8.22.2010

REVIEW: Piranha 3D (Alexandre Aja, 2010)

With ragging on the resurgence of the cinematic third dimension being a popular thing to do, it may be controversial for me to state I enjoy 3D... but I'll quickly clarify: only when it's used in just-for-fun, often silly context as opposed to underhanded cash grabs. Letterier's Clash of the Titans? Pass, thanks... I gladly opted for a 2D screening there. Friday the 13th: Part 3, though? Bring it on, baby! Anytime, anywhere!! Much like My Bloody Valentine 3D, which made for likely the most fun I had at the movies last year, Piranha was planned for 3D - not strapped with a sub-par conversion after filming. Although the extra $4 per ticket hurt, it seemed worth the gamble.

Now, I could whine all day about the downfalls of current 3D technology. It's often blurry, the lumens get split between your eyes generating a murky appearance (it almost looked as though this film was brightened in post to diminish this side effect) and it often fails to add much since our brains already interpret 2D images in three dimensions. I could even debate what I call the aquarium effect versus the pop-out effect (looking into an image versus the image coming out at us) until the sea-cows come home. Since Avatar re-popularized the format, though, it's all been said and said again. I'll simply suffice to state that due to an inability to take full advantage of either the aquarium zone or the pop-out zone, along with the referenced issues, Piranha would have been much better in good ol' regular 2D.

The extra dimension aside, Piranha looked deliciously satirical of its beach party/monster trappings. Gotta say, I was darn stoked for this one (downloading its official desktop wallpapers, "liking" it on Facebook - the works). Even in the opening seconds the implemented color scheme and overall demeanor made me feel - as The Devil's Rejects did (twice!) in 2005 - like I was watching an actual '70s schlock classic. It is due to this excitement I am now heavy-hearted to report Piranha's dreadful mediocrity. You see, the movie actually tries to have real characters. It does precisely what I was tightly crossing my fingers it wouldn't do, and idles with inane personality-type development scenes whenever it gets the chance, trying to get us to care about its walking meat bags. What it should have done is stick with eccentrics like Eli Roth and Christopher Lloyd. In fact, if you can believe it, Lloyd only has two scenes and he steals the whole friggin' show.

Really, the movie gets almost immediately split into two threads - one about a wild, wild party and state troopers' efforts to keep scantily clad movers and shakers from becoming fish food, and one about our "main characters" going out on their own in a boat. Hey, filmmakers! I didn't come to see what's happening on your stupid little boat! Sure, build to the more intimate setting for a big scene later on or whatever... but had you forgotten what movie you were making here? Although it's not particularly well realized due to uninteresting compositions and practically zero action continuity, the beach party massacre sequence is likely the movie's bloody best... but then it's back to the boat for more blabber. Confused pacing like this may just be Piranha's key downfall. Even during the climax there's no sense of urgency.

So I went into this thing anticipating a specific type of experience but received something unexpected. That's fine. Films are allowed to do whatever they want to do. Thing is, in the case of a satirical creature feature, if you take out the satire you're left merely with an undercooked creature. Along with more Roth and more Lloyd, Piranha could have done well with some groan-worthy puns (not once did Ving Rhames turn to camera to declare, "Something smells fishy...") or, heck, some more belched-up penises (you'll know if/when you see it).

We're talking about a movie in which a prehistoric swarm of flesh-devouring monsters attacks a beach populated with a Girls-Gone-Wild-esque Spring Breakers. Basically, this was supposed to be the next Snakes on a Plane. Through taking itself too seriously, however, it becomes just another overpriced remake. Regarding the 3D, it's probable I'll still give Resident Evil: Afterlife a shot in theaters, but Piranha has done a number on my if-I-want-to-see-it-and-it's-3D-I-have-to-see-it-in-theaters mentality. If Afterlife blows gooey chunks of undead flesh, I'll wash my hands of theatrical obligations to 3D.

If I take anything away from Piranha, it's that pull-pushes do not work quite the same in 3D.

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