The science behind the art of cinema is always advancing, affords the auteur ever expanding vistas and methodologies for expressing their artistic vision. First the very notion of moving picture was novel enough to create audience demand. Then in the nineteen twenty’s sound hit and the age of the talkies began. Next in line came color soaring over the then standard black and white cinematography. Of course there were innumerable other advances along the way mostly in the technical details. The latest innovation to hit the Cineplex and has begun to trickle over to the home theater front is 3D. While primitive forms of this technology has been around for several decades the old red and blue cellophane glasses have be replaced with new alternate field of vision models the basic underlying principles are still at work. In a similar fashion to the previous advances the theatrical version of the technology is at this time more stable and standardized. The latest installment of the high octane urban dance franchise, ‘Step Up’ has been given the 3D treatment both in the theaters and home release. Personally, I tend to be a bit sluggish in welcoming new technology into my home theater preferring to wait for the format to mature a bit and become standardized. It’s only been a few years since I moved up to Blu-ray and while I look forward to 3D for now I’m waiting. Thankfully, Disney / Buena Vista are displaying a great deal of respect for their consumers by releasing films like ‘Step-Up 3D’ in affordable multipacks and several purchasing options. Of course there is the stand alone DVD or the now fairly typical DVD Blu-ray combo but Disney has begun to offer three disc sets that combine DVD, Blu-ray, digital copy and 3D Blu-ray. This set is more expensive but it allows you to enjoy the film on your current set up, on the go or on the first day you bring that new 3D TV and Blu-ray player home. This method allows you to gradually build a library of 3D films as the technology settle down and you move towards this major living room upgrade. They did something similar pioneering Blu-ray/DVD combo packs helping many families ease into the switch.
With a franchise like this by the time you get to the third installment the connections to the previous films are tenuous at best. In this case a character from the second movie does reappear here played by the same actor. The writers charged with providing the modicum of screenplay was provided by a pair new to this type of script; Amy Anderson and Emily Meyer. With a film like this the story needs to achieve one task and one task alone; fill in the gaps between the energetic dance numbers. This includes establishing the façade of character interactions that have to include the required romantic entanglement and the ever popular street rivalry that can only be settled with a grudge match dance off at the end of the film. Having grown up in a fairly rough neighborhood in Brooklyn the only time I ever witnessed a street gang dancing was when I saw ‘West Side Story’ in the local movie house. One thing going for the kids here is they retain more of a street attitude that the ballet steps employed by the Jets and Sharks. One thing flicks like this have done is to place the ‘dance off’ into a slightly more realistic context.
The movie opens with a technique borrowed from films like ‘Fame’ showing talking directly to the camera about their motivation for becoming involved in dance. This is used to reintroduce the pair of characters that provide the continuity to ‘Step up 2’; Moose (Adam Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner). Currently they are both attending New York University. Moose had promised his mother that he would turn his attentions to something more practical so he has given up dance to major in electrical engineering. After spotting a rather unique pair of sneakers Moose follows the owner to a dance battle between two rival factions; House of Samurai and House of Pirates. Moose gets pulled in beating a dancer from house of the Samurai, Kid Darkness (Daniel 'Cloud' Campos). This pulls Moose back into the game despite his promise to dear old Mom. The Pirates have their main dancer, Jacob (Keith Stallworth) who has the moves and is the one to watch. The stakes are basically to keep the old warehouse the Pirates use as a rehearsal space from going up for action. You have something to keep the guys in the audience paying attention, a role nicely handled by the lithe and lovely Natalie (Sharni Vinson). Throw in a few fairly predictable plot twists such as Natalie’s brother Julien (Joe Slaughter) just happens to be the leader of the House of Samurai. Adding to the relationship angst Camille is actually in love with Moose but he seems unaware.
If you want a love story it might be best to remain with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or one of the plethora of reinventions that arrive with the frequency of a commuter train during rush hour. That being stated this rendition of the classis tropes is valid providing a narrative voice representing a recognized segment of the current generation. The audience expects one thing from this kind of flick; unbelievable dance moves. What is considered dance here is a cross between elite gymnastics, modern dance and mixed martial arts. The performers demonstrating their moves here are nothing short of spectacular. Many kids hanging out in the streets break numerous laws both this talented troupe break the law of gravity thumbing their noses at what conventional wisdom states is possible for a human body. It would be preferable if a dance flick like this could come up with a stronger story but you will certainly be amazed.
This film is one of the earliest to be marketed to home theaters utilizing the domestic implementation of Real 3D, the method that eschews the cellophane and cardboard for polarizing lenses. Originally I had to visit a friend with this new technology but awhile later after moving up to the technology myself this was one of the first discs I used to try out the system. There was an improvement in the kinetics of the movements that can easily be attributed to the technological improvements instilled in the equipment but it is only presenting what was already included in the disc. The illusion of depth show promise for future films of this genre but the movie was made at the very cusp of the change to 3D. Filmmakers’ years later are still struggling to make the use of this technique come across to the audience as a natural aspect of telling the story. In ‘Step up 3’ the emphasis remains as a gimmick; "look at his leg, it’s coming straight out at you". So much was handed over to impress the audience with 3D that it overwhelmed the emotional heart of the story replacing it with contrived effects.
Born From A Boombox: A Luke Katcher Film