In Defense of The Great Gatsby in 3D

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 11 2011 11:28 AM

In Defense of The Great Gatsby in 3D

The literary Twitterati were up in arms last week over a new version of Huckleberry Finn that scrubs out the n-word . This week, they're fainting over the news that director Baz Luhrmann may present his upcoming Great Gatsby adaptation in 3D . (He's currently "workshopping" such a version, says the Hollywood Reporter , but hasn't made a final call on whether he'll actually use the format.)

/blogs/browbeat/2011/01/11/in_defense_of_the_great_gatsby_in_3d/jcr:content/body/slate_image

Cue howls .

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I always think it's funny when people act as if goofy or wrong-headed adaptations of great literature somehow desecrate the original work. The Great Gatsby will be just fine, people. If it can survive the thousands of terrible sophomore English class essays written about it every year, it can survive Baz Luhrmann.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the prospect of a 3D Gatsby , myself. For example, Dan Engber, Slate 's resident 3D expert, has written about the "dollhouse effect " the technology can create the "uncanny distortion" that makes a hyperreal scene start to look fake, as if you're watching artificial people walking around in a scale model. That's seen as one of the technology's flaws, but it seems to me an interesting and novel way to stage Gatsby 's famous party scenes, which are pretty but as the recent, equally stunty stage adaptation GATZ  reminded me pretty hollow. Aren't all those West Egg dandies dolls, in their own way?

Dan also points out, in his conversation about 3D with our film critic Dana Stevens , that the technology's manipulation of space doesn't have to be about grand vistas or projectiles popping out of the screen:

[A]t Daisy's window in  Toy Story 3 ... Lotso , the pink teddy bear, finds he's been replaced by another toy. Daisy's in the foreground; the abandoned playthings are watching from outside. If the scene were flat, they'd be right next to each other on the screen; in 3-D, they're spread across a lonely chasm, front to back, and separated by rain-streaked glass. Other studios are content with sight gags; Pixar uses depth to convey emotion.

I can see that working well with Gatsby , which holds both Daisy and Jay Gatsby at something of a distance, filtered as they are through Nick Carraway's memory.

Or maybe I'm just really excited about that car crash scene.

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