Thursday, April 5, 2012

Titanic 3D ★★★½

Despite Some Flaws In A Post- 3D Conversion, The Film Still Works

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

It was a genuine joy to see this film on the big screen again. I was in fourth grade when it released in December of 1997 and have since seen it a handful of times on VHS and TV. But being older, and a little wiser allowed me to appreciate this film in ways I hadn’t before. The effects are breathtaking, the sets are quite amazing, and the skill and craft it took to make a film like this is mind blowing. There are a handful of movies that are meant to be seen in a theatre and Titanic is one of them. We forgive the film for it’s flaws and appreciate it for what it is. No matter how you slice it, this is a damn good time at the movies.

The big question on everyone’s mind is how does the 3D look? Well, it works in spots and doesn’t quite meet expectations in others. Again, this was a post 3D conversion; this was not a film shot or designed for 3D. With a conversion like this it is true that much of the brightness and vivid imagery is dimmed down quite a bit. But, as every critic I’ve read has been saying, if there was anyone to do a 3D conversion, James Cameron is the man to do it. I’m not a fan of 3D unless it helps to elevate the story; Recently the film Hugo pulls that idea off successfully. With Titanic, I could take it or leave it.

By now everyone should know the plot of this film but just in case, I’ll summarize: the “unsinkable” Titanic leaves from England to New York on its maiden voyage, hits an iceberg and sinks. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a third-class passenger who wins his ticket on Titanic from a lucky hand at poker. Rose (Kate Winslet) is a first-class passenger, doomed to wed a wealthy man, Cal (Billy Zane), whom she does not love. It’s Romeo and Juliet on an ill-fated ship and we know from the beginning (Belated Spoiler Alert) that there’s no way both of them will get to live happily ever after. Yet every time I see this movie I’m so involved in their story that I can’t help but hope that maybe this time the ship won’t sink.

So why does a film as poorly written as Titanic work so well? Let’s consider that question for a moment: they say one cannot make a good film from a bad script and yet, in almost every way, Titanic manages to disprove that theory, starting with DiCaprio and Winslet. These two were much younger in 1997 and to see them in these roles again and, in essence, go back in time, reminds us truly of how great actors can save a film from, pardon the pun, sinking into the abyss. These two are so good in their respective roles as Jack and Rose that even their terrible dialogue comes across as convincing. From that first moment that we see Jack notice Rose on the first-class deck we’re drawn in. It’s as if he’s been struck by lightening and will never be the same again. James Cameron has openly said that he wanted to find a way to tell the story of Titanic in a way that would make people understand and accept the loss and the tragedy of that fateful night in the Atlantic. By telling a love story where ultimately the love is lost, he achieves his goal. Manipulative? Yes. Does it work? Absolutely.

There are things to nitpick aside from poor dialogue. I’ve always felt Rose should have been written a little bit stronger. She is a smart and courageous woman. She deserves a little bit more credit than what she’s given throughout the film. In addition, Billy Zane as Cal is just too over the top. It’s a good thing to have a villain in a film but at least flesh him or her out a little bit more. But once again, we forgive these problems because Titanic stands on its own as an achievement in filmmaking
In recent years I tried to convince myself that I didn’t love this film, that it was too cheesy and that I couldn’t believe I ever liked it. Yet every time it’s been on TV I’ve stopped what I’m doing to watch it, to experience it again. At the end of the film, the much older Rose (Gloria Stuart) is telling us the story of Titanic and says, “Now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me. In every way a person can be saved… I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now only in my memory”. I kid you not, every single time I hear that line I lose it. I feel the pressure behind my eyes and the tears just fall down my face. Am I a cornball? Yes. Overly sentimental? Yes. Can anyone else tell me they are not in tears by the end of this film? Not anyone I’ve ever encountered.

See this film while you can on the big screen, especially if you haven’t watched it since its release in 1997. Whatever your opinion was about it then, open your heart and experience it one more time. It’s well worth it. 

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