambone, and whatever blips of enjoyment I get from his post-Pirates performances they never seem commensurate with the amount of energy they require to watch. Burton, too, is an increasingly formulaic filmmaker, his recent oeuvre noteworthy only for diminishing returns on what once seemed so magical.

Alice in Wonderland continues at the Carmike 10 in 3-D and the Village 6 in regular ol' 2-D.

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