If you want to get an education in Hollywood history, Titanic should be required viewing. But should you fork over the extra four bucks to see it in 3-D? My take on it is yes. The chance to see a film of titanic importance on the big screen in a theater near you doesn’t come along every day. I would argue to run to the theater even if the film weren’t in 3-D. This movie does not belong on your iPhone. It demands to be seen the way writer-director James Cameron intended: larger than life. It’s the story of the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic, and the two young lovers (Kate Winslet as young Rose and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack) from vastly different worlds who create a scandal almost as big as the ship itself when they fall in love.
After fifteen years Titanic can be classified as a classic, at least in my book, and for fans of the film in its original release, it’s a joy to relive the epic moments you might know by heart. Your shock and terror at witnessing the harrowing climax won’t have diminished. For those new to the film, you are in for a treat, and I’m delighted that a new generation will have a chance to experience the movie that revolutionized filmmaking and Hollywood and won 11 Oscars. This is storytelling on such a grand scale, it really isn’t overstating the case to say that they don’t make them like this anymore.
In fact, the film would definitely be made differently if it were undertaken today, and 3D would be a critical component of the production’s special effects. For the re-release, Cameron converted the film to 3D, which gives the movie a very different look than if it had been shot in 3D in the first place, as was his most recent blockbuster Avatar. The original movie has been enhanced with 3D effects, but not transformed. In many cases the 3D effects are subtle, and I was relieved to see that Cameron avoided the temptation to inundate Titanic with unnecessary “in-your-face” 3D effects that would have distracted both from the storytelling and the masterful artistic accomplishments of the original.
The film can be watched almost comfortably without the 3D glasses, but viewers will be delighted that they are wearing the glasses at the most surprising moments. With the introduction of young Rose, when her famous purple silk hat proceeds her out of the luxury vintage car, the 3D effect is quite pleasing. Similarly, when Jack stands at the ship’s prow for the first time, the dolphin popping in and out of the water is another sweet moment enhanced by 3D. I was extremely pleased with the close-ups of Leo in 3D: I just wanted more of them. Overall, 3D enriches Titanic. The big moments are just as striking as they were in the original, if not a little more impressive, especially the moving scene at sunset when Jack helps Rose “fly” at the ship’s prow.
It’s so enjoyable to meet somewhat younger versions of Kate and Leo in their first major roles. It seems obvious now that they were cast for their deep wells of talent. At the time their potential had hardly been tapped, but now the actors have both achieved almost veteran status, and many believe that they are the best of their generation. Kate has gone on to garner six Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Actress in The Reader, among a slew of other accolades. Leo too has been nominated for an Oscar multiple times, and though he has yet to win, Razzie nomination for The Beach aside, his time will come.
Is Titanic a guilty pleasure? Yes, but you know what they say: if you don’t feel guilty, it wasn’t very good.
Tip: The movie is 3 hours and 15 minutes. Don’t order the gallon-size drink prior to showtime.
Reel Mama’s rating: Ages 14 and up. The film has a surprising amount of profanity, including one f-bomb: some of it unnecessary, some of it totally understandable (I’d make use of a few choice expletives too if I were locked in the Titanic’s bowels as the freezing water poured in). I didn’t know a film could receive a PG13 rating with the f-bomb except in very rare cases (see my recent essay about Bully), but now we know it can.
The scenes of the Titanic sinking definitely are too intense for under 12.
There is some nudity and a steamy love scene, and there is also the issue of Rose defying her family. These don’t feel gratuitous and are in fact important parts of the story. The movie will impress most teens, and a discussion about Titanic’s place in history, and Titanic the movie’s place in Hollywood history, will enrich them all the more.
Click here for a piece about my meeting Titanic star Gloria Stuart several years ago at a celebration of her work.