Lately, however, in a new campaign to oversaturate the market, Hollywood has begun the process of converting various older films into 3-D. I have no problem with James Cameron or George Lucas going back and tinkering with their own properties. If Cameron wants to make a 3-D Titanic, more power to him. With Jurassic Park, Spielberg was consulted and enthusiastically supported the conversion. And now we come to The Wizard of Oz. Released in IMAX format for its 75th anniversary, this seemed to be a perfect opportunity for parents to take children to see a beloved classic in a theater with a big screen and excellent sound, except it's not the same movie they fell in love with. The powers that be at Warner Brothers elected to convert it to 3-D.
Restoring a film - cleaning up the original elements, regenerating the color, and generally making the images "pop" - is a laudable thing. Converting it to 3-D is tantamount to colorization. It's a sin against the original. I can't understand why the outcry isn't louder because this really is an outrage. Maybe it's because all the original anti-colorization advocates have died. Or maybe it's just because people don't give a crap.
To be fair, the conversion of The Wizard of Oz is unobjectionable from a technical standpoint. It's not a careless piece of work, slapped together to meet a deadline. But the quality of the 3-D isn't the point any more than the quality of colorization was. Without the collaboration of the original filmmakers (who are all dead), someone else has gone in and tinkered with a movie. The Wizard of Oz was never designed to be shown in 3-D and, as such, converting it to 3-D requires decisions to be made that alter the delicate fabric of what was originally presented. To apply Siskel's colorization description, it's a form of vandalism. High tech vandalism, to be sure, but vandalism nonetheless.
The reasoning behind the 3-D conversion of The Wizard of Oz remains murky. It can probably best be summed up by the phrase "because we can." The 3-D theatrical version showed for only one week in digital IMAX - not a big money-making proposition. It will be available on Blu-ray, but 3-D TV sales have been sluggish so many, many more copies of the 75th anniversary edition will be sold in 2-D. Having seen the IMAX 3-D print, I can say there's nothing in it that made the experience transformative. On more than one occasion, I wished the 3-D distraction would go away so I could sit back and enjoy the real film.
I happen to agree with just about everything Berardinelli wrote in this piece. I feel like it echoes a lot of what George Lucas said in a speech in 1988, which I pointed out in that post a couple years ago is tragically ironic given what he did to 'his' movies. (see here, too)
Conversely, Forrest Wickman of Slate.com thinks "No, 3-D is not Vandalism". He says remastering The Wizard of Oz in 3-D "doesn't harm the original", therefore it's not really vandalism. There are many copies of the film.
What do you think? I think remastering or converting films to 3-D is lame and a deliberate attempt at justifying charging people more money for a ticket at the cinema. It may or may not be 'vandalism', but I think it takes away from the original product.