Drama in three dimensions

Just give it a try, man," my friend said as we approached Tinstletown for the 3-D showing of "Prometheus." It was my first 3-D experience, and the reluctance hung on my face like those cheap plastic glasses they hand you as you walk into a movie these days.

"Just give it a try, man." I wonder how many lives have veered wildly and disastrously off course at the utterance of these six syllables.

"Is that heroin?"

"Just give it a try, man."

"Is that the new quadruple chicken beef bacon strawberry ice cream stuffed burger from Wendys?"

"Just give it a try, man."

"She wants to get married."

"Just give it a try, man!"

I suspected my life would remain boring and pedestrian after experiencing "Prometheus" in three dimensions, but one never knows.

I remember opening the box for my Nintendo only to find a disturbing warning from the government saying that playing Super Mario Bros. could induce a deadly seizure. Something about the flashing lights, yadda yadda yadda. Looking back, Nintendo probably welcomed the blinking-light-death-myth, as the true culprit was most likely healthy kids suddenly packing on 80 pounds of Mountain Dew and Little Debbie pudding roll weight while mashing buttons for 22.8 hours a day. Which is the grimmer scenario?

I resisted 3-D because it just seemed so damn"…80s. Beentheredonethat.

My dad hauled me to a theater in Terre Haute, Ind., to watch "Jaws 3," which claimed that the cardboard eye wear with one blue and one red lens would MAKE IT SEEM LIKE JAWS HIMSELF WAS COMING THROUGH THE SCREEN TO GET YOU OH MY GOD.

The movie was a pile of junk that besmirched Spielberg's original masterpiece. "Jaws" scared the crap out of me. "Jaws 3" was cheap and the 3-D effects were laughable. When the 3-D shark coasted across screen it looked more like a paper cutout pulled across the frame on a popsicle stick. I pictured the special effects guy below the camera growling, "RAWR RAWR!" as he bobbed his cutout shark along.

Aside from the poor effects, I recall Louis Gossett Jr., already marginalized by Hollywood's genteel racism, giving a hopeless performance as a waterpark manager who helps never-quite-leading-man material Dennis Quaid fight the shark.

"He looked sad," my dad said of Gossett Jr. as the credits rolled.

Which brings us to "Prometheus" and 3-D's new wave.

The charge that Hollywood lacks original ideas cannot be better evidenced by the fact that 3 freaking D has made a comeback. That's how you're going to get asses in theater seats and away from peoples' huge high-def flat screens, iPhones, Macs, laptops, Kindles, etc.


I was cautiously excited by "Prometheus" and did not consider 3-D to add anything to the mix. It's billed as a prequel to "Alien," a flat-out masterwork that's as good now as it was in 1979. However, since then Ridley Scott, the director, has been uneven. He shoots, cuts and frames images as well as anyone since Stanley Kubrick. But like Kubrick, his sense of pacing and his inability to coax depth out of his actors is a flaw. "Blade Runner," aside, of course.

I gave in and opted for the glasses. My friend won the day.

I'm glad I did. I won't ruin the plot of "Prometheus" for you, but I will say Scott used 3-D correctly. It added nuances to the story and was in no way plastered on as a gimmick. The scenes showing the space team walking the barren landscape of a rocky, desert world were marvelous. The 3-D captured the harsh expanses of an alien world and worked up a feeling of utter loneliness amid the stars that the characters surely were feeling.

I was surprised Scott did not deploy a heavy-handed 3-D in the blood and gore scenes. It would have harkened back to "Jaws 3" and ruined everything for me.

This is not to say that "Prometheus" is a great movie. Far from it. There are some script issues that cannot be ignored with the typical geek, "He's just leaving it up to your imagination," apologies. There are some plot holes here and some needless explication that doesn't quite fill in said holes.

In the end, though, it's a fine summer flick. Certainly light years above whatever shiv Michael Bay would jam into our eyes had he helmed this movie.

After "Prometheus" I returned to the 3-D world to rewatch "The Avengers" and found that the third dimension failed to add anything tangible to the story. "The Avengers" is a good flick on its own and could have been enhanced by 3-D, but it wasn't to be so.

"Avengers" director Joss Whedon is a smart cat who most likely nodded passively when the studio told him that his movie would feature 3-D elements whether he likes it or not. He then just made the movie he wanted to make and allowed the 3-D to fade innocently into the background as we became wrapped up in the lives of Iron Man, Captain America and the resurgent Hulk.

From here on, I'm probably going to be selective in my 3-D forays. I can see it going horribly awry in the wrong director's hands.

By the way, the glasses are way more stylish these days, but I still couldn't help but have "Jaws 3" flashbacks as I slipped them on and fell back into my seat.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471@mailtribune.com.

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