Archive for August, 2011

Conan

August 31, 2011

In my youth I read many of the Conan stories, along with lots of science fiction and fantasy. Unlike the world in which I grew up, Conan’s world lacks ambiguity. There is no soul-searching angst, there is no wonder about being, there is no self-doubt of any kind. Conan is a man with a mission. He is a knight, a do-gooder who seeks justice through the sword. It must have been the clarity of such a vision, of such a clearly determined world, that I found attractive then and it still holds my attention.

The current Conan film is true to that vision, and a better picture than the Schwarzenegger movies, with a better actor, Jason Momoa, who plays Conan. He is better looking and commands the screen in a way that Schwarzenegger did not. Schwarzenegger is a slope-shouldered freak who deserves to be dumped into the dustbin of cinema history. He was as bad an actor as he was a governor. But his failure was fascinating to watch in both roles.

The present version of Conan has not clicked with the public or critics although it is well made film. It is hyper-violent but not quite at the porn-slasher level. It tells a story of revenge set against a bleak Bulgarian landscape. The sizable number of people who worked on the picture, which can be observed when the credits roll, is bloated by the half-dozen or so houses that worked on the 2-D to 3-D conversion.

For the most part the conversion sucks. The stereoscopic effect is utterly inappropriate to the film which is broadly melodramatic and cartoonish. The stereo is flat and chock full of anomalies. I am sure it is a better picture in 2-D but 3-D is my thing so I sacrificed my afternoon and saw the film that way. There are occasional shots, maybe a score, that are gorgeous in 3-D. It is as if an angel descended from above to bless a handful of shots. Diamonds in the shit. But the beauty of these shots, for the most part long-shots and landscapes, amplified the absolute horror of the rest of the conversion.
Go ahead Hollywood – turn off the audience. Kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Chop with a rusty blade the goose’s neck and if that is not enough cover up the mistakes with projection that can be best appreciated with night-vision goggles. Hey! A new invention: 3-D glasses with built in night vision capability.

I watched the show at the 12:05 (afternoon) August 30 screening at the Arclight Sherman Oaks . There were two people behind me — an elderly man and a young man and what they said was what people all across the country are saying about 3-D: the movie was dark. Given the Xpand shuttering glasses system that was being used in a relatively small theater the image ought to have been decent. To lift up the glasses was to see what a movie should be – bright!

The crime at the Arclight is especially galling because it is one of the premier venues for the projection of motion pictures in the United States, and possibly the world. It is as good as a studio screening room. The Arclight prides itself on its excellent projection but its 3-D projection is lousy.

Between the studios and their crappy content and the exhibitors with their self-dooming approach to projecting 3-D, 3-D is being diminished. As far as the content goes I must point out that conversion is not solely to blame – movies shot in 3-D are frequently wanting as well. But that’s another story for another time. Cartoon features (CG animation to you) are the best looking 3-D content.

I walked in that theater feeling fine I left with a headache and I do not get headaches very often. Fourteen dollars for a headache? You do the math. How long can 3-D movies survive at such bargain prices?

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