This week I girded my loins and ventured into that most frightening of scenarios for the first day of the school summer holidays – the matinee showing of Toy Story 3 in 3D. I had proved admirably resilient to the much-discussed charms of this film but all that collapsed when I read an article in This is London. I like nothing more than a good sentimental wallow at the movies but, on reading this, I thought that if Toy Story 3 makes grown men cry the least I can do is go along and stay dry-eyed and stoic. I should point out here that it’s very difficult to know if anyone is crying, including yourself , in a very dark theatre when you’re wearing normal glasses and 3D specs over the top.
I am a big fan of Pixar. I will never forget watching Finding Nemo for the first time with a work colleague – we sneaked Marks and Spencers’ Gin and Tonic into the Oxford Odeon like the rebels that we weren’t and we were thoroughly charmed. Not just by the story and its immensely likeable characters but by the spectacular colour and beauty of the entire film and the vision of its creator. I think it’s still my favourite, although Wall-E and Up are right there as well. Toy Story 1 and 2 weren’t. In these two films, my brain couldn’t accept the moves between real child and real world with animated toy and animated world. Woody was a charmer though, and Buzz. Very difficult to not like those two.
However, Toy Story 3 is a different kettle of fish. What struck me, while I was getting emotionally entangled in this excellent story, was the depth of the characterisation. All of the toys, whether good or bad, had a consciousness about their past and a fear for their future, of not belonging, that I could relate to. Without giving anything away, the baddies Lotso and Baby managed to combine being menacing with being deeply pitiable. The tragedy in the situation of any toy – the child-owner must grow up, neglect is inevitable, loss is certain. Having limbs torn off, being painted, ripped and torn and crushed is nothing compared to the fate of becoming, finally, unwanted and discarded. And in this story, even the child players were believable and real. Bonnie is irresistible and Andy is shedding his childhood – a frightening business to go through, casting off childhood things. How many of us still have our favourite childhood toy? I know I do. Teddy’s looking at me right now from the chair in my bay window.
There is much to make child and adult alike laugh and gasp in Toy Story 3 – I could think of the flattened Potato Head, Ken and Barbie (these two are an absolute joy and surely merit their own film – or miniseries), the little squishy green aliens and their obsession with cranes, that horrible, demonic monkey, and nothing – nothing – could prepare me for the dancing, wooing Spanish Buzz. I could well up just thinking of Woody and Buzz and all their brave and bighearted friends as they prepare to meet a terrible fate…. Few films in recent months have moved me this way (although I did cry at the end of Inception – was I the only one?).
A good friend suggested to me that the end of 3D is nigh, citing this article. My response would be that 3D is only as good as the films that are made in it and no wonder 3D audiences fall when they’re ‘treated’ to Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, the Last Airbender and whatever else is contorted into 3D when it was never designed for more than 2D (and that’s probably a D too many).
If a film is made in 3D and is suitable for 3D technology as it exists today – such as Avatar, How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 – then there can be such pleasure in immersing oneself into this bright and colourful world of depth and flavour. Christopher Nolan wisely avoided 3D for Inception because he knew that the technology wasn’t up to his dream. But for these three films I mention, the 3D was arguably a part of that vision and each proved well worth the extra £2. Toy Story 3 in 3D was a visual pleasure – it wasn’t too obvious or clever about the use of 3D, instead one slipped into this other world while hardly noticing.
I would argue that audiences will continue to go to see a film in 3D if it is good, but these few good films have now made us realise that not all movies can be adapted to this format without doing a great deal of damage to themselves and to the format. The 3D screens should be left for the films that are made for it and are integrated with it.
And as a throwaway question on the matter of sequels – is a sequel more desirable when it’s made a full ten years after the predecessor (I’m not counting prequels – ie, Star Wars)?