Director likes format but not losing element of surprise

M. Night Shyamalan has a love-hate relationship with 3D.

On Thursday, at Variety’s 3D Entertainment Summit, the multi-hyphenate laid it out in detail, saying that while he relishes the use of 3D as a tool to surprise auds, he hates to have his movies defined by the format.

“The problem with it as I see it is the glasses,” he said. “It’s not a tool like 5.1 sound, it’s not a tool like music. It is a definition of what you’re coming to see. As soon as those glasses go on, I have a huge expectation of the style of what I’m going to see, the experience I’m going to

have. So it’s a tricky thing.”

Shyamalan also said he regretted not deciding to go 3D earlier in the making of his most recent film, “Last Airbender.””The earlier you can make that decision, the absolute better for the process,” he said. “You can’t just go do the minimum for everything because it will look bad. There’s an artistry to how to use depth.”

Shyamalan’s reference to the expectations created when moviegoers put on 3D glasses drew a laugh, as there had been a running debate earlier in the program over perceived problems created by glasses and moderator Bob Dowling had promised this would finally be a session that didn’t deal with the subject.

Shyamalan drew more laughter as he mimicked his aunt in Buffalo asking, “Why doesn’t the 3D come out at me more?”

“That’s the problem,” he said. “I could use 3D in amazing and surprising ways if I had the element of surprise on my side. But right now it’s not subservient to the story.”

At this point, 3D is appropriate for broad pictures like “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” he said, but not for the “quiet” pictures he likes to make.

“I wish it was just a tool. It’s more than a tool, it’s a definition of a movie entirely.”

Later, in a conversation with Variety, Shyamalan expanded on his comments, saying those kinds of expectations are undeserved — but they’re an unavoidable reality, at least at this point in time.

“3D deserves a broader definition than ‘Oh, it’s going to come at me,’ in negative space. It’s really about depth, it’s about immersion. It can be very subtle and psychologically satisfying, but when you put on those glasses, you’re saying this is the type of movie you’re going to see, this is the type of experience you’re going to have, you can have these expectations.”

He added that auds and studios alike expect a 3D movie to be “a big ride.” “Who’s dictating?” he asked. “Is the consumer or the studios? The studios will claim they’re just reflecting the desire of the audience. But there’s definitely an expectation on both sides.”

Shyamalan blamed intensive pre-release marketing for creating such expectations among moviegoers for both 2D and 3D.

“My main goal is to make an original tone of a movie that’s not been seen before, that’s always what’s interested me,” he said. “That means breaking genres. On the other side, movies are now completely prepackaged and presold, so they have to define (the movie) in a way that’s been previously defined. Like, come see ‘The Town’ because it’s like ‘The Departed.’

“There was a time you’d just go to the movies and know very little about it. The movies that I don’t know anything about have a huge impact on me because I had no expectations.”

In essence, Shyamalan said, using 3D is “not something to do lightly. It’s a big responsibility, it’s a huge responsibility, it’s another huge added level of discipline that has to be learned.”

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