All right, I’ll admit it – I’m among friends, after all – I have yet to see the final part of the Harry Potter saga, The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Frankly, it’s doing fine without my patronage: this week it became the ninth film in cinematic history to gross over $1 billion. It’s already the eighth highest-grossing film of all time and, for that matter, the highest-grossing Harry Potter film of all time. (Previous top dog The Philosopher’s Stone doesn’t even make the top ten any more!)
I will see it. Fear not. I’ve seen all the others and, not having read a single word of any of the books, I’m keen to see who dies at the end. (I imagine that when I do get round to seeing Pt 2, I’ll be the only person in the cinema who doesn’t know how it ends. That’s the way I like it.)
The reason I have yet to see it – and it’s on at every cinema in the country, pretty much on the hour, every hour – is that it’s in 3D. And because of that, I just can’t get the enthusiasm up. It’s the first of the Potters to fall prey to the fashionable technology of our age, and it seems a shame to me. The other seven films survived without it, delighting millions around the globe and glueing otherwise fidgety kids to seats for two-and-a-half hours at a stretch. These have been remarkable films, in two dimensions.
So why bolt a third onto the final part? Unlike most other blockbusters with “3D” at the end of the title, Potter needs no gimmick to pull in the crowds. Surely every single one of those who has seen it since it opened on 15 July would have gone even if they’d advertised it in 1D, or in black and white? It’s the story, and the characters, that count; the fictional on-screen wizardry, not the functional off-screen wizardry. No?
I’m not being a Luddite here. I am all for gadgets that improve my life, and speed up onerous tasks, as long as they don’t take twice as long to clean afterwards. I am typing this on a gadget that it basically a small telly-and-typewriter combination that folds up and fits into my bag. Amazing! But 3D in cinemas has become a default setting, the norm rather than the exception, and I’m growing tired of wrapping the stupid, smeary glasses round my head for hours at a time. (You can never wipe that smear off, even with the special cloth, can you?)
I’m lucky enough to made it this far through my life without needing actual glasses, so when I’m not actually on holiday, it feels a bit odd to put some on anyway. Watching a film is all about losing yourself in the experience, escaping your humdrum life, suspending your disbelief; and this is much harder to do with a plastic device on your face that provides a constant reminder that you are sitting in a cinema and watching an image projected onto a screen.
3D can provide an extra jolt of spectacle, but who needs it when, say, you’re watching two characters talk to each other? What’s the point of seeing that in three dimensions? It becomes a distraction. I expect some of the set-pieces in Deathly Hallows Pt 2 have been designed with 3D in mind and may well earn their money in terms of thrills. But I missed the meeting when this became standard practice. I was quite happy with the way we were.
It is showing in 2D but it’s much harder to track these screenings down. My preferred local cinema only has three screens, so it’s 3D or nothing. I saw Avatar in 3D, and felt that the technology at least made the one-dimensional characters seem two-dimensional, but frankly, the spectacles-reliant spectacle was not life-changing. I saw Avatar again on 2D and I was less offended by its arrogance, actually. It was just a perfectly serviceable jungle adventure, and worked on that level.
All I’m saying is: with a brand-new Harry Potter movie out, the conclusion to an epic journey that began when I was still in my 30s, I shouldn’t be reluctant to go and see it.