people wearing 3d glasses*It’s a fascinating time to be a movie lover in America.

Not necessarily fruitful, of course, but pretty fascinating. The last few summers have proven to be an endless array of hollow sequels (did anyone actually see Wrath of the Titans), low-aiming light relationship comedies (What to Expect When You’re Expecting, for example) and, most damaging, mirthless, completely un-entertaining “tentpole” CGI-driven franchise starter films that have flopped terribly at the box office. Battleship sunk right on arrival and John Carter became one of the biggest bombs in box-office history. If it wasn’t for all the joy and creativity that The Avengers brought to the masses, a convincing case could be made that the whole industry was just about dead – especially when compared to a television medium that churns out brilliance in the form of shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones every week.

In this fractured box-office atmosphere, studios seem to be increasingly resulting to gimmicky tactics to bring back the audiences that seem to be tired with the boring product Hollywood is shoving out every Friday. Tacking on an extra few bucks for a movie ticket in order to allow bullets and flames to leap from the screen at a viewer is a way for studios to recoup money from the massive disappointments they’ve suffered over the past few years. 3-D has even become the great Hail Mary play for to-be flops, like in the case of the terrible-looking G.I. Joe sequel.

This is a development that should cause great concern for Hollywood. Movies in 3-D are like a dessert in a fancy restaurant – rich and pleasing when it works (think Avatar), expensive and disastrous when it doesn’t (read Roger Ebert’s review of Airbender for a good summary of a 3-D apocalypse, and only worth it for special occasions. The extra dollars for 3-D are only worth it in the case of a man who truly knows how to use it – James Cameron, for example – or in the case of classic that could be fun again in a new format. That’s a classic like Independence Day and not The Phantom Menace. If the industry indulges too much with this format, the high prices and muddy images threatens to drive even more viewers away from the cinemas and into the comfort of their own homes. It would be an unfortunate way for Hollywood to finally go dark.