Arriving in theatres almost to the day of the 100th anniversary of the allegedly unsinkable ship’s tragic demise, James Cameron’s Titanic looks and sounds as great as it did upon release 15 years ago, albeit with a 3-D retro-fitting to fall in line with Cameron’s love for the technology. Formerly the highest grossing movie of all time (bested only by Cameron’s own wildly inferior Avatar), it holds up to the not-so-long test of time as grand spectacle and an assured piece of filmmaking that lends itself well to the post conversion technology process. That is, unless, you’re unfortunate enough to get caught in a theatre with a dim bulb projector or you just can’t watch a three hour and fifteen minute 3-D movie. Either way, the film’s still great fifteen years later.
Cameron’s love of all things nautical and his intensive eye for period detail enlivens an otherwise standard tale of star crossed lovers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) that come from different class systems and just so happen to be on the Titanic’s maiden and only voyage. There’s a bunch of stuff set in the present with Gloria Stewart as the elderly version of Winslet’s survivor and Bill Paxton as a deep sea recovery diver that’s pretty silly and stilted, and a subplot involving Billy Zane’s jealous lover eats up more screen time than it should, but the film never stops being awe inspiring and the big screen feels like the only place to watch the film.
Cameron was mocked mercilessly throughout the production of the film by people who claimed that it would never make back its gargantuan $200 million budget. His maniacal attention to detail stretched to creating exact replicas of nearly everything on the ship, up to and including the china being used, making it one of the last truly great moments in practical effects filmmaking before CGI became more widely used. The sinking of the ship is shown in painstaking and punishing detail, easily holding a spot on the list of cinemas greatest all time moments. All of this leads to massive overruns and delays that made naysayes chomp at the bit even more as they braced for the ultimate shipwreck in more ways than one. The film didn’t even open at number one in December of 1997 (that was the awful James Bond outing Tomorrow Never Dies). But then the film proceeded to become a cultural phenomenon that stayed atop the domestic box office for months before winning 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
So it comes with little surprise that Cameron was mocked again for even daring to try a post-conversion 3-D retooling on arguably his most successful all around movie. I’ll leave the review short by saying that the 3-D totally works in the film’s favour, never once feeling forced, out of place, or intrusive. If there was anything that was great about Avatar, it’s that it looked wonderful, and Cameron wouldn’t have dared release a film about the Titanic using the technology if it was less than perfect in any way. He got too much grief the first time he made the film. Why would he ever risk making it worse?