When Star Wars: The Phantom Menace saw a re-release with a 3D conversion earlier this year (and subsequently broke the $1billion barrier), it got myself and a group of friends talking about Hollywoods highest grossing films and the current 3D trend in cinemas. Eventually the subject of Titanic and its upcoming re-release was brought up and to my surprise the subject split the room with people either loving or hating the idea. 3D films have always had a rather large stigma to the more gimmicky side of filmmaking, its almost always been used as a means to to throw mostly pointless things at the audience rather than being used as a dramatic tool to immerse viewers and tell a more enhanced story. James Cameron is trying his hardest to shake off this idea of 3D. I’ll admit when I first heard Titanic was being re-released in with a 3D conversion I raised an eyebrow, but maybe thats the point. For years now we have seen films like Piranha 3D and The Final Destination abuse the technology so much that we’re used to it, as audiences we then dismiss serious film whenever they tries to do something more with the technology. Titanic alone is a superb film so I was ready and eager to see if 3D would enhance this film further or cause audiences across the globe eyestrain for three hours.
Lets face it, what hasn’t been said about Titanic over the past 15 years? For those not in the know the film follows the real life ship Titanic on it’s maiden voyage to New York as two star crossed lovers named Rose and Jack (Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio) meet, fall in love and quickly find themselves fighting for survival after the ship hits an iceberg and begins to sink. At the time of release it was the most expensive film ever made and the highest grossing film of all time for good reason. It accomplishes something many films attempt but fail to achieve: appeal to almost every possible demographic with its broad collection of genres from romance, to action, to thriller, without feeling thinly spread. Even if you’re not a fan of one specific genre its just so dam compelling that you’ll inevitably get swept by one aspect and quickly become engulfed in their world, and that’s the main word to describe this film. Compelling.
You get so swept up in the romance and the journey our two protagonists find themselves in, that you even forget about the impending disaster that’s about to hit the ship. You grow such an attachment to this world and its characters, you care for Rose, you care for Jack, you care for the ships band playing ‘Nearer, My God to Thee’ as the ship slowly begins to sink and before you know it you find your self caring about what happens to every good soul on that ship as their chances of survival become smaller and smaller. On the flip side the films antagonist: Rose’s controlling husband to be – Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), is one of the most unredeemable bastard you could possibly have and yet you still somewhat understand his way of thinking. He can be over the top at times, however his journey was enjoyably developed and explored throughout leading to a satisfying conclusion, which fit his character. A character like this is far more compelling and satisfying to watch than the cardboard cut out villain we saw in the likes of Avatar.
One of the reasons an audience can be sucked into this world so easily is because of how tangible it is. Its use of POV shots make you personally feel like a guest while the ship architecture and scale helps make it a character in its own right. You can really see the level of love and craftsmanship that went into every set, when the ship starts to submerge and split apart you can see that the $200 million budget went to very good use, even with Titanic being almost 15 years old a majority of the CGI holds up with only the odd green screen shot breaking the flow. Its use of real and tactile sets help give Titanic a more timeless feel and really help mask its age, with such an iconic subject matter this is the best outcome we could ever hope for.
Now lets talk about the newly added 3D element, I’ve made a point to stay away from a majority of films that have been converted to 3D because most of the time they’re rushed with little to no lasting effect. Even James Cameron has gone on record by saying he’s not a fan of 3D conversions. Going into Titanic I had hopes because if anyone is able to do 3D conversion correctly, it’s James Cameron. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed, this is without a doubt the best 3D conversion I have ever seen. To the untrained eye the 3D effects throughout the opening modern day section feel on par with the 3D seen in 2009’s Avatar, especially the scenes underwater however this level of quality doesn’t last. Once the story reaches the Titanic a majority of the 3D shots are unnoticeable with only the occasional brim of a hat or over the shoulder shot to give a level of depth, it becomes so subtle that you’ll eventually find yourself taking off your glasses to see if there is any difference in the image. 3D does pick up when the disaster comes into full force with rushing water effects being a highlight however inevitably Titanic reaches the same problem Avatar did. After staring at a 3D image for over three hours you become desensitised and almost all effect is lost. Nice idea and somewhat effective execution however it does make the whole situation feel rather gimmicky. Valiant effort Mr Cameron, but theres still a bit of work to do before this technology can be taken completely seriously.
I’m glad I got another chance to see Titanic it in its properly glory on the big screen. Even if it means sitting through a pointless (while still effective) 3D gimmick, Titanic 3D is far more deserving of your hard earned cash than say the recent re-release of The Phantom Menace. If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to relive Titanic mere days before the 100th anniversary of the disaster, you won’t be disappointed.
Titanic 3D hits cinemas in the UK on the 6th of April.