3-D technology and the site-specific film adaptation

Reynolds, James (2011) 3-D technology and the site-specific film adaptation. In: Adaptations and the New Technologies; 25 Jan 2011, Leicester, U.K.. (Unpublished)


James Cameron's development of stereoscopic and virtual camera technology (Avatar, 2009) leads his '3-D renaissance' of creative - and commercial - opportunity. Critics remain unconvinced, dismissing 3-D technology as 'gimmicky' (Kermode, Observer). I examine 3-D's impact on adaptation by interrogating notions of dimension, and the enhancements 3-D offers. Studying adaptations of b/w graphic novels (Persepolis, Ghost World) reveals a loss of iconic power through the addition of animation and/or colour, which is counter-balanced through narrative fidelity, or by overstating the new medium. 3-D's enhanced, ultra-realistic dimensionality seems opposite to iconic representation. But, I argue, 3-D is iconic because it signifies itself continuously, creating an iconic field which functions as, and through, environment - creating a cinematic form of site-specific narrative to reveal itself. Adaptations like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) compensate for the loss of dimension 3-D iconicity entails by overstating environment, and making landscape a core text. But this flattens time against enhanced material presences, and dissolves linear narrative's tensions. 3-D enhances dimension, but also reduces it by privileging spatiality over temporality. 3-D may be most effective in action narratives which aggressively inscribe linearity, and are specifically created as 3-D. But this reduction also creates opportunities to break with linearity by revealing a radical temporal flexibility in film akin to that of theatre - a flexibility which adaptation can productively explore.

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