'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

This time, 3D movies are here to stay.

I missed Avatar - the first 3D movie to screen in New Zealand - but caught Alice in Wonderland this week.

The whole 3D movie experience is not new of course, but I suspect if it had been like this back in the 1950's it would have never disappeared. However, although the glasses you have to wear to view 3D movies like 'Alice' are superficially almost identical, the way they work is quite different. And as a result, colours are real and bright in this new generation of 3D movies.

Back then, so I'm told, the red/blue method of distinguishing each part of the stereoscopic input meant that the colours were odd and also washed out.

REAL D projection technology use circularly polarised light (I'm not exactly sure what this is, but it means you can tilt your head and still see 3D) and alternate the left and right eye's view (you don't notice any flicker).

In this picture I took of two of our pairs of glasses. You can see that rotating the same side ones against each other allows no light to get through. As you decrease the rotation, more and more light can pass through. These are called oppositely circularly polarised lenses.

If you're interested, you can read more about REAL D here.

Anyway, back to 'Alice'. It's not the original story, which, let's face it, was pretty disjointed, with Alice stumbling about meeting random beings with varying degrees of insanity who seemed to have no interest in helping her at all. However we all have vivid memories of those encounters; the hookah-smoking caterpillar, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, playing-card soldiers, the Queen of Hearts playing croquet with a hedgehog ball and flamingo mallet...

Well, they're all there, plus a few extras from the poem Jabberwocky including the Jabberwock itself, looking wonderfully like the original John Tenniel illustration, but with better fangs.

And the storyline is ok I guess. It flows. There's an aim, and if it's a bit like all the other reluctant hero stories, at least Alice learns to improve her Muchness and make decisions for herself that involve courage, and belief, (even if it is 'six impossible things before breakfast') and all that other Girls Can Do Anything stuff.

Now the 3D bit. Unfortunately I think this movie might have been better in 2D. There was too much information, but more importantly the camera movements, angles and out-of-focus foregrounds and backgrounds during depth-of-field shifts, were irritating for me (and others like Gizmodo). Now these are good and appropriate techniques in movies. I'd not want a reversion to the static and boring directorship of the early talkies. But Burton, consummate director in 2D that he is, hasn't taken into account the different needs of a 3D audience. To be honest, the best bit was the end credits where you can just sit and watch a mushroom grow and flowers slowly opening. 3D is here to stay, but it just needs a different way of directing.

Having said all that, visually Alice in Wonderland is indeed a wonderful land that Tim Burton has created. Dark, cruel, frabjously beautiful, - a refreshing and acceptable 'Disney with teeth'. Callooh Callay! But best in 2D please.

But still not a patch on his The Nightmare before Christmas or Corpse Bride.


  1. Tim Burton11.4.10

    Oh dear! I worked so hard on that movie Katherine. I am so disappointed you weren't convinced by it. I will be down in NZ next month. Perhaps we can meet up for a drink?

  2. You have done us all a great service, Katherine, with this fine review of both the film and its technical innovations, but you misspelled Jabberwocky.

    I thought instead of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars movies!

  3. Whew, thanks for noticing Robert. Thank goodness Tim didn't! Sotto voice: Do you think I should accept his offer?

  4. Well yea of course! As you pointed out, Wonderland is a strange place to begin with, so drinking tea (what else!) with Tim as you fall even further down the rabbit hole sounds quite normal.

  5. Splendid résumé Katherine. Being the practical person that I am my first thought was 'Does 3D work for someone with a lazy or only one eye?' and my second was 'Are the 3D specs comfortable over one's ordinary specs?'

    As a lover of Jabberwocky and Alice in Wonderland (must put it on list to be re-read) I'd like to see the film.

    Mind you as your other recommendations include Corpse Bride !!?? I am a little suspicious of your judgement.

  6. Kate i - I have a sneaking suspicion that 'Tim' is not this commentator's real name. (No, really!?)
    It will be interesting to see if the person I think it is comments. You see, last time I had a celeb 'visit' this person was noticeable in his absence...

    GB. I can't tell you if the glasses are comfortable over spectacles, but you could try them on, I'm sure, before purchasing a ticket.
    As for the 3D with a wooden eye, hmmm, I should think not. If one can't see 3D in real life, one won't see it at the movies.
    And the 3D movie has a double image without the glasses, so wouldn't be suitable to see otherwise. See the 2D version. As I said, I think it better.

    When I first met 'Corpse Bride' and 'Nightmare' I found them quite disturbing. But they grew on me, and now I love the songs, the gothic humour and the quirky one-liners. I think they are very clever.

  7. I had no idea that 'Edward Scissorhands' was a Tim Burton movie until a few minutes ago when I decided to look up 'Corpse Bride'. I've always been reluctant to watch horror movies of any sort but I'm sure it's been recommended by my friend Steve who forces me to watch movies I might otherwise never watch. He brings ones from his vast collection and after dinner we watch one. Any challenging bits and I used to walk out (I'm not very good with any sort of stress in movies only in real life where there is quite enough thanks)and make coffee or fill the wine glasses or.... Anyway he now just pauses it until I return. I've actually got so that I trust his judgement and have watched some great films (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and many others as a result). I'm sure that he's recommended Edward Scissorhands (well, leastways I think I'm sure) so it may well be that I should give one 'Corpse Bride' a chance. Perhaps!

    Whatever you are broadening my horizons.

    Back to the ironing before I go shopping and have my next croquet match this afternoon. At least it's another fabulous day in the Bay.

  8. My children broaden my horizons... just passing the broadening on! Forcing is sometimes good, as Steve knows.

    I found 'Edward Scissorhands' very sad.

    Enjoy your croquet!

  9. Katherine, I felt the same way about this particular 3D offering. Some brilliantly imaginative ideas but it would have been better in 2D. I enjoyed the mushroom sequence, too - I don't know why people walk out before the credits; there's often some quirky little add-ons that are worth waiting for. x

  10. Welcome to TLVD Elizabeth S-S! and thanks for your contribution. Talking of quirky add-ons, have you seen the 'Monsters Inc' mis-takes?

  11. Should these movies really be called 3D, or perhaps 4D?
    Surely as they happen over time, they must now use 4 dimensions - and so, "old-style" films would be 3D (2 physical dimensions plus time)? If so, we've been watching 3D films forever without knowing it. I'll take it up with James Cameron, or better still Tim if he's a regular visitor here ....

  12. Ha. Yes, Brian. Excellent thought. Talk to Tim. Or I can over that drink.

  13. I have, Katherine...and to think that there are some people who still think they are animated!! x

  14. I'm way behind since I've yet to see a 3D movie. I fear it will be a visual assault. I can't watch an IMAX movie w/o getting a headache, so I figured the same would be true for 3D. Besides, it costs a lot more. I've always looking for a good story.

    As a kid, Alice in Wonderland was very scary.

  15. Judy - I don't think you should find 3D 'Alice' too overwhelming... and it's certainly not as scary in that erratic way that the original 'Alice in Wonderland' was, although the Jabberwocky fight at the end is rather action-packed and fast-paced. I just closed my eyes in some bits.

  16. Katherine, you must MUST go and see Avatar in 3D, you simply must -the story is a bit hopeless but the visual effects are stunning.

  17. Thanks for the entreaty Alden. But I think I'm too late? ... unless it's still running up in Auckland?