Titanic 3D (James Cameron, 1997)

20Feb12

Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson), Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater), Kathy Bates (Molly Brown), Billy Zane (Cal Hockley), Bill Paxton (Brock Lovett). Screenplay by James Cameron. Directed by James Cameron. Rating: 12. Running time: 194 minutes.

I want to say so much, and really feel the film deserves it, but lacking time right now brief comments alone will have to do.

I feel Titanic deserves serious time and thought because of the wicked mixture of enormous popular appraisal and severe elitist skepticism it suffers. It’s supposed to be cool not to enjoy Titanic, and for the reason that it is a James Cameron megabucks epic with more holes than the wrecked ship itself.

But revisiting the film in 3D (out in cinemas soon; this was a Valentine’s preview), this is not the film I saw. The film I saw was a masterpiece that is justifiably revered; so bold in ambition and broadly successful in pulling it off that anyone who claims to not be totally engrossed for its entire three hours is simply lying.

Of course there are problems; the main one being implausible snippets of dialogue that Avatar was justly attacked for, and I can see now the that the roots of the problem began here in Cameron’s crass scriptwriting. Too often in the second half of the film we see silly crew members complaining about damage to a sinking ship, as passengers insist they want brandies rather than lifebelts whilst others translate signs as the water level rises. And the elitist focus is necessary, but hugely overplayed to the point that it becomes annoying (Rose’s mother moans that she hopes the lifeboats aren’t too crowded), and Jack and Rose head down into danger only to return unscathed James Bond-style one too many times.

But all of this transpires within the framework of a film of sheer indisputable magic. DiCaprio’s youth and energy is spine-tingling, and Winslet’s beauty whimsical. The special effects are still spellbinding, and the story remains so oddly powerful for its blend of both romance and history. The first half in particular is almost perfect. The love develops without any mad, infuriating dialogue and the chemistry is oh so convincing. Only when the iceberg hits do some rough edges emerge, but by then we’re too engrossed in the scale of what is transpiring and the power with which it is being portrayed to give a damn.

And to round the experience off, I’m dumbfounded but delighted to say that the 3D works. This might be the first time I have happily traded the downsides of darkened images and a weighed down nose for the sake of the meaningful appearance of depth. Titanic has so many scenes set in corridors, and towards the end so much footage of crowds of people both on deck and tragically in the Atlantic – not to mention shots of a ship snapping and sinking from a dozen different angles – that the perception finally pays off.

It’s out April 6th. A century on from our fatal reality check. See it again. It won’t let you down.

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