3D 'Jason Bourne' Causes Nausea, Protest in China

Jason Bourne Matt Damon Still 1 H 2016
Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures created an "exclusive" 3D version of the film for select Asian markets, but many moviegoers say the format makes for a queasy mix with Paul Greengrass' handheld camerawork and frenetic editing style.

Universal Pictures' Jason Bourne is attracting attention on Chinese social media for all the wrong reasons.

The film debuted Tuesday to an impressive $11.8 million — a single-day high for the Bourne franchise in China — but complaints about a "special" 3D conversion of the film soon began to proliferate.

On Wednesday, many Chinese moviegoers alleged that the 3D version of Jason Bourne had left them feeling dizzy and nauseous. Others soon joined the chorus to complain that it was too difficult to see the original 2D version, as cinemas were overwhelmingly screening the 3D option.

"I really felt sick during the fight scenes when I watched it in 3D," posted a user name azooombie on Weibo, a Chinese social media service, adding: "It was like a low-budget movie. I need to watch again in 2D."

3D is a dominant cinema format in China. The vast majority of China's estimated 37,000-39,000 movie screens were built over the past decade, and some 80 percent are equipped with 3D projection technology. Local moviegoers have lapped up 3D films, turning out in force for effects-heavy 3D fare since Avatar became a phenomenon in China in 2007.  Hollywood and local distributors and exhibitors have been happy to encourage the market's penchant for premium-priced 3D tickets.

But many Chinese fans and critics say that converting Jason Bourne to 3D was the wrong choice, given director Paul Greengrass' signature handheld camera techniques and frenetic editing style. The film was shot in 2D and released in North America and Europe in its original format. The special 3D version is being rolled out in China, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. 

On Friday, the state-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times ran a story reporting that moviegoers in Beijing's Chaoyang district organized a protest Thursday demanding refunds after seeing the film in 3D. The paper said only eight of Beijing's 149 movie theaters were offering screenings of the 2D version as of Thursday, while just nine of Shanghai's 174 cinemas were showing the original film.

On Wednesday, Universal's Beijing office issued a statement on Weibo saying that it is working with local distributors to arrange more 2D screenings to serve the audience's "diversified moviegoing needs."

The fifth film in the Bourne series marks the return of Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to the franchise. Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel make their Bourne debuts in the movie.

As of Thursday, Jason Bourne's three-day China total was a healthy $25.1 million, according to local box office tracker Ent Group.