The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 27, 2010

Avatar in 3D: What About the Plastic Glasses?

Beth Terry wearing 3D glassesLast night after work, I went to see the movie Avatar in 3D and, in an effort to save plastic, brought with me the 3D glasses I’d received at another movie. Yes, I thought ahead. I had the idea yesterday morning that I might want to go see that movie and dug through a drawer full of crap to find that pair of glasses. I didn’t want to use new plastic glasses if I had my own.

That should be the end of the story. But it gets kind of funny. I sat down in the theater, put on my 3D glasses over my eyeglasses (which always kind of sucks, and which is why I generally avoid 3D movies in the first place) and waited for stuff to star popping out of the screen. And waited. And waited. I thought, Wow. This must be some new really subtle type of 3D. I took the glasses off.  I put the glasses back on.  The picture kind of looked better with the glasses on.  And if I tilted my head a certain way and wished hard enough, the image looked a little 3 dimensional.

And then I thought maybe my glasses from home were the wrong kind for this type of 3D. So I went out into the hall to ask a theater employee, and that’s when I noticed another theater showing Avatar in 3D.  I sneaked inside and had a look. Oh yeah, stuff was jumping off the screen.  Apparently I had bought a ticket for a non-3D version, which I didn’t realize existed. Coming back into my theater, I finally noticed that I was the only one in there 3D glasses. Silly me.  Like I said, I don’t like 3D anyway, so why was I worried?

So what about all those plastic glasses the theater gives out?  As I was buying my ticket for the movie, I noticed this sign in the box office window:

3D glasses recycling sign

And coming out, I noticed a box for returning the glasses.

3D glasses recycling box

So I wondered, do the glasses get ground up and recycled into new glasses? Recycled into different products? Or reused in some way.  I asked a theater employee, who assured me that the glasses are shipped off to a facility where they are sanitized and returned to the theater for reuse. Pretty cool.

And then, to make sure I was getting correct information, I called Rick Heineman, Vice President of Corporate Communications for RealD, the company that developed and provides the 3D system and eyewear to theaters. He confirmed that the glasses are shipped to RealD’s facility and sanitized for reuse. Any glasses that are damaged are sent out for recycling, although the RealD company does not do the recycling themselves. None of the glasses are thrown away.

Rick also let me know that the company is working with manufacturers to create custom glasses, even prescription glasses, clip-ons, and sunglasses, that movie goers can purchase and bring back with them to the theater over and over again. For those who can afford it and enjoy the 3D experience, which is becoming more and more common these days, having our own glasses does seem to be the greenest alternative. Shipping glasses to a facility for sanitizing requires energy and chemicals. Having our own, as long as we get a lot of wear out of them, requires only the materials and energy that go into the initial manufacture.

What do you think? Do you go to 3D movies? Would you buy your own pair of 3D glasses?

About Avatar

(Possible spoiler alert)

Avatar the movieNow, about the movie itself: Avatar was disappointing to me. I wanted to love it. It’s full of gorgeous images of a wild land in which the inhabitants are completely in touch with the connection of all beings. The planet is their mother in a literal sense. Animals and Pandorans communicate through their mutual connections to the planet. And the humans who come to Pandora to exploit its resources are sadly disconnected from the natural world, having destroyed their own planet. The colors are fantastic. The special effects are dazzling. And yet, the story felt hollow to me. Beautiful images embellishing a childishly simplistic story. I kept feeling like I was watching a Disney film meant for kids.

The story is so heavy-handed as to be laughable. The bad corporate and military humans (with the exception of a handful of anthropologists) are totally evil, referring to the Pandorans as savages and “blue monkeys” and willing to blast the planet and kill its inhabitants for profit. They are there to mine a valuable metal called “unobtanium.” (Get it?) The Pandorans, on the other hand, are the epitome of good. Oh yeah, a few of them might feel a little bit of jealousy here and there, but mainly they are peaceful nature people in tune with the “circle of life” to quote The Lion King.

And of course, there’s the one human white guy who learns their ways and saves them all in the end. Because, you know, they are so innocent and sweet, certainly not smart enough to save themselves. It was Dances with Wolves crossed with Titanic, two other movies I disliked (I even walked out of Dances with Wolves, but that was partly because Kevin Costner gives me the creeps and because of the two ladies sitting behind us who wouldn’t stop narrating the entire thing.) even though they were critically acclaimed and won Best Picture Academy Awards.

I love the comment from Segador on Annalee Newitz’s review of the film:

I just left the 3-D, IMAX movie. Man, was it amazingly beautiful, but it’s gotta be the first one-dimensional 3D movie I’ve ever seen.

I want to see subtlety. I want to see how humans really are. Certainly flawed. Certainly disconnected from the planet on which we live. Certainly willing to kill in order to defend our privileged way of life. And certainly willing to make enemies of those we perceive as different. But are we this way because we’re evil? Because we have no compassion? Or are we more complex than that? Taking care of each other. Willing to give our resources to help the inhabitants of countries devastated by earthquakes and and tsunamis. And also afraid. Afraid of differences. Afraid of losing our egos… our identities. We are how we’ve evolved to be. But we can learn another way. I have to believe that.

I want to know the motivation behind Giovanni Ribisi’s character Selfridge (OMG, how obvious is that name?). Why is he so angry? What has he experienced to allow him to be so callous? I want to see a little humanity. Some self-doubt, even if he can’t show it to the other characters in the film. I want the director to show some compassion towards all his characters, whether we are meant to root for them or not. And I want to see some deeper examination of the “good guys.” As Steve Arlo says in one of Michael’s favorite movies Zero Effect:

There aren’t evil guys and innocent guys. It’s just… It’s just… It’s just a bunch of guys.

I fear that we will never “save” our beloved planet earth if we continue to divide people into categories. Especially categories like “good” and “bad.”

Fake Plastic Fish reader Clif wrote a thoughtful commentary about Avatar a while back on the Fake Plastic Fish Community Discussion Board.  And he asks whether a movie like Avatar is a green film or not.  Please have a look and weigh in with your thoughts.

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Lara S
13 years ago

I saw Avatar last week and it blew my mind. I left the cinema completely stunned by the feelings the movie had caused me. I mean, yes, I agree that it has no subtlety at all, but that’s not the point of the film. It actually shows a completely extreme example of what connection to nature means, and of what disconnection to nature means. Very extreme examples. Now the point of it is: with which of them do you identify? And with which of them you want to identify the human race, your species?
I can’t express what I feel about this, but I had never felt this way with a movie since American Beauty. It simply touched my soul. It’s not because of the story about the unobtanium or what the humans want to do, it’s the part when they show the Na’vi, that makes me think “I want to be like that. I want that connection, I need it!!”. The concept of “all things in the planet are connected in a network” is simply an exageration of our own planet (I’m a biology student, I study Ecology so I can sure tell you everything is connected with everything on Earth), and yet, to see such an extreme and perfect and beautiful concept….It’s amazing.

So in my opinion, Avatar is not at all fantasy. It’s a real story, or as they say “Based in a true story”, only the true story didn’t end so well so far.
Avatar shows exactly what happened and STILL HAPPENS with thousands of ethnicities all over the world; people were and still are killed, forced to leave their homes, enslaved and treated like the most insensitive and useless beast.
The only part of fantasy in Avatar is the happy ending.

I’m watching it again this tuesday :) (In 3D, with glasses that have to be returned and will never, ever get sanitized. Hope I don’t catch anything…)

Joseph Condron
13 years ago

Re-using the glasses is a great idea. Excellent post.

13 years ago

First of all must say that I did enjoy Avatar…. It’s good that the theater where I watch the 3d avatar ask the viewers to return the glasses after watching the movie and to be use by the next viewers, well I just hope that they are really sanitizing the glass well, but just to make sure try sanitizing them yourselves just to be sure.

13 years ago

My local theater cleans their glasses on-site too. When I picked up my glasses to see Avatar, they still had a couple of water droplets on them. Of course, they were starting to get scratched up. What I wonder is what happens when they no longer are easy to see through? Do they get tossed or recycled? Can they just replace the lenses?

Beth Terry
13 years ago

Thanks, Bart. That USA Today reporter actually emailed me to find out about my Avatar glasses. I had to explain that I didn’t have the Avatar glasses because I brought my own!

13 years ago

JUst FYI…. the plastics industry weekly trade pub’s blog: “What happens to those 3-D movie glasses?”

Ellen in SW Ontario, Canada
13 years ago

Dear Beth thanks so much re all what you’re doing!!

On the movie… I am with Chris and Rachel. It gets people inspired, moved and informed… It’s done a great job. To move the masses is not simple. The movie might be simplistic, but it was meant for a range of ages.

In reality right now we here are fighting a 3000 acres quarry, possibly the biggest quarry of north america, destroying prime agricultural land and threathening the headwaters of many rivers. So this movie hit me right in my soul, because the similarities are uncanny.

Avatar is in some ways actually nuanced in comparison with what is going on in Real Life right here. Okay, no guns, but intimidation, bribing, ignoring laws, for sure, scary stuff. Please contact me if you want to know more, but Avatar worked for me as symbolic what the US and Western world has done to other refined other civilizations. And the gun thing.. Vietnam comes to mine, Grenada even…. it DOES happen.

I saw the “good” guy as someone pointing out what bullies do, when you’re not used to that…He first went in to spy on them, and then found they were the ones with civilization and turned it around, gave them info. Not the white (or blue) guy telling them what to do, but giving them information they needed….

Honestly, I didn’t find that derogatory at all because it’s something we hardly would believe to happen for real, but….it was actually TYPICAL of what is going on right here under our noses near Shelburne Ontario.

It is horrible but Avatar is not that far from the truth re corporate methods and violent take overs have been done in our own and in other countries. Unfortunately it’s not all fantasy. Maybe look at it again with a fresh mind. I certainly will go again, with friends.

13 years ago

A man like James Cameron has the ability to bring a message to a wide audience – to both those who support “our” eco-cause and those who do not. It’s hard to engage the other side when they aren’t willing to listen.

Using a widely acclaimed technologically advance film that has earned 623 million worldwide as a way to send a simple message is an astounding feat.

I came away from Avatar feeling a bit empty too. But at the end of the day, his message is a warning. He doesn’t use subtlety and multiple representations of people because he doesn’t want sympathy and compassion for the “evil” characters. When you don’t know someone’s background, you can dehumanize them.

Yes, Americans and Europeans are human, but Cameron’s movie which is set in a futuristic society is also about how attunement with the natural world is a requirement for humanity – not just our way of life, but our internal consciousness.

The film is also about transformation. Humanity can be restored by embracing the values we have lost. While the “white man” saved the native people, he only did so once he was transformed into one of them by embracing their lifestyle and convictions and learning from them.

13 years ago

At my local cinema, (Stafford, Brisbane, Australia,) you keep your glasses and the next time you go it costs 1.50AUD less. works for me.

lara s said “Yay for the part of living in a subdeveloped country that involves eco-friendly situations like this one! Lack of money has a slight (veeery slight) green side.”

which subdeveloped country?

13 years ago

Yes I would definitely bring my own! We are try to be very diligent about bringing our own, whatever … water canteen, reusable bags, people towels (like a terry cloth hanky to use instead of paper towels or hand dryers) etc. ;)

Twitter @GreenGeisha

13 years ago

Beth, you did better than I! I went to Avatar last week as well, but I hadn’t been planning to go, did NOT think ahead and took the plastic-wrapped plastic glasses. I did notice the ‘be green return your glasses’ thing and I’m glad you looked into that. I was wondering what they did with it.

I, too, found the movie fell flat. But I’m glad others enjoy it.

13 years ago

Funny, I had the opposite experience of the movie– I went in expecting to dislike it, and ended up letting it completely sweep me away. I felt like a kid seeing Star Wars for the first time again. I was shocked to find myself moved to tears several times. True– simple characters, predictable story (mostly– there was a point that I wasn’t sure where the heck the ending was going)– and I didn’t care at all. It struck a lot of chords with me and I can’t wait to see it again in IMAX tomorrow! One of the most interesting things about the film is the strong visceral reactions it is getting on all sides. How many films inspire that? Good article on that aspect: Thanks for the info on the glasses! Thanks for all you do!

Chris Danner
13 years ago

I loved Avatar! And I didn’t suffer from the usual 3-D headache. Yes, the story was a little elementary and lacked subtlety (especially for the kind of folks who read green blogs like this one), but think how many people may have been introduced to new concepts, like eco-spirituality and the connections between people and planets.

13 years ago

I haven’t seen Avatar because the one friend who saw it discriped it as ”Dances with Wolves meets Furn Gully”. Not something I want to see.

Now, on the glasses bit.. I have a ten year old so I have seen my share of 3D movies. One theater we go to has people standing at the exits taking up the glasses at the end so they can be cleaned at the theater and reused. The other movies have the kind of glasses that you discribe and we tend to turn our glasses in on our way out because other wise I know that I would lose them.

Would I ever by my own 3D glasses to fit my percription? No. Knowing the cost of regular perserciption glasses and percription sun glasses, I can’t even begin to imagine how much something like that would cost.

Can I just say that I hate seeing movies in 3D? I have to wear the 3D glasses on top of my regular glasses and that sucks. Also, I have yet to see a movie where I felt like the 3D “effects” justified the additional $3 charge.

13 years ago

You nailed it. Avatar deserves Oscars aplenty for special effects but it sure better not get one for anything to do with acting.

That said, the colonel was a perfect clone of a guy I used to work with who would call Arabs “ragheads” for example, and whose solution for every foreign affairs problem was to kick ass.

And one comment on Titanic. It failed in one very crucial way to portray the terror of that night – because of the nature of movie-making, there has to be lighting. In the event there was total darkness, so as the ship went down people could not easily see the water or even the ship itself. I had to laugh as the young lovers made their way though crystal clear water on a ship that was perfectly lit until the last bit went under. Imagine how much more terrifying Leonardo’s handcuffed-to-the-ship situation would have been if it were completely dark and he could not see where the water level was.

HEY! That’s an idea – a remake of Titanic without any picture, just dialog. You sit in a dark theater and just listen! Gurgling water, screaming, rending metal! Retro/Radio I’ll call it! No special glasses or ANY glasses needed! Gotta run make some calls to Hollywood. Bye.

Lara S.
13 years ago

For now I’ve only seen “Up” in 3D. The glasses HAD to be returned or they wouldn’t let you out :) . I don’t think they’ll ever be sanitized, though. I don’t think the cinema would be forced to do it so they wouldn’t spend money in that.
Yay for the part of living in a subdeveloped country that involves eco-friendly situations like this one! Lack of money has a slight (veeery slight) green side.

axelle fortier
13 years ago

I think you look tuff in those glasses. You ought to get frames like them for your everyday glasses, or wear the 3-D’ers all the time.

Anna @Green Talk
13 years ago

Beth, I loved Avatar. Yeah, I know it is kind of soapy but I loved how they connected with nature as well as their spirituality. I know. Very Pocahontas like. I am not that deep. Give me something about nature and I am sold.

I think Kevin Costner is hot. I love his macho character. He can paint my toe nails anytime. (Don’t tell my husband…) Leo, not so much.

13 years ago

living a full life just fine with congenital physical disability,
i am more than happy to save $12 by the message this movie

thank you for the confirmation.

13 years ago

I would probably buy a pair if they fit my face. I saved mine from Avatar.

I thought it was a pretty good family movie. Reminded me of the cartoon movie “FernGully.” The 3D was very entertaining, and the message was positive so I suggested that my sister take her kids to see it.

13 years ago

I always thought that in the Indigo Girls’ song “Closer to Fine”, the line about the Doctor of Philosophy was that “He never did marry, or see a 3-D movie.”

But seriously. The New York Times had an article a month ago about the different kinds of 3-D glasses and their recyclability:

“Unobtainium” is an old joke among chemists, physicists, engineers, and other geeks, referring to the rarest possible element. My dad, who was not a chemist, used to use the term over twenty years ago. So it wasn’t invented for the movie. It’s kind of like the particle discovered at MIT, called the “bogon”, which carries the force of “bogosity”, which is what makes things bogus.

Could the “Ablutions” (as Paula Poundstone calls them) defeat the Blue Meanies of “Yellow Submarine”? Do they sing the blues, or only once on a blue moon?

Laura M.
13 years ago

Thanks for the info on the 3D glasses. My boyfriend and I were wondering about that. We have kept the glasses they give you now, brought them back and reused them. They said that they still had to charge us the $3 fee for glasses on our tickets though.

Avatar fell flat for me too. I felt like the environmental story was used in this movie but not really believed in. I also think about all the thousands (millions?) of hours of energy that was used for all the computers to make a movie this technology intensive. Combine that with all the geeks driving to work, drinking things bottled in plastic and eating tons of take out food to pull off the late night hours and I officially feel guilty for seeing this movie.

Tameson O'Brien
13 years ago

Our local theater sterylizes their glases on site in a big autoclave kind of thing. We load them into big trays upon exiting the theater.

13 years ago

I don’t see 3-D movies because I grew up when they were experimenting with 3-D, and I never could get over those cardboard glasses with a red and blue lense. Never worked for me.
And no, you aren’t alone- Kevin Costner gives me the creeps as well. So did titannic. So does Leo Dicaprio

13 years ago

I am inevitably going to see Avatar, but I’ve already decided that it’s about making European descent North Americans feel better about the Conquest. Pokahantas (who was really a political ambassador, but that’s another story getting saved by the white dude is just a misogynist bonus.

13 years ago

I keep mine and reuse them.

The only thing is I wish that it made the ticket cheaper. The 3d movies are more expensive. Why? Especially if I have my glasses in my pocket?