Converting Paul Greengrass’ shaky, frenetically cut Bourne films into 3-D sounds like something you’d say solely as a joking comparison (akin to “that’d be like releasing an 180-gram audiophile remastering of Anal Cunt’s Everyone Should Be Killed”). The director’s love of disorientation as an aesthetic would surely only be amplified by the stereoscopic eye-stabbing of 3-D, so—short of giving Matt Damon’s performance some actual dimension—there would seem to be little reason to do it, beyond some open contempt for the welfare of the masses. So naturally, that’s exactly what China did for Jason Bourne, releasing a “special” post-conversion of Bourne for the nation’s 3-D-hungry marketplace, and unsurprisingly it’s leaving audiences both unhappy and queasy.
The Hollywood Reporter says that, while Jason Bourne debuted in China this week to franchise-high numbers, it’s also earned demands for refunds from moviegoers who feel, at best, ripped-off and, at worst, like puking their guts out. “I really felt sick during the fight scenes when I watched it in 3-D,” THR quotes one typical poster on Chinese social media, while at least two critics have also written that Bourne left them dizzy in their reviews (which are surely now being mined for “Leaves You Dizzy!” pull quotes).
Chinese paper Global Times reports that the call for refunds even led to an organized protest outside a theater in Beijing, where a mere eight of 149 cinemas are showing Bourne in regular 2-D; meanwhile, Shanghai offers the non-emetic Bourne on just nine screens out of 174, with most of these located far outside the city or only showing the 2-D version at off hours. Those protestors point to Bourne as just the latest in a long line of studios using such shoddy conversions to exploit the zeal for 3-D in China, where the majority of movie theaters are less than a decade old, 80 percent of them come 3-D-equipped, and Avatar is still regarded as the paragon of cinema. But this time, being forced to buy far more expensive 3-D tickets, just to feel fully immersed in a far-off fantasy world of government buildings, has left fans feeling not only gouged but physically ill, and openly calling for boycotts.
The backlash has already caught the attention of Universal, who quickly issued a statement saying it’s working to push out more 2-D screenings to satisfy the audience’s “diversified moviegoing needs”—that rich tapestry of people who need to not barf and those who are cool with it. But given that they haven’t exactly diminished Bourne’s box office there, it remains to be seen whether these protests will have any actual effect on local distributors’ push to slap 3-D on everything it can, or whether China might somehow put profits before the general health of its citizens.