True Confession: I had never seen James Cameron’s Titanic before this week. The reasons are many and mundane, but so many elements of it have entered popular culture that it was easy to believe I knew as much as anyone who had seen it – “King of the World”, doomed love affair, sinking ship, yadda yadda yadda.
I’m now glad I had the opportunity to grow up some more before seeing it. Cameron’s film is all these things, but so much more: a history lesson, a study of the best and worst in human nature, and a reminder that life should be lived passionately. I don’t think my younger self would have appreciated it as much, or been as horrified by the magnitude of the tragedy rendered on film.
For those of you like me, here’s the premise: 101-year-old Titanic survivor Rose (Gloria Stuart) is flown out to the ship’s salvage site to help treasure hunter Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) locate a massive diamond that was linked to Rose’s family and lost in the disaster. Once there, she tells the story of her younger self’s (Kate Winslet) fateful voyage, including her disastrous engagement to the selfish Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), whirlwind love affair with steerage passenger Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), and nightmarish ordeal when the great ship struck an iceberg in the freezing North Atlantic.
Re-released to coincide with both the 100th Anniversary of the sinking and the 15th Anniversary of the film everyone thought would ruin Cameron’s career, Titanic has aged very well. Its period setting renders it timeless, its action and drama are universal in theme, and its state-of-the-art-for-the-time effects stand up to all but a few visible flaws.
It’s also a wonderful testament to the ship as well as its passengers and crew. Though it remains to this day a symbol of hubris and failure, it’s easy to forget how monumental a task it was to construct a vessel of its magnitude in the early 1900s. Though Jack and Rose end up in some pretty unlikely places as they wander, it’s wonderful to see the speculation on what the experience might have been like. This speculation, of course, is based on Cameron’s own interest in the events, which makes it feel all the more real.
Indeed, the re-release seems to be less of a simple cash grab than an opportunity to revisit and honour those who lost their lives. Or rather, it would, if not for the needless gimmickry of adding 3D effects to the film.
I’ll be plain: do NOT see Titanic if you’re merely curious about how it looks in 3D – you will be disappointed. Expectations for the 3D effects have been high, considering how well they were applied to Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar a few years ago, but that film was developed and shot with the technology in mind. Here the effect ranges from too subtle to be noticed to unnecessarily distracting. When the most pronounced 3D in the entire film is some wet strands of Winslet’s hair in the foreground of a close-up of DiCaprio, I think it’s time we seriously consider scrapping the gimmick entirely.
Luckily, I had the rest of the film to enjoy, for the first time. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you will too.
Tags: movie review