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Theatrical Review: TITANIC 3-D

Drew Tinnin

April 8th, 2012

First released over the Christmas holiday back in 1997, James Cameron's TITANIC went on to gross $600 million dollars in the United States alone, becoming a cultural phenomenon. The grand spectacle of its finale combined with an improbable teen romance proved to be the ultimate formula for success. However, almost immediately, a wave of backlash hit TITANIC, accusing the film of emotionally manipulating teen girls into seeing the film numerous times and maligning it for its heavy moments of melodrama.

Those tweeners - a group that Cameron tapped into years before TWILGIHT and THE HUNGER GAMES capitalized on their obsessive fandom and disposable income - are all grown up now, and most of them are probably embarrassed that they saw Cameron's sea epic fifty times since it bowed in theaters almost fifteen years ago. So, with that in mind, it's fair to ask who will actually be returning to TITANIC to revisit it in 3-D?

Surely, there are people out there that love this film unabashedly, fans excited to pay a higher premium to experience the romance and awe in an entirely new way. Since its debut last Wednesday, TITANIC 3-D has made over $25 million at the box office, proving that there is still an audience for this film even if it's not the event that Paramount might have hoped it would be. So, for those of you on the fence, is TITANIC 3-D worth the price and the running time or should you just put your worn and tattered VHS copy on again?

Surprisingly, this new conversion enhances every aspect of the film, bringing the grandeur of the ship into greater focus allowing you to live vicariously through the two fictional leads, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), instead of wanting to just slap them in the face and come back for the big finale. The corny soap opera that originally threatened to undermine the astounding technical achievement of TITANIC is still present, but it feels less intrusive because the 3-D is more immersive, allowing us to live out the thrill of being on TITANIC through the characters. Because of the exhaustive efforts of Cameron and his team, the connection between the audience and our ill-fated lovers feels deeper and more meaningful, even if they are still a little cheesy.

When the ship begins to sink, the last 45 minutes are even more thrilling than they were originally, creating a much greater feeling of actually being  on the ship as it flounders and eventually plummets to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Although the big effects sequences are still stunning, it's the scenes below deck that benefit the most from the 3-D conversion. The depth of field that's now present creates a greater sense of space and realism, adding to the sense of danger and desperation of those that are still trapped down in the bowels. Anyone in their right mind would do everything in their power to get to one of the lifeboats. The water continues to rise as Jack and Rose look on in disbelief, watching the cold sea wash away the majesty and wealth of the interiors - and all they can do is try not to get swept away too. There's a more immediate sense of fear and an almost surreal quality to the footage of Jack and Rose's escape because of the 3-D - a feeling of dread that wasn't as present before, if at all.

The post-conversion is executed so well that TITANIC 3-D now serves as the first legitimate example of how this process can actually improve a beloved film, dodging accusations of just being an empty cash grab and elevating the film. Unexpectedly, there's a new appreciation for the film that wasn't recognized before, and it should now be the preferred way to view the film.

The real question is whether you are returning to TITANIC to enjoy the experience of a beloved film or if you're going to support the format and Cameron's passion for the medium. The post conversion is top-notch - a painstaking process that took one year to complete with a cost of $18 million. With the exception of George Lucas, there are probably not a lot of directors who will put in the time necessary to properly convert a 2-D film into a fully immersive 3-D experience, and there are only a handful of films that are successful enough to justify the effort and investment necessary to do it right.


Grade: A

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