Titanic Revisited (in three glorious dimensions!)
So my girlfriend (who, in 1997, had Leonardo DiCaprio posters covering her bedroom wall) and I went to go see Titanic in 3D over the weekend. Did I feel slightly weird feeding money into the 2nd highest grossing movie of all time's recent cash grab? Sure, maybe a little. But I didn't really mind.
I haven't seen the film from start to finish since probably a year after it came out, on a VHS tape my parents bought. I've caught 10 minutes at a time here and there on TV since then, but haven't seen the whole thing in over 10 years. I remember when I first saw it in theaters when I was a teenager, I'd probably have given it a 7.5 out of 10. That's about the same score I'd give it now as well.
There are some things I do give it credit for. For a 3 hour film, it does flow pretty well. It goes by pretty quick. I've always thought the historical detail was (and still is) very impressive. And if you push the romance plot to the side, it proves to be a pretty good disaster movie. I've always kind of thought that the romance stuff was OK for what it was (a brilliant demographic bulls eye for young girls), but it was really good in the frantic destructo-meter department. I still felt a little emotion from all the death and destruction, it was a very sad amount of life lost.
There were technical things I noticed when I watched it as well. I had a more keen eye to wider angles of the ship, and while it looked incredible in 1997, if you look closer you can really notice how fake the CG people walking around the boat look. They look about on par with characters in The Sims. Also, I don't know if it was the 3D, or the RPX big screen we saw it on, but I noticed a lot more fuzzy edges on the green screen shots. But still, overall, it's an undeniable technical achievement.
The 3D conversion of the film wasn't really anything all that special. Some of the water splashing about looked kind of neat, but *most* of it still looked flat. There were maybe 3 shots that were like "whoa, that sure was 3D..." moments. Again we saw this on RPX (Regal Premium Experience) and apparently they use brighter bulbs on those screens, so the 3D didn't appear to ruin any of the cinematography from what I noticed. Still, not worth seeing just for the 3D. But I assume if you wanted to see Titanic again in theaters, you'd just go regardless of what D it was.
I got reminded of what a d-bag Billy Zane's character was. He played a smarmy prick pretty well in this. He was a level of rich jerk that was often reserved for 80's college movies about jocks vs. geeks.
I still hate the end of the movie when the old lady throws the diamond into the water. What a selfish person. I get that it was closure for her and everything, but c'mon. That boat crew probably spent thousands of dollars to fly her onto their boat, hoping that she would help them in some way. They've been searching the ocean for three years, which I assume is costing them multiple millions of dollars, hoping to get a pay off, and she just throws it away like it's nothing. Where's the closure for the 80 people on the boat? Who I might add, were also pulling artifacts out of the Titanic and preserving them for their cultural significance. Why didn't the old lady just sell it to them, and give the money to charity? Or to help her own family? She could have paid for college educations for the next 10 generations of her family. Now no one can reap the benefits of the diamond. As humorously quirky as it was, it still annoys the hell out of me. It did in 1997, and it still does now. Blarg!
Anyway, there was one thing I was really thinking about when I was watching the film again... hypothetically, do you think Titanic would have been as huge as it was if it was originally released in 2012...? I will say, Titanic was brilliant in it's approach. Historically accurate for the history buffs, Leo romance for the teen girls, mayhem for the teen boys, and all of the epic spectacle one could have asked for in a tentpole picture. But what if Titanic never happened in 1997, and the same movie was getting released for the first time in the summer of this year?
I think it would be hard to argue that Titanic wasn't driven heavily by the fact that it was just this HUGE special effects movie, a movie that had scale and detail that no one had seen before. But since 1997, we have seen many, many cases of epic movies being released. Lord of the Rings blows Titanic out of the park in terms of nuanced detail, and in epicness, AND in special effects. Even the Star Wars prequels drove the hype machine further than Titanic did. People have seen their share of hyped up, big movies in recent years, and they don't always do so hot anymore (see: the Total Remake thread from last week). And what about comic book movies, and nerd culture? Would Titanic just get brushed aside as another Oscar-bait period piece like War Horse?
Titanic was an original screenplay, so it wouldn't have the built in audience of a book or comic book. I guess I'm saying that Titanic would struggle to find an angle of unique interest like it had in 1997, because it wouldn't be *the* epic special effects movie of the decade, it would be one of *many* epic special effects films of the decade. Even with updated special effects, do you think Titanic would be enough for today's audience? Do you think that because the special effects and scale wouldn't be blowing people's minds anymore, the love story/plot would be looked at much more critically in 2012?
Though, I suppose it would have one hyped up line to add to the trailers... "From the director of Avatar, the biggest movie of all time..." Is James Cameron alone enough to sell a movie?
Scott, I'm similar to you in that I haven't watched the whole movie since it was in the theaters back in 1997. I surprised my wife on a date by taking her to see it at an IMAX theater here. The sound was probably the best part of the IMAX experience. The screen size was great I know Cameron shot it wider, so I'm sure it was cropped a bit. I've said before that I don't see the 3D well, so like you Scott I think the theatrical release is simply a great excuse to go see the movie again [Scott Roberts] "regardless of what D it was."
I think Titanic is a textbook example for storytelling. If you could give a group of students the facts about Titanic and tell them to put a love story on it, this, to me, is a great template on how to construct a movie from a set of details. There's a lot of good stuff here. The way the bounced from the present day story to the voyage propelled the story, the Winslet character arced well, Jack offered a true and entertaining counter balance to Rose. Cal, Molly, Brock, the captain, all great characters. Plus I think tragedies are tough sells, and obviously this movie had no problem selling movie tickets!
[Scott Roberts] "Where's the closure for the 80 people on the boat?"
I think that most of the people on the boat are scientists and historians. So the soil samples and artifacts they found (along with the paycheck they got regardless) should satisfy most of them. Bill Paxton's character was the real one we needed to arc. He didn't care one bit about Titanic, he was just a grave robber disguised as a historian looking to make a buck. He went out there looking for the diamond and even though he came back without it, he came back with something better, for himself. He has this (albeit a bit cheesy) line at the end, "Three years, I've thought of nothing except Titanic; but I never got it... I never let it in." He was one of the very few people who have actually seen Titanic, but he never really saw it until after the story, and now he can be a changed man.
[Scott Roberts] " hypothetically,, do you think Titanic would have been as huge as it was if it was originally released in 2012...?"
I think this is a great, but really tough question to ask. To pull this movie out of 1997, we also have to say it didn't effect any movers and shakers afterwards. I think a lot of people in Hollywood started seeing more potential in these epic, dramatic, special effects driven films. Also, Cameron did a fantastic job of building hype for the movie by working on Titanica for IMAX a few years back and building interest in a story that had really faded into the background quite a bit. Plus you made an excellent observation that some of the Special Effects in Titanic have not aged well, and I agree. I'm sure those issues would have been resolved today. But I don't think they needed a lot of computer generated effects for the story. A lot of the stuff they did with the boat, the really did with a boat, and just used CG to seem things together. I think the story and the characters are timeless. Watch it today, 15 year old girls will be crying right along with our women and our mothers. It needs the big spectical of the boat wreck at the end to be one of the top grossing movies of all time, but with the story, the characters in care of the people involved, that is all great stuff no matter how much CG we see.
[Jeff Breuer] " If you could give a group of students the facts about Titanic and tell them to put a love story on it, this, to me, is a great template on how to construct a movie from a set of details. There's a lot of good stuff here"
That's true. Maybe it was just so big a movie that people couldn't help but try and take it down. And the easiest thing to attack is the moderately cheesy "I'm flying, Jack! I'm flying!!" type romance stuff. It's rare you saw a critic be like "The romance was good, but I was relatively bored after the ship hit the iceberg... (sips brandy, puts on Mozart)".
In terms of the modern day boat folk, and Rose throwing the diamond in the water.... It won't stop bugging me. Actually, I don't even see how it's closure. The diamond essentially had no emotional connection to Jack, other than the fact she was wearing it when he drew her like "one of his French girls" (btw, Winslet breast in 3D, that's what I'm talkin' about! [nudges arms, winks creepily]). When you boil down to it, the diamond is essentially a gift (albeit a *really* expensive gift) from an abusive a-hole of an ex-boyfriend. Why it would bring her closure for Jack, or Titanic, doesn't really make sense to me. If anything, it's confusing why she would even want to hold on to it at all, if it didn't really mean anything to her. The diamond's connection to Jack was rather thin, I'm saying. She even wore it during the sketching because she wanted to write that snarky burn of a note to Billy Zane when she put it back in the safe. She used it to insult her ex-boyfriend! It shouldn't be a symbol of her love for Jack, it should be a reminder of how "awful" her life was before she met Jack.
Just sell it to Bill Paxton and leave the money to your great-grandchildren.
[Jeff Breuer] "Watch it today, 15 year old girls will be crying right along with our women and our mothers. It needs the big spectical of the boat wreck at the end to be one of the top grossing movies of all time, but with the story, the characters in care of the people involved, that is all great stuff no matter how much CG we see."
I suppose that's true. In terms of injecting a fictional story into a historical context, it did about as good a job as it's going to do. I actually like it when people do that kind of thing, such as X-Men First Class or Watchmen or something. Not to go wayyyy off topic here, but I mean comparing Cameron's nice love story to something as potentially stupid as the fiction/history story of like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter... Titanic is going to look pretty brilliant every time.
[Scott Roberts] " the moderately cheesy "I'm flying, Jack! I'm flying!!""
So you know the set up for that scene? Where earlier Jack is pretty much doing the same thing with his buddy behind him? There is this shot at the end of that scene where the camera shoots them from behind and pulls back. The two look like they are RIGHT up next to each other,I mean pelvis to asses close. My wife started laughing in the theater and will never see the scene the same way again.
[Scott Roberts] "Actually, I don't even see how it's closure."
I still think there is plenty of closure for the people on the boat, but I certainly see your point about Roses' story. Here is my theory:
James Cameron is smoking a cigar and watching the first test screening in the back of the theater. It is filled 15 year old girls and their somewhat annoyed boyfriends. The ship sinks and we go back to the present day story. The girls have just cried their tear ducts dry over the past half hour and finally have a chance to catch their breath, dry their tears and pleasantly enjoy the rest of the movie. The story is wrapping, they are safe and in the clear. Then, BOOM, we see Rose on the railing, we see the pictures and then she pulls the necklace out of her pocket and drops it into the ocean. The 15 year old girls find hidden unknown water reserves for their tear ducts and let it all out again. James Cameron pumps his fist in the air and yells out, "YEA!" All of the boyfriends turn to look at him. Cameron points back at them and exclaims, "Now THAT'S entertainment, b!$#%s!"
That's my theory anyways...
I still hate the end of the movie when the old lady throws the diamond into the water.
That really bugged me as well. I also thought it was strange that she was with Jack for like a week and then married later on in life to someone for years. When she died and went to Titanic heaven she was with Jack again in stead of her husband. What?
Anyways, you may like the Super 3D version that may be NSFW here:
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My 15-year-old daughter has already seen Titanic on cable and on DVD, and yet she saved up chore money to go see the 3-d version, go figure. A grand Experience is an Experience.
I wasn't interested in 3-d for this because it adds nothing to the plot or story. I liked the story fine the first time.
I did think it contrived that Jack dies in the manner he did, but that was done for story purposes.
Very funny! Thanks Stephen.
For the record, Rotten Tomatoes CRITICS score of 87% is actually UP from the original release score of 84%.
Note too: viewers only 61% fresh this time.