Sunday, October 22, 2006

3-D Turns Nightmare into dream.

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If could say nothing else on the transfer of The Nightmare Before Christmas into the world digital 3-D, I would say that it is a perfect fit. On a visual level, this film is just about as perfect as any film could ever hope to be, and the 3-D helped me to realize that.

Why? Well, the 2-D version (especially on home video) left the film looking a little, well, flat. The insane levels of craftsmanship of the moving characters tended to bleed over into the insane levels of craftsmanship of the static backgrounds and foregrounds. But with 3-D, you are able to separate those elements, and with a movie like TNBC, that means there is much more to admire. Jack's lament, Boogie's lair, and the final graveyard scene in particular were just beautiful to watch, and anyone who claims to be a huge fan of this film (and judging by the Hot Topic Mafia in high schools and college campuses across the country, I'd wager that number would be pretty high), needs to make the long trip to wherever they are playing it in 3-D. No excuses.

I remember when I saw Friday The 13th 3-D at the Nevermore some 5 years ago. There were scenes where Jason shot a harpoon gun at the camera, squeezed a man's skull until his eyeball shot out at the audience, etc. - and while those scenes were funny, they pulled me out of the film. In that way, the 3-D can be a major distraction, but since TNBC wasn't made for 3-D, it avoids those lame, 'look, we're in 3-D!' moments. The story here is simply told, and because the 3-D doesn't draw attention to itself (especially now that we do not have to wear those garish, headache-inducing blue and red tinted glasses), I found myself completely inside this vivid creation of cinema.

Let it also be said that if Jim Cameron and George Lucas's wettest dreams come to fruition, and all films are presented in this 'Real 3-D' format, there will be certain elements of modern cinema that shall fall to the wayside. First off, fast, jerky camera movements and edits will have to go. Why? Because with the third dimension, the eye is constantly having to re-align itself to a new field of depth with each shot. A Michael Bay film in 3-D would damn-near be the holocaust unto itself. There are a few swish pans in TNBC where the camera moved too fast for my vision to stay in alignment. Also the fog is going to have to go. While fog can be used to create a creepy atmosphere in traditional 2-D film, the fog that blinds everyone before Jack takes off in his sleigh causes that scene to appear flat and less real than the rest of the film.

Lastly, there were two minor changes that I noticed when I saw the 3-D version yesterday:

1) The credits feature a series of character sketches by Tim Burton. While Burton did not direct the film - as many people still seem to believe - he did influence the visual aspects one-hundred percent.

2) The film is no longer a Touchstone Pictures release. When the film came out in 1993, the Mouse House was antsy because it had a PG-rated cartoon on its hands filled with monsters, the victim of an axe-murderer, and perhaps Satan himself as a protagonist. So instead of releasing the film as a Disney picture like it was originally intended, Buena Vista slapped a Touchstone Pictures logo at the beginning as a way of sort of keeping what they perceived as a controversy bomb at arms length. Well now that the film has been loved and adored by millions of fans across the country; sold tons of toys, backpacks, and t-shirts; and has even been incorporated into the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney's theme parks, the company must no longer feel the separation is necessary. So when the film starts to play, the screen reads 'Walt Disney Pictures Presents'. Perhaps that means Jack Skellington is finally allowed to eat at the same commissary with the likes of Ariel, Iago the parrot, and Pluto. It's about time.

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