The old lady kept the diamond all along, and she drops into the ocean at the end. Kate Winslet gets naked. A baby faced Leonardo DiCaprio freezes to death. Oh, and the giant ship sinks after hitting an iceberg, killing hundreds of people. Why am I writing this? Because if you’re reading this then it’s highly likely that you’ve already seen the movie. In fact, you’ve probably either already seen the 3D rerelease by now, you’re planning on seeing the 3D rerelease, or you’re a guy and you’re unknowingly about to be dragged by your significant other to see it again.
Titanic has already entered the cultural lexicon, and the strengths and weaknesses of the movie have been debated ad nauseum. Only one question remains: Does the addition of 3D bring anything special to the production? Not really. Unless you’re just dying to know what Kate Winslet’s breasts look like in 3D.
Ever since the release of Avatar, action god and self proclaimed “King of the World” James Cameron has insisted that any movie filmed after 1991 can effectively be post converted into 3D, and he’s going back to the well and using his most successful non-3D film as his first experiment. If box office returns are excellent, expect a 25th anniversary rerelease of Terminator 2 in 2016 if not earlier.
Regardless of the box office receipts, the grand experiment yields mixed results. The two movies that have perhaps used 3D technology most effectively so far have been Cameron’s own Avatar and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, both of which were filmed in 3D. Those movies were visually striking because both directors had to somewhat rewrite some traditional rules of filmmaking to accommodate the technology.
Titanic, however, is a 2D movie that was always meant to be 2D. The post conversion here is fine, but it doesn’t add anything to the picture. Sure, a few sequences like Leonardo DiCaprio racing through crowded streets to board a departing ship are made a little more exciting, but they’re the exception. And the dimness accompanying the use of 3D glasses completely offsets any flair an extra dimension might add to the proceedings.
So the movie isn’t worth seeing just because of the 3D, but I suspect many people already know that and will be heading cinemas just for the opportunity to see Titanic in any form on the big screen again. As far as the movie itself goes, it’s fine; I think the movie has benefited from the passage of time. Some of the backlash over its financial and critical success has died down. I, for one, carried a grudge against the picture for upstaging the vastly superior L.A. Confidential back in 1997. But my rage as subsided, and I’m forced to admit to myself that there are worse ways to spend three hours. Sitting in the cinema, I was left with just a handful of observations.
The biggest impression left on me was how clever Cameron’s screenplay actually was. At the time the film was originally released, a lot of people complained about the generic love story. There were thousands of people aboard the Titanic, many people argued, why conjure up two generic Hollywood characters to tell the story of the Titanic?
To which I counter, how else was Cameron supposed to find two characters he could follow through the splendor of the first class accommodations and the squalor of steerage? How else was he going to tell a story that twisted throughout the entire ship from the grand staircase down to the boiler rooms? Jack and Rose were designed solely to give the audience a couple of protagonists who could move seamlessly from one class to another and could be present at every stage of the destruction, and they serve their basic function well.
The only way to get the same effect from biographical stories would have been to divide the screen time between half a dozen protagonists from different classes who never meet each other. Other movies and TV shows have adopted that approach, and they’ve all failed. Cameron may not have the greatest grasp on dialogue or character development, but he understands basic screenplay structure. Audiences are always going to be more willing to get behind two generic fictional characters than behind a dozen real people.
And despite Cameron’s faults as a writer of dialogue, he found two brilliant leads to sell his maudlin love story. Titanic made the careers of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio even though they’ve both turned in vastly superior performances elsewhere; they were better together in Revolutionary Road.
Which leads me to my second major observation: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are an awesome screen couple possibly on par with William Powell and Myrna Loy or Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. They aren’t really given much to do here, but they share a natural chemistry that can’t be generated in a lab. They make Cameron’s love story far better than it has any right to be. The way DiCaprio and Winslet play off of each other left me wishing that the old Hollywood studio system had persisted for another seven decades. If that had happened, some cigar-chomping studio head would have thrown the two together and we would have had seven or eight additional Winslet-DiCaprio pictures instead of just Revolutionary Road. What a missed opportunity.
Finally, and most importantly, what the fuck ever happened to Billy Zane? Aside from the special effects, he is the best thing about this movie. He was such a perfect pompous little prick. The kind of sleaze you just want to punch in the face repeatedly. And yet after Titanic the only thing I’ve seen him in was Zoolander. What’s up with that? Hopefully this rerelease will give his career a revival.