3D or not 3D… that is the question. For me, it’s normally “not”. First of all, I’m against it in principle because tickets cost more than regular 2D. Why? Are the movies any different? A different price indicates a different product and 3D isn’t something that makes a big enough difference for me to pay more to see it.
Have you seen a movie at a theater lately? If I had a nickel for every trailer that proclaims “in 3D” at the end… If this is Hollywood’s brilliant plan to make more money, I think they’re way off track. Instead, how about focusing on quality and an original idea?
I’m not a complete stick in the mud; I think 3D can be appropriate under unique circumstances. Avatar was pretty awesome with it. But when a studio decides to add 3D to a movie that’s already been filmed? Nope; that’s nothing but corporate greed. If I hear that they’ve “retrofitted” a movie to make it 3D, I refuse to see it.
Having said all that, there’s something about a horror movie in 3D that intrigues me. If you think about it, the genre is better suited for it than some. For example, when long instruments of death are sticking out of their victims’ bodies, it’s kind of cool for them to extend over the audience and drip blood in front of you. This detail alone adds something special to the viewing experience. In fact, one of the first 3D movies during its “golden age” was 1953’s House of Wax, starring Vincent Price.
A year later, the 3D cameras went under water for Creature from the Black Lagoon. This seems like the perfect utilization of the technology. Imagine standing close to a huge aquarium. You have a close up view of the entire environment… plants, plastic treasure chests, etc. Then a fish swims by, right in front of you. It’s kind of startling. It’s the perfect example for how 3D can simulate a multi-dimensional perspective. Now imagine that the fish is a monster. Or better yet, hundreds of tiny, razor-toothed monsters… piranha!
Jump ahead half a century and technology has given us Piranha 3D. Early on, I was pretty sure the 3D was going to be the best thing about this movie. (As I anticipated, the underwater footage was fantastic.) That was until the audience was treated to a slow motion, 3D view of vomit spewing overboard from Jessica Szohr, who did a few too many body shots during her spring break from Gossip Girl. That was soon followed by a 3D view of two gigantic breasts dipping in the water as a woman parasailed too close to the surface. And if you think it’s disgusting watching Jerry O’Connell parading around in his Speedo, wait until you see what part of him gets a 3D closeup.
Forget any expectations you have that Piranha 3D might be better than it looks. Dimension Films has done a pretty good job of marketing its… strengths? There’s no false advertising here. My only question is: spring breaks aren’t really like this, right? What’s depicted here must be the adolescent fantasy of writers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. (Ah, those two again; they populated last year’s Sorority Row with the most despicable cast of characters I’ve ever seen.) If I believed for one minute that there really are that many sex-obsessed, inhibition-free teenagers, I’d gladly throw myself into a lake full of prehistoric, maneating fish.
If there’s one thing in Piranha 3D that’s more over the top than the spring break shenanigans, it’s the gore. These fish make the ones from the 1978 version look like guppies! There are very few deaths here from “loss of blood”; it’s more like loss of limbs. But even worse than the carnage caused by the piranha are the deaths caused by the resulting panic. Flying cables slice bikini-clad babes, out of contol speedboats decapitate sleezy wet t-shirt contest hosts and stalled propellers pull off faces of long-haired swimmers.
Amid all this chaos, there’s about 1/3 of Piranha 3D that’s actually fairly effective. There are jolts and surprises. There is suspense. The problem is that these moments are surrounded by pure nonsense. Don’t let the participation of some big-name stars fool you; they did this for the paychecks. None of them, including Oscar-nominee Elisabeth Shue, are able to rise above the material.
It’s clear now that Piranha 3D is neither a remake of, nor a sequel to, Roger Corman’s 1978 cult classic, Piranha. It’s simply another movie about killer fish, albeit one with none of the retro innocence and charm. There are, however, some subtle reminders of its predecessor, such as Christopher Lloyd channeling the horrendous acting of Kevin McCarthy. And elements of the climax are shared by both.
If you think I’m omitting plot details, don’t worry; there aren’t any. And character development is wafer-thin. Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation, Party Down) fares worst: he shows up out of the blue to investigate the underground earthquake that released the piranha, doesn’t do much of anything, and then suddenly turns into Rambo on a jet ski.
It sounds like I hated Piranha 3D. And that is how I felt immediately after seeing it. I was certainly revolted and repulsed, by both the sleeze and the gore. But the more I thought about it, I have to give credit to a movie that is so fearless about being so extreme. I respect it for that and cannot dismiss it. I haven’t completely liked any movie that director Alexandre Aja has made (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors), but, man, this guy is relentless!
God forgive me, I’m going to give Piranha 3D a better than average rating, mostly because of the 3D technology being suited for it and used to great advantage. But if I have nightmares tonight about breast implants floating in front of me, almost like I could reach out and grab them, I reserve the right to change my mind.