James Cameron blasts Harry Potter 3D fiasco

James Cameron hasn't minced words over the Harry Potter 3D debacle. With Warner Bros set to lose up to £50 million, could this be the end of 3D cinema?

Avatar director and 3D leading light James Cameron has blasted Warner Brothers after its plans to add an extra dimension to the final Harry Potter films disappeared in a puff of smoke. Warner has pulled the pin on releasing part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 3D, prompting Cameron to have a pop at the post-production 3D process.

Cameron told a Blu-ray conference that Warner's failure to finish the 3D conversion in time for the first film's release date was "another stumble" from the studio after the controversially botched conversion of Clash of the Titans. He added, "The same studio, making the same mistake, except really getting spanked for it now because they didn't get the film done. They announced it in 3D, they threw a bunch of money at it, trying to convert it to 3D in post-production -- and it simply didn't work. They just didn't get it done".

Part two of Deathly Hallows is still set to be released in cinemas in 3D. The franchise has proved strong enough to avoid the law of diminishing returns so probably won't lose any ticket sales for the lack of 3D, but it could cost the studio an eye-watering £30-50 million in lost revenue from 3D surcharges.  

Wizard wheeze

The boom in 3D is a massive money-spinner for studios and cinemas, as they can slap an extra couple of quid on top of the tenner or so you're already paying as a 3D surcharge -- and that's not including the extra quid for the glasses. If shooting a film in 3D is too much like hard work, studios have come up with the wizard wheeze of converting a conventionally shot film to 3D after it's finished.

But as Warner has painfully learned, 3D conversion isn't as easy as waving a magic wand and chanting "Convertium threediosa". The rushed conversion of Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender drummed up a barrage of bad press, and opened muggle eyes to the fact this new magic we're being charged extra for may in fact be a cheap trick. Studios have clearly realised the spell is broken, tacking an emphatic 'Shot in 3D' to the title of bonkers Nicolas Cage vehicle Drive Angry.

All the classics -- but classic-er

Cameron is deeply critical of post-production 3D-ifying, maintaining it should only be used to make classic films classic-er, like his own Aliens, Terminator 2 and Titanic . Meanwhile, George Lucas is applying the process to his Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. While Indy 3D gets our geek juice flowing, we're not keen on the idea of conversion. 3D fundamentally changes the language of cinema and should be considered in the process from the start, or it can look rubbish -- or even physically hurt to watch.

Another problem with this is the fact it encourages studios to re-punt their old films, instead of making new ones. Cinemas are already awash with sequels, remakes and comic-book adaptations, and adding old films to the slate squeezes original films out of the picture. If they keep up this reliance on tent-pole releases, there just won't be enough screens to spread their fortunes over a wider base of properties with more modest expectations. Just ask MGM .

Enough of the twofer

While we're on the subject of money-spinning wheezes that need to be knocked on the head sharpish, our patience is wearing thin with the trend towards splitting films in two. The old musical adage that inside every good double album is a great normal-length album certainly applies to Quentin Tarantino's bloated, self-indulgent Kill Bill and Grindhouse films, and we'd question whether there are enough ideas left in the Alien franchise to sustain even one prequel, let alone two.

Sure, the final book in the Harry Potter series is the size of a man's head, but so is War and Peace and you didn't see King Vidor making War followed by Peace a year later. Pack it in, Hollywood.

The two most recent Potter films will be converted for a 3D Blu-ray version, with the earlier films likely to follow. To see 3D in your living room done right, Avatar is coming to 3D Blu-ray , but only for those who buy a Panasonic 3D TV.

Deathly the first opens in the UK and US on 19 November. Deathly 2: Deathly Harder follows on 15 July 2011, by which time anyone who read the first book at age 12 will be 23 years old. Will you be going to see it, and if not, which 3D extravaganzas are you looking forward to? What's been your best experience of 3D so far?

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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