Gatsby 3-D

Posted on January 11, 2011 by

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The story of Jay Gatsby, as told by Nick Carraway, as directed by Baz Luhrmann, as filmed in 3-D.

By Tommy Morgan, Jr.

"The Great Gatsby" may be made into a 3-D film, to the delight of lazy high schoolers everywhere.

When describing the differences between the citizens of the Indian subcontinent and their British colonizers, Rudyard Kipling once wrote “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

He basically meant that some things go well together – like chocolate and peanut butter, or whiskey and Tom Waits LPs – but there are a great many more things that, while great on their own, are perhaps best left separate.

Two such things collided when it was announced that Baz Luhrmann would try his hand at a new film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s American classic “The Great Gatsby.” That’s right, the director of Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet (the surreal modern interpretation of the classic Shakespeare tragedy) has decided to take on one of the greatest of the Great American Novels. In a panel discussion with Oliver Stone this weekend in Vegas, Luhrmann went one step further, saying that he “workshopped” his upcoming film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” – and might possibly shoot it in 3-D.

Once the province of corny monster movies (yes, including Clash of the Titans), 3-D has become the go-to solution for Hollywood money woes, and has turned out some good-looking, though not necessarily good, movies. And if anyone can pull off an adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel, it very well might be Luhrmann. The director did, after all, take what seems like one of the worst pitches in the history of movie pitches (“it’s like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but with guns”), and somehow made it work. His flair for the opulent may actually work against “Gatsby,” however. Luhrmann’s lavish aesthetic (see: any scene from Moulin Rouge!) may lift “Gatsby’s” party scenes into filmic beauty, but doesn’t seem like it would gel with the rest of the otherwise soft-spoken novel.

Could Gatsby 3-D even hope to live up to the impossibly high standard set by Jaws 3-D?

Even if 3-D movies can turn out better than expected, and Baz Luhrmann can somehow turn “atrociously awful” into “more or less tolerable,” would The Great Gatsby: The 3-D Adventure actually work?

Some have tried making “Gatsby” work as a movie, most notably Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Clayton, who created the 1974 adaptation starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. A made-for-TV movie was created in 2000, starring Paul Rudd as narrator Nick Carraway. Both films were middling at best, and didn’t come close to capturing the rich environs and tones of the novel. While Luhrman or someone else might be able to pull it off, “The Great Gatsby” at least now, seems unfilmable and is perhaps best left read (or left to Vincent Chase).

The biggest question for anyone who has read “The Great Gatsby” is simply this: What is there to film in 3-D? With the exception of a car accident, Fitzgerald’s magnum opus is hardly action-packed. Perhaps Luhrmann will need three dimensions in order to fully project Tom Buchanan’s giant ego, or use it to splendidly capture one of Jay Gatsby’s swanky parties. Outside of that, though, holographic flappers and three-dimensional bankers won’t exactly be a huge selling point to either critics or viewers. And no matter how hard Luhrmann tries, the essence of the novel doesn’t need nor can it probably be enhanced by the 3-D treatment. Projecting it into the audience doesn’t make the green light any harder or even easier for Gatsby to reach.

The best advice for Luhrmann, or really anyone trying to film “The Great Gatsby” is – well, don’t. But if you must try, do the novel justice, and stay away from the unnecessary trickery. Unless there’s a Kraken or creepy red-haired Johnny Depp hidden somewhere deep in  the text, 3-D probably won’t help.

In this case, the guns are okay, though.

Tommy Morgan, Jr.

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