James Cameron’s 1997 film “Titanic” gets a re-release this month, and it’s looking grander than ever. It was once the highest-grossing film of all time (with $1.8 billion, it was surpassed just recently by director Cameron’s other big opus, Avatar), and was the recipient of 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It garnered huge amounts of critical praise upon its initial release, spawned the inescapable Celine Dion single “My Heart Will Go On,” and has been compared favorably to one of Hollywood’s biggest epics, “Gone with the Wind”.
Now, almost 100 years to the day of the S.S. Titanic’s tragic sinking, Paramount Pictures is re-releasing the film, but not before they’ve given it a smooth polishing, adding the currently popular gimmick of 3D. But is a 15-year old film worth seeing again, especially one that most of us already own at home? Well, that depends on how big of a fan you are.
The story is a simple one. Drifter Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets trapped socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) on the doomed ship. They fall in love and (spoiler alert) the ship sinks. There’s also a contemporary subplot about a group of scientists searching the sunken vessel for a rare diamond called “The Heart of the Ocean.”
“Titanic” made huge stars of DiCaprio and Winslet, and both give sincere performances. To get to the actual sinking of the ship, audiences are asked to sit through their love story for almost an hour and a half. Some criticized Cameron for basing his film on two fictional characters rather than centering it on one of the many actual survivors. This was a risky choice which does pay off, but only because the performances of the two leads are so good. Unfortunately, the weakest aspect of the film is James Cameron’s script, which features stale dialogue and hokey one-liners.
But it’s the visuals that make the film so worthwhile. Deborah L. Scott’s costumes, especially Winslet’s, are beautiful. The sets and cinematography are stunning. And the visual effects, which feature the most harrowing ship-sinking ever put on film, are dynamic.
3D is an unnecessary tool that many films utilize in order to capitalize on the success of films like “Avatar”. In “Titanic”, it is only somewhat successful. In the film’s long-shots, the 3D is effective, placing the viewer right in the action and adding depth to some already beautiful scenes. In close-ups, however, the 3D is, ironically, flat. Audiences who go in expecting the action to pop right off the screen will be very disappointed.
Fortunately, “Titanic” sails on its own, and its current facelift neither adds nor detracts from its splendor. It’s still worth seeing on the big screen. The love story is sincere, the shipwreck is spectacular, and the film will forever go on in the hearts of its fans.