This is an open-ended conversation about 3-D, its efficacy, and its future.
This is Ebert simultaneously praising one technique while reducing another to gimmick status.
He seems to think there is no difference between being distracted by the gimmick of 3-D and being distracted by watching a movie on a screen twelve times the size of a normal one. I have yet to see a feature film on a real IMAX screen, but I'm guessing I'll be aware of its scope just as I was aware very briefly that Coraline was in 3-D. Here's the thing, though: I quickly forgot that Coraline was in 3-D and found myself swiftly accepting the look and feel of the world. It's the most beautiful balance of 3-D and storytelling I've ever seen, to the point where when you do sit up and notice the 3-D again, it's actually kind of a heady thrill, not a cheap distraction. I look forward to seeing Up, tomorrow.
I'm compelled by Ebert's decade-long dissertation on the brilliance of MaxiVision vs. cheaper celluloid and the conversion to digital. I would love to witness this fabled process in action. I'm also with him on the need to run projectors at their brightest settings.
For all that, there's a part of me that thinks the "purity" of the image should not always be a sacrosanct concept. When I was twelve, my brother made dubbed copies of movies he'd taped off HBO and Showtime, including Aliens, Poltergeist, Flatliners, Hellraiser, The Lost Boys, etc. My copy of Ghostbusters and The Neverending Story that my sister made me was also dubbed. These copies were grainy and pan-and-scanned, and they wore out over the years. To this day, that imperfection, that graininess, toyed with my imagination. Of course, movies are artifice. We want a world made differently than the one we're in, sometimes.
It's ok if kids notice the effects in Coraline. Why shouldn't kids learn at some point to be aware of technique, just a little? I don't think every movie should be 3-D, but I do enjoy it when it's done well, just as I enjoy anything that's done well. Where Monsters vs. Aliens was gimmicky 3-D, Coraline was boundary-pushing 3-D, a fantastic utilization of a technique producing a model-box nightmare come-alive. If it seemed to be lit a little darker than a normal movie, that still served its purpose.