Watching Natalie Portman getting sucked into a 3-D wormhole–one that hovers above the third row of the theater–should be a very moving experience, right? Not according to experimental research by Brendan Rooney and Ellis Hennesy, who compared the reactions of audiences who saw the first Thor in 3-D and 2-D respectively back in 2011. The 3-D viewers didn’t report any additional emotional response to being immersed in the mythic darkness.
Therefore, if you plunk down the 3-D price for Thor: the Dark World this weekend, prepare to get 2-D emotional fulfillment. What the study seems to have found is that feeling like you’re “right there, man” and walking away really feeling something are two different things. At least, that’s what the 225 people surveyed in Dublin found (presumable 112.5 people saw each variety of Thor.)
As any film professor will tell you—and probably a lot of film students, too—emotional engagement from a film comes from relating to characters, having something to think about, and being surprised. The 3-D experience seems to work on one’s senses, making him pay attention and feel a certain intensity, but not necessarily being moved.
Perhaps people feel emotionally let down from 3-D films because they expect too much. Feeling as though Chris Hemsworth is comin’ after ya should equate to emotion, right? Yet the 3-D technology calls attention to the artifice of filmmaking so much that it may actually distract people from really thinking about what they’re seeing. I know I spend a lot of time in 3-D movies taking the glasses off and wondering if the movie would be better if I could actually see what was going on.