Michael Bay, Avatar Producer Ensnared in Great 3D Conversion Battle of 2010
It's unofficially 3D Day at Movieline, so let's keep things going with the movies -- and the moviemakers -- that keeps on giving. In the last 24 hours Michael Bay and Avatar producer Jon Landau have each weighed in at length over the haste and sloppiness with which Hollywood has been pushing 2D-to-3D conversions, carrying the flag James Cameron himself first raised shortly after the Oscars. ("It's typical of Hollywood getting it wrong," Cameron said at the time. "We do a film that is natively authored in 3D, shot in 3D, and so they assume from the success of that they can just turn movies into 3D in 8 weeks... throw a switch and that's gonna work somehow.") But are these guys really creative altruists, or just hypocrites in aesthetes' clothing?
After all, Cameron hilariously intimated the same frustration again alongside news of his plans to convert Titanic from 2D to 3D for re-release in spring 2012. The difference, according to Cameron, is that he's going to take the extra time -- six months to a year, by his estimation, as opposed to the eight-week rush job faced by Clash of the Titans -- to "do it right." And lest anyone accuse Cameron of shameless, two-faced cash-hoarding (and believe me, they have), Landau padded that estimate while elaborating at a Titanic screening last night at the Arclight:
"We have a different philosophy, when it comes to the conversion of 3D," Landau said. "We look at the conversion process as an artistic process, and not a technical process. We don't think you just throw laborers and technicians at it and turn it out in seven weeks at the end of a schedule. We're going to attack Titanic over the next 18-plus months and really work on it, and have Jim be a part of those conversations. I was with a director recently who had some of their work converted into 3D. I asked, 'How was the process working with them?' He had no idea. It was just presented to him as a technical fix. For us, if you're making a movie today, and you want it to be in color, you don't shoot it in black and white and colorize it. You want a movie to be in 3D, don't shoot it in 2D and convert it."
Ahhh. Funny, that's almost exactly what Michael Bay had to tell Deadline today about Paramount and DreamWorks's pressure to convert Transformers 3 in post. Apparently, there's not enough time to originate in 3D and finish in time for the film's June 2011 release date, but as far as the artist Bay is concerned, that's not his problem:
"I am trying to be sold, and some companies are still working on the shots I gave them," Bay said. "Right now, it looks like fake 3D, with layers that are very apparent. You go to the screening room, you are hoping to be thrilled, and you're thinking, huh, this kind of sucks. People can say whatever they want about my movies, but they are technically precise, and if this isn't going to be excellent, I don't want to do it. And it is my choice. [...]
"I'm used to having the A-team working on my films, and I'm going to hand it over to the D-team, have it shipped to India and hope for the best? This conversion process is always going to be inferior to shooting in real 3D. Studios might be willing to sacrifice the look and use the gimmick to make $3 more a ticket, but I'm not. Avatar took four years. You can't just shit out a 3D movie. I'm saying, the jury is still out."
Grumpy old Cameron was also consulted for the same piece ("The director doesn't say, `Hey, I want to make the movie in 3D.' The studio says, `You want to direct this movie? You're doing it in 3D, motherfucker!'"), but Bay is the more interesting case. Cameron and Landau have already said one thing and done another. Which, when you've made history's two highest-grossing films, is your prerogative. However, does a first-dollar guy like Bay really think that anyone believes he won't take the extra $10 million to $20 million that Hasbro and DreamWorks are basically just giving him by converting his film?
Moreover, for a guy so disdainful of critics and so vocally eager to give viewers "what they want," does he actually have the spine to publicly take the lead in insisting that what the hoi polloi "want" isn't good for them? Could you imagine? Might he even take a higher artistic road than Landau and (gasp!) Cameron, whose endgame is so transparently cash-motivated as to glaze over even more eyes than his spectacular 3D visuals -- converted or otherwise? If he does -- and actually does it on principle -- I swear I will devote an entire item taking back every criticism I've ever written about him. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt I'll be spending much time in the archives.