See It Again for the First Time, by Kyle Anderson
My relationship with 3D has been one of love-hate. Generally, I don’t think a movie needs to be in 3D, certainly not when it’s done so after the fact in order to cash in on some apparent adoration by the film-going public of higher ticket prices and being made to wear bulky, ill-fitting glasses that are utterly useless unless the second the film is over. The amount of 3D tickets sold when 2D tickets are available has steadily dropped over the last few years, showing, pretty demonstratively, that people would rather not watch stereoscopy, thank you very much. That being said, when I have gone to see a 3D film, I’ve more or less enjoyed myself. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but occasionally I like gimmicks. The spate of re-released films that have been retrofitted to three-dimensions has stuck in my craw, however. Trying to squeeze even more money out of Star Wars and Titanic is shameful to say the least. Still, when Disney and Pixar do it, I for some reason give them the benefit of the doubt, which I have done yet again with the 3D-ified reissue of 2001’s Monsters Inc.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Monsters Inc. though it doesn’t seem to be as lauded as some of the other Pixar films. While surely WALL-E, Up, and The Incredibles are clearly upper-echelon family films, Monsters Inc., which I think is just as good, gets sort of forgotten. Even at the Oscars that year, it was a runner-up to Shrek, one of the few times a Pixar film has failed to win best animated feature. Despite its simple, heartstring-tugging story, and the fact that it’s probably the most unabashedly silly of their films, it upped the already-up game of computer animation. I recall watching a behind-the-scenes feature when it was released detailing how the animators had to create an entirely new program to make the main character of James P. Sullivan’s blue fur look and move naturally. A program had to be written just to make individual hairs movie properly! That’s a stunning feat, which isn’t diminished in any way by 11+ years of advancement.
So, it probably goes without saying that I really like this film in any number of Ds in which it is presented to me. Further, this was probably my fourth or fifth time seeing it, but for a lot of children in the audience (who, save us, weren’t even alive in 2001), this may well have been the first time they’d seen it. Seeing a film I love with kids who haven’t seen it yet is really something I cherish. The film was shown at LA’s Disney-owned El Capitan Theater, which is an experience in and of itself. There was a singer and people in Mike and Sulley costumes dancing around onstage before the film began. We were all given jingle bells to shake during these songs as well. While generally I dislike rigmarole, this was nice given the circumstances.
Now, to the big issue: the 3D. This is the first older, well-after-the-fact 3D movie I’ve seen. I usually avoid them like the plague, citing director’s intent and studio’s greed as a moral reason, while generally it’s just because they look like ViewMaster slides set in motion. The trailer for Jurassic Park 3D, for example, showed that they’d added depth to the screen, but none to the things on the screen. Monsters Inc., on the other hand, looks like it was always made in 3D. And, in a way, I suppose it was. Digital animation is a three-dimensional formal, projected onto a two-dimensional surface. The 3D process here, on display to showcase what the upcoming Monsters University will look like, makes the world of the movie look alive. Mike and Sulley look more realistic than their live-action counterparts onstage before the film. Especially impressive was the chase scene toward the end of the film where Steve Buscemi’s Randall chases our heroes on a conveyor belt of closet doors. It’s stunning. When the doors begin opening and the monsters go closet-hopping, we really feel like there’s a room beyond the door and not just a picture of one.
In the end, did Monsters Inc. need to go from Twod to Threed? No. Now that it has been, is it a pretty thing to watch? Yes. The movie is still just as good as it was in 2001, with as much humor and heart as you remember and those would be evident in 1D. The best part about the film’s rerelease is that it gives children who weren’t around to see it in theaters the first time a chance to experience it on the big screen. It reminds me of when I was a kid and they rereleased classic Disney films. The first movie I ever remember seeing in the theater was The Rescuers sometime in the mid-80s, likely on its tenth anniversary. Now some kid will be able to say the same thing of Monsters Inc. and that’s worth all the retrofitting in the world.