Comic-Con: From Saw to Drive Angry, the 3-D Hard Sell is On

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Right before hopping a plane for Comic-Con, I was on vacation with my family, and I found myself engaged in a vigorous debate about the value of 3-D.

Most people said they were sick of the whole fad, and I kept telling them that I had been in the same boat, until I sat down to see Avatar last December.

(More on Techland: Comic-Con: In a 3-D Year, Celebrating the Majesty of Blu-ray)

Now first off: I was shocked at how many family members told me that they hadn’t caught Avatar in movie theaters during its initial run. I told them about August’s re-release, and encouraged them to check it out. They then talked about their disappointment with the 3-D in Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland. And I chimed in that The Last Airbender and Toy Story 3 didn’t help my case either.

All this led me to something of a revelation: I think the marketplace has room for five or six natively-created 3-D blockbusters a year. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Maybe once every two months, a special 3-D event that warrants the glasses and the extra money – a half-dozen top-of-the-line 3-D movies that cross that threshold into must-sees. Maybe each person catches two or three of the six.

I think the marketplace could meet that, if the filmmakers stepped up to the plate and delivered worthy content.

Part of my pilgrimage here to San Diego is trying to assess whether I was right in my 3-D belief. TRON: Legacy is the next big movie that could replicate the Avatar aesthetic. I’m eager to see if it’s up to the challenge, and excited to talk to all the principal creative talents later today.

(More on Techland: Toy Story 3: The Mounting Case Against 3D?)

But in addition to TRON, today we have two new 3-D titles that attempt to prove the format can go beyond the fantasy/sci-fi genre to improve other sorts of stories as well. First up today: Drive Angry 3D, a self-described “blood-spattered road trip through hell” starring Nicolas Cage, about a vengeful father who is hunting down the murderers of his daughter.

Later tonight, I’ll be sitting down for a 3-D screening of footage from Saw 3D, to boot. Can torture porn benefit from 3-D? Will it be made even more in-your-face terrifying? Is there a possibility that both titles could seem a little too real, and turn audiences off in the process? After all, how realistic does a bloody car crash, or a severed limb, really need to be?

In any event, when I spoke to Jeffrey Katzenberg for a TIME Magazine piece a couple of months ago, he insisted that there is a core group of Hollywood believers who see 3-D jumping across all genres. Romances? Yep. Indie family dramas? Sure.

Without skipping a beat, he took it all one step further: He’d love to see the art house classic My Dinner With Andre – the one-scene dinner conversation film – shot in 3-D. Just imagine sitting in the booth alongside Andre and Walle, with their heads popping out of the screen.

(More on Techland: Confirmed: Thor, Captain America Will Be 3D)

So today, between TRON: Legacy, Drive Angry 3D and Saw 3D, I’m on the lookout for more 3-D to blow my mind. To help me convince my relatives that 3-D not only has a place in the multiplex, but a purpose in the screenwriting room. I’m guessing the former has a lot more to offer than the latter – I’m starting to learn that any movie with “3D” in the title is probably not worth it – but I could definitely be wrong.

In fact, I hope I’m wrong. I’m here at Comic-Con to be proven wrong. And I think a whole lot of other fanboys are too. We believe in 3-D, but are starting to get a little jaded by all the cheap conversions that are taking the bloom off the Pandoran rose.

For now, I’m still holding out hopes for Piranha 3D. If ever a movie deserved the 3D treatment, there it is.

More on Techland:

The Techland Guide to Having a Good Time at Comic-Con

Comic-Con International: What to Get in Line For Early

Where to See Techlanders at Comic-Con