Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Consulting Editor


When Every Song Reminds You of a Dead Universe
by Karl Johanson

Side Effects of Yeah- Yeah Pills
by A.J. Kirby

A Breederax for Dalia
by Janett L. Grady

by Byron Barton

One of Our Starships Is Missing
by Terry Savage

Help Desk
by Robert J. Mendenhall

Toca la Guitarra
by Wayne Helge

How to Travel Through Time & Space
by Allen Quintana

by Kevin Gordon


Bracing for a Brave New World
by Hunter Liguore

Sizing Things Up
by Eric M. Jones





Comic Strips





On the Suckiness of 3D

LET’S GET THIS OUT in the open before we begin. I like the use of 3D in movies when it is properly applied and skillfully implemented. Have you seen “Hugo?” Director Martin Scorsese made 3D an integral part of the viewing experience. He composed the entire film in 3D. Which leads us to the other sucky part of 3D in movies, but we’ll address that later.

What’s wrong with 3D in most movies is that the technique is cavalierly layered onto the image for the purpose of giving the audience something to gawk at. Nothing wrong with gawking at the movies. Gawking at the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” was a hoot. Gawking at Raquel Welch in “Fantastic Voyage” wasn’t too shabby, either. Gawking, however, seems a bit inconsequential.

I recently saw “Men In Black 3” on my home theater system; that is, a big, widescreen hi-def TV with surround sound, from a rented DVD. I’ve also seen the first two entries in that movie franchise.

The MIB films aren’t great art. They aren’t big budget (by today’s standards) blockbusters. They are hugely entertaining puff pastries. Their formula is lots of snappy banter between Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) while the two characters pursue a wildly unbelievable plot line loaded with assorted aliens of every shape and form. Jones is a good actor. The role of Agent J was written for Will Smith aglassess Will Smith, so he certainly doesn’t disappoint. The money is on the aliens, explosions, and other CG effects. That’s why you see these movies. MIB, as I said, is not supposed to be life altering.

In this case, however, when you add 3D to the mix, as was done with movie number 3, without a significant increase in the budget (my guess), you have to re-prioritize your expenses. The other excuse is that you have the funds but are so obsessed with getting stuff to jump off the screen and scare the bejeezus out of your 14-year-old audience that you let everything else that goes into making a movie slip through cracks as big as the Grand Canyon. The first excuse is a crying shame. The latter is grounds for life in prison with no chance of parole.

Without the mesmerizing effects of 3D to lull you into a false sense of actually viewing a halfway decent movie, the suckiness is palpable. Thus was my reaction to “Men In Black 3.” Where were all the aliens? Frank the Pug was nowhere to be found. The worms had a couple of brief scenes that flashed by so quickly they could have been linguine. There were a lot of alien cameos, don’t get me wrong, but if you blinked, you missed them. Two or three scenes featured extended alien interaction, but two or three scenes are hardly what you expect from a MIB movie. In fact, the lead alien bad guy, who took up a significant portion of the screen time, but even in this case not as much as you would expect, was clearly a normal human actor (Jemaine Clement) with a nondescript costume and some prosthetics!

I’d summarize that most of the effects in MIB3 were what is known as practical effects. In all, the movie was a pale imitation of the first two; lacking the 3D on DVD it was very one-dimensional. Was 3D even necessary for the movie? I didn’t miss it on my home theater system. I didn’t find the viewing experience lacking because it was in 2D. I found the viewing experience lacking because it lacked the qualities that made the first two movies, if nothing else, mindless fun.

Thus the suckiness of 3D. If you don’t need it, don’t waste your money on it. If you aren’t going to use it to create stunning visuals (if you have the money) put the money to better use elsewhere.

“The Avengers,” directed by Joss Whedon, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name and not the Diana Rigg TV show, is an excellent example of affording 3D but not using 3D to its greatest advantage. “The Avengers” (Marvel Comics) may well be one of if not the best movie adapted from a comic book to date. On second thought, “The Dark Knight Rises” may have been just as good. And that only reinforces my point. “The Avengers” was pretty terrific in spite of the 3D, which really didn’t add anything to it. It didn’t detract, either, thank goodness. “The Dark Knight Rises” was not filmed in 3D. Can anybody honestly say “The Avengers” was better because of its use of 3D? I can’t.

Bringing us to “Hugo” and the other main reason why 3D sucks. “Hugo” is science fiction in a very soft, almost peripheral fashion. It features an automaton. It is largely about Georges Méliès, who pioneered the science fiction movie. It was shot in 3D. Not so much shot in 3D as composed in three dimensions—height, width, and depth. Each scene was painstakingly set up to ensure that the third dimension added value to the image. You didn’t watch “Hugo” so much as became a part of it. Even a simple head shot of the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) was visually awesome. What’s sucky about that? Because “Hugo” is available on DVD, or for streaming from online services like Netflix. But I have not found a 3D version available for purchase or download. Eventually, “Hugo” will be shown on TV, probably not in 3D, either. In this case, the 3D was an integral and necessary part of the viewing experience, so not watching it in 3D will be like watching all those other movies edited for content and splintered with commercial interruptions. In other words, sucky.

Soon enough 3D TV will be as ubiquitous as color TV was in the 1970s. Most movies will be in 3D the way most movies were in color in the 1980s. Presumably, we will have refined our visual palettes to appreciate the use of 3D as a valued component in creating images, and not simply as a potato gun. Until that time, 3D sucks.

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Jack Vance