By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Kathy Bates, Gloria Stewart, and Bill Paxton
I first started hearing rumblings about a Titanic conversion to 3D back at 2009’s Comic Con, where director James Cameron, in the middle of talking about his at the time highly anticipated sci-fi film Avatar (review of that coming soon) revealed nonchalantly (who am I kidding…Cameron does NOTHING nonchalantly) that he had in fact been thinking about re-releasing his 1997 $1.8 billion grossing hit in 3D, and said that when he had seen a couple scenes that were converted, “they looked stunning.” I kid you not: in a day that was so exciting you could feel it in the air, this was the only time in that Avatar panel that I heard wind seep out of the sails of some Comic Con goers, me and my friends included. The very first phrase that came to mind with me was “cash grab.” Which was weird to me. Why in the world, when you have the first and second highest grossing films of all time on your resume, would you want to convert it? Ok, it is the 100th anniversary of the real sinking of the Titanic. But, last I checked, the director of this film’s last name was Cameron. Not Lucas. So, needless to say, I was not looking forward to seeing this film once again in a theater.
However, I must say, something happened when I put those glasses on and the first old shot of the actual ship came onscreen and composer James Horner’s first hymns of that very familiar theme hummed through the speakers: I felt immersed in this world that Cameron has created (sound familiar?). There is something about putting those glasses on during a Cameron film, and having all the bitter thoughts that anyone could have about 3D going right out the window. I’ll admit it: I was once again sucked into the story. First of all, this film, Amigos, is unbelievably beautiful to look at. Even more beautiful than I remembered. Everything from the sunset during the famous ‘I am flying’ scene to the filing of people into the ship in the beginning are stunningly rendered in 3D, and are truly beautiful. One thing that I overlooked when thinking about the consequences of this version of the film was that Cameron would not have let it re-hit the screens in a frame by frame post-conversion and not meticulously been hands on with the result. He supposedly oversaw each and one of those frames, making sure that they were all absolutely perfect. The jaw-dropping depths added to the shots that overlook the water in views from the ship are stunning.
I don’t feel I need to rehash the story of Titanic. A film very well known for having as much drama behind the cameras as there was in front of them. And, truth be told, if I had written this review right after seeing it in 1997 it would be probably the harshest marks I would ever have given a James Cameron film. There’s a reason why out of all the Oscars this film won (eleven), awards for acting and screenplay were not included. This might be the most poorly written script of Cameron’s career, and watching DiCaprio spring some pretty poorly written monologues he had to give Winslet and the poor line deliveries by Paxton (nice blonde hair and earring, by the way) added to more cringe inducing moments in this film than any other film on Cameron’s resume. However, Titanic is one of the few films that can get away with this. Because, it is not a movie about performances. It’s about aesthetic and feel. In this regard, there is no better disaster film of this ilk. We are with Rose when she learns to spit. We are with her as she is getting drawn nude. And, again, call it cheesy writing (which it is) but Cameron’s meticulous attention to detail and old school look of the wardrobe gives it the exact feel it needs.
It’s interesting to note that I have gotten this far into the review and not gone into the last hour or so of the film, which consists of action packed scenes involving the sinking of the ship. With 3D, you feel peoples’ pain as they are slammed into cages by flowing water. You feel the impact of the ship snapping in half. And, I just could not get enough of how you feel like you are in there with them. The eye level shots of water, and Jack’s being chained up as water starts seeping into the room made an impact on me. And, again, I do not feel this would have been possible without those 3D glasses on. This also really came into play in such scenes as Jack & Rose running through the fiery underbelly of the ship and perspective shots of the water as it overtakes some stairs.
This isn’t a review about how fifteen years later, both DiCaprio and Winslet went on to very well respected careers (with Winslet even eventually getting that Oscar a few years ago for The Reader, an award that had eluded her since she was nominated for this film and lost to Helen Hunt) and Zane did not (what the hell happened to him anyway?). This isn’t a review about how much effort went into this film, both then and now. And, it would be a stretch to think that there is a woman out there who was a teenager in 1997 and has NOT seen this film. But, if you had asked me back then what I was looking forward to while sitting through Titanic for 196 minutes, I would undoubtedly have said “when the iceberg hits.” Now, as I am older, I see there is so much more to this film than that. And, as long as you are willing and able to take the journey with these characters, you will too. So, put the 3D glasses on. Feel like you are ‘king of the world.’ You never know. You might just feel inspired enough to sit through “My Heart Will Go On” one more time. Ok. Maybe not.
5 out of 5