Oct 25, 2010  •  In Entertainment, Geek, Guest Posts, Movies

Guest Post: The Dangers of Singling out the Senses

Today we have another fantastic post by Nick. Here he talks about a topic I briefly spoke of in the past: new technology at the movies.

While I am a self-proclaimed geek, I remain a traditionalist when it comes to certain topics (ie, opting for books over e-readers) and the moviegoing experience is one that I prefer old-fashioned as well. Nick does an excellent job of defending his stance against new technology at the movies, and I wholeheartedly agree with every word.

That being said, I must confess that I am guilty of forking over $15 to watch Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3D…but only because it was only available in 3D and I have such a vested interest in the franchise since having had the crap scared out of me by the first Resident Evil video game back in high school.  And you know what? The first thing that came out of J’s mouth as we walked out of the theater was, “Well that was a complete waste of $30.”


Apparently there is a new technology being pushed in Hollywood that will allow moviegoers to experience a full range of lifelike smells while in the theatres. Seriously. They will be outfitting the seats with a new olfactory emitter that draws from reservoirs of “base scents;” they combine to form more complex smells that match the scenes in the movie.

Obviously this new technology comes with significant costs, so movies featuring smell enhancements will cost roughly $3 more per ticket to cover them. But think of the enhanced immersion that smell will make! New movies will strive to fill the screen with fields of flowers, dumpsters, bakeries, farms, restaurants, anything that will be able to utilize the features that — up until now — had never been available. Story, cinematography, and character development will have to take a back seat to making the most audacious scent scenes.

By now you should have realized that none of this is true. There were a few failed attempts at this kind of thing (see Smell-O-Vision and iSmell (Really? Someone thought that was a good name for a product?)), but the technology was a flop.

Good thing too, I say, since it would have led to the degradation of movies aesthetics the way that this stupid 3D craze is doing now.

Stop. Do not start bellowing on about Avatar. That was some crazy new 3D that — while better than most —still failed to create any more immersion than someone spritzing bottles of Na’vi-scented mist on me every time Neytiri showed up. The movie relied so heavily on cliché and archetypes that it needed fancy technology to save it from the absolute mediocrity that it really was (see my previous post about that here).

But, as with all bandwagons, 3D has a throng of producers clamoring to pull themselves up and into the piles of money loaded in the back. Pixar slaps a pair of polarized goggles on anything that it releases these days; Up is the single best movie I have ever seen and it gained nothing by being in more than the requisite two dimensions. There was some kid’s movie about hamsters as well, but I doubt that anyone not on Ritalin remembers or cares about that one. Horror films are all following suit too. I’ve heard that Piranha 3D is supposed to be a joyous celebration of over-the-top gore and gratuitous nudity, but does the addition of uncomfortable glasses really make it any more memorable than all the other monster movies?

The worst offender, however, has to be the most recent addition to the already unnecessarily expanded Resident Evil franchise. I have not seen Resident Evil: Afterlife, nor is it likely that I will be going to the theatre to drop $14 for the privilege of being bludgeoned by what will likely be several clubs worth of stupid, but I can gather just about all I need from the trailer:

This movie appears to be doing exactly what I feared that the stupid 3D revolution would right from the start: instead of relying on solid, aesthetically pleasing cinematography suited for any kind of movie (2D, 3D, or otherwise), each new 3D feature will build their idiot creation around making things fly at the screen and, consequently, at their slack-jawed, brain-dead audience. Screw stories. Screw writing. Let’s just make some $%&# spin, zip, rocket, and smash into the camera.

Again, stop. Do not point out that The Matrix utilized revolutionary technology and action-oriented, non-standard filming to create a completely fresh take on action movies. Bullet time was used to improve the storytelling and to build the feeling of a virtual world. It did not take over the movie, and the franchise benefited from its existence, rather than suffered for it.

Going back to Smell-O-Vision, new technology is like perfume. Use it sparingly and properly and it can transform a good movie into a great movie. It can bring monsters to life, drop us in a warzone, or carry us into space. But, like perfume, when you dump it all over everything without discretion, you give everyone a headache and make them want to puke.

And no one wants to spend an extra $4 a ticket for that.

About the Author:

Nicholas Stirling is descended from alcoholic Finns and pig-rearing Scotsmen. He has tried his hand at more than a few things: custom woodworking, bookstore management, and teaching (his current occupation) to name a few of them. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, and lives in Ontario (that’s a province in Canada). He is currently promoting his first real stab at a readable novel, entitled Emily Rose, and his short story “Pretty Flowers” will be published in an upcoming edition of Morpheus Tales. He has also been a featured contributor on Cracked.com, with his “Elves” topic page picking up over 210,000 reads. He blogs regularly on Exercising Monsters.

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2 Responses to “Guest Post: The Dangers of Singling out the Senses”

  1. Rhey says:

    When we visit a theme park for a week, if we need some down time in A/C we will go to a movie. After all the "4-D" experiences in the parks, we are always grateful to watch a movie without having our seats poke us, spray us with water or emit noxious fumes. If they start doing this in all theaters we will stay home. I'm not a fan.

  2. Carla says:

    In some parts I agree with you, but 3D can be awesome.

    Clash of the Titans sucked in 3D, would have been nice in 2D I think.
    The first movie that I saw in 3D was My bloody Valentine which made me think that 3D movies are awesome, they used the effects really well.

    So anything after that was a bit of a disappointment.

    In "real life" I despise wearing sunglasses because it makes the world lose colour, ditto for 3d glasses – which I think is my biggest issue with 3D movies.

    I really enjoyed RE Afterlife – but because I was in the mood for a mindless action movie, it wasn't awesome in 3D, but better than Clash of the Titans.

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