Saturday, 7 April 2012

"Titanic in 3D". A Review Of The 1997 Movie – Now Relaunched Into Cinemas In 3D In 2012.

"...I'm Sorry I Didn't Build You A Better Ship Rose..."

*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE "TITANIC in 3D" MOVIE (The 3D Blu Ray Itself Is Released Mid 2012) ***

Holidaying in Ireland, I happened on the preview day of James Cameron's "Titanic in 3D" at the new Odeon Cinema in The Point Area of Dublin's refurbished docklands (or "The Quays" as they're known locally). We caught the first showing on 5 April 2012 - debuting on their all-bells-and-whistles "iSense Screen". "iSense" features razor sharp Real-3D imaging on a gigantic screen with state-of-the-art surround sound. So myself and the two kids popped along - donned the crazy specs - and started to watch. The sheer spectacle of what came next has prompted me to write this review...

I've seen about 10 films in 3D - some like "Despicable Me" have impressed and actually met the hype - the rest have either felt gimmicky or a downright hindrance - or worse a crass monetary exploitation. Even the new Aardman Animation feature film "The Pirates..." - which we'd seen some days earlier - is not great in 3D (although it's a top movie and thoroughly recommended).
But Cameron's complete reshaping of "Titanic" into a 3D realm is a different beast. It's incredible and at times I was genuinely gobsmacked. I saw the film on its original outing in 1997 (which was a cinematic experience to say the least) and I'd estimate that 65 to 75% of this version has been improved by the 3D process with the remaining portions varying between not changed at all or just slightly better - but definitely better.

So what's changed? Scenes that were somehow 'ordinary' before are now 'dimensional' - at times you feel you could reach out and actually touch them...

Examples - the front railings of the sunken liner at the bottom of the Atlantic at the beginning of the film, the unmanned sub that is filming it then making its way through the insides of the wreck - you now feel the machine and its cables - the space around it - the bubbling of the water - the barnacles and silt disturbed to the left and right. When the engine room ship-sized pistons kick into gear as the last boilers are lit - their size and power; the drinks glasses on the table at dinner as Bruce Ismay pompously tells of how he arrived at the ship's name - they have space around them and you feel you could almost lift them off the tablecloths. Even something as unassuming as Molly Brown's decorative hat as she talks to Jack (at a later dinner table setting) now reaches out of the screen into the aisles with extraordinary depth. Winslet's costumes are glorious too - her radiant eyes and lustrous hair. The feeling of sea air and wind on the ship's gangways when Rose and Jack walk and talk and discuss art is accentuated - more realistic.

But if I was to note just one scene that sums up how improved this version is - it would be the one where Rose tries to kill herself by jumping off the back of the ship. As she steps over the railings and the camera looks down at the cold wash below - suddenly the distance and the hugeness of the ship becomes 'real' - looking downward and with that added depth - you can 'feel' that fall...that freezing water below...

The sound is huge too - groaning steel - creaking wood - the water crashing out of the screen right into your face as it floods corridors...

There were occasions where 3D didn't work - where the effect was detrimental rather than an enhancement - the boarding of the great ship at Southampton was one scene where too much was going on in the crowd sequences for the 3D to catch up. Other offences would be that one character on screen would be razor-sharp image-wise (usually the one talking) - while those beside them or to the left of them - would be slightly blurred. But these were rare.

What you also forget is what an incredible movie "Titanic" is.
Like that other maverick filmmaker Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner", "Gladiator" and "The Kingdom Of Heaven") - James Cameron isn't afraid of spectacle - he embraces it. He brings it to the screen with bravado and a passion for ‘detail’ that few can match.
His new 3D rendering of "Titanic" is the same - it seems like he's worked everything to give you the viewer as much as possible – or at least more than you saw the last time. And when the actual sinking finally comes in the early hours of 15 April 1912 - the horror and heartbreak still has the power to make your heart race and bring a tear to the eye. Captain Smith holding the wheel as the ocean crashes through the glass into the bridge area, the ship's funnel that breaks loose and collapses on the bodies below, the propellers rising out of the water, bodies bouncing off the ship's steel structures as the huge hull rises up and they slide downwards to their death - the camera panning back as Rose emerges from the swell to an ocean of bodies flaying about in the agony of the icy Atlantic - the guilty faces on the lucky ones in the boats that got away - hearing their screams and cries for help - yet not going back for survivors - and knowing they should...

Cameron's version of the sad tale has heart too - through all that technical excellence it doesn't forget to show - and somehow respect - the human cost. There's the rage and helplessness of the third class passengers locked into steerage below while the 'quality' on the decks above get away - the band unselfishly playing "Nearer My God To Thee" as the ship goes down by the head, the priest praying with terrified passengers trying to give them strength, the elderly couple holding each other tightly on the bed as the sea floods their cabin - the Irish mum telling her two children of 'Tir na N'Og' - the mythical 'land of the young' as the inevitable closes in around her beloved...

Then of course there's the cast - Bill Paxton as the obsessed present-day treasure-seeker, Gloria Stuart as the elderly Rose recounting the tragedy to an enrapt crew, Jonathan Hyde as Bruce Ismay - the White Star Line egotist who ordered the number of lifeboats to be reduced from 48 to 16 (compliant with Board of Trade laws at the time) so as not to clutter up the promenade decks for the first-class passengers - and then once onboard practically ordering Captain Smith to open all engines to full speed ahead despite the danger (only to save himself in one of the last lifeboats - an act infamous now in history). Frances Fisher is Rose's social-climbing mum, Billy Zane as Rose's manipulative and jealous boor of a fiancé, David Warner as his dastardly man-servant, Bernard Hill as the overwhelmed and ill-fated Captain Smith, 'new money' Kathy Bates as the 'unsinkable' Molly Brown - all of them exemplary. Victor Garber adds huge gravitas too as the ship's architect Thomas Andrews - a decent man grappling with his thoughts as it all falls apart around him (his dialogue titles this review).

But the movie belongs to its two young leads - Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as Jack and Rose - a 17-year-old lady of art and means who falls in love with a 20-year old street-rat who paints to survive. While DiCaprio is good and couldn't go anywhere for a few years due to screaming girls (he was 22 at the time) - it's Winslet who impresses the most. She is sensational in the role - voluptuous, ballsy and humane. She also exudes an acting confidence that is staggering for a 21-year-old. In my book only Kiera Knightley gets this close to that kind of inner belief.

With regard to the forthcoming 3D BLU RAY (due mid 2012) - we don't know as yet what the extras are going to be (if any at all). But there is no doubt in my mind that for a format which has been trying the public's patience and pocket for some time now - Cameron may have given '3D' a huge boost with this rendering of his 1997 classic...

To sum up - even if you don't want to see this film again - and suffer through that dreadful Celine Dion schlock song at the end - think of James Cameron's "Titanic in 3D" as sheer cinematic spectacle. My kids are 18 and 14 - and given that their generation is so easily bored and their timespan for attention virtually nil - they didn't notice the three-hours-plus playing time go by. In fact my son announced at the end "…that was a great film Dad…really good." Praise indeed.

Recommended - and then some.

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