PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

'Titanic 3D' Connects on an Elemental Level

Titanic's re-release in 3D provides the opportunity to drink in its spectacular mise-en-scène, to admire its graceful, imposing, and majestic camerawork, particularly in several magnificent sweeps across the bow of the ship.


Titanic 3D

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Gloria Stuart
Rated: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-04-04 (General release)
UK date: 2012-03-27 (General release)
Website
Trailer
You can be blasé about some things, Rose, but not about Titanic.

-- Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane)

Titanic is not your average blockbuster. It requires you to forgo specifics and to be swept along in its grandeur. At once an homage to cinematic epics of yore and a fantastic spectacle in its own right, it remains the last word on the subject of filmmaking as extravaganza, the meeting of the world’s once-upon-a-time largest and most luxurious ship with a famously megalomaniacal director who wanted to make the most elaborate and expensive motion picture ever made. The film is passionate, too, illustrating what James Cameron a successful filmmaker, namely, his ability to inspire in his audiences a rare sensation, a sense of wonderment, an awe at the power of the moving image.

It's a shame that, in recent years, it became fashionable to hate Titanic, but its 3D re-release reaffirms its greatness (and its box office supremacy: the film has now passed the $2 billion mark). Granted, the story frame-- an old lady recounts her time on the ship for a couple of treasure hunters looking for a diamond in the wreck -- is trite. But Gloria Stuart has remarkable presence, and grants weight to the device. And if turning Billy Zane’s Caledon Hockley into a crazed homicidal villain was a bad idea, Kathy Bates’ fiery and vivacious turn as Molly Brown gives the lie to the claim that Cameron neglected his supporting characters.

These characters are key to the film's evocation of a memorable event. And Cameron brought his signature panache to the project, using details to draw a clear through-line through the density of history. While one of the most persistent criticisms of Titanic has been that it exemplifies Cameron's technocentricity, the opposite is true. He notoriously spent much of Titanic’s astronomical budget on building a nearly to-scale replica of the ship and sinking it, along with hiring the original companies that provided the furnishings and crockery on the Titanic to replicate them exactly.

These details provide extraordinary context for an extraordinary drama, augmented by James Horner’s mournful and evocative score. The re-release provides the opportunity to drink in Titanic’s spectacular mise-en-scène, to admire its graceful, imposing, and majestic camerawork, particularly in several magnificent sweeps across the bow of the ship. The prologue of the film, which takes place in the underwater wreck of the Titanic, is enhanced by 3D. This is a movie made with assurance and an unparalleled eye for detail, large and small (an effect that's only underscored by the adjusted star field).

As such, it's an odd target for charges that it lacks human feeling. There are few scenes in a movie as horrifyingly involving, as successful in giving the audience a vicarious sensation of being there, and, yes, as skillfully recreated, as the extended climactic sequence. If you fail to be moved by the sinking of the ship, by the appalling loss of life -– clarified for us by Stuart in a voiceover -- and by the near-mythic force with which Cameron stages it, then perhaps cinema is not for you.

There is some truth to the complaint that the central romance is shallow. This is not the actors' fault, as both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are fresh-faced and immediately likable here, in ways they have not been since, despite their development as serious and revered performers. It’s the dialogue that lets them down; two people madly in love do not call each other’s names with the intensity and frequency of these two. But do the occasional clunky lines and slides into anachronism really matter so much? Nearly every scene of the movie is memorable. And few epics have been acclaimed for their dialogue.

The love story between Jack and Rose uses the old star-crossed lovers plot, but it’s incorporated into the film’s clever structure. The pair spends at most a few days together, but their romance evolves and interacts with the chain of historical events. They meet just after the ship departs from Queenstown, she rejects him, but then changes her mind and returns to him at sunset, on the last night of the ship’s journey. Cameron creates a poignant love story that is swept up by fate. In Casablanca, Rick and Ilsa's reunion takes on extra significance because of the war around them. Likewise, Gone with the Wind acquires its epic tug because of its grandly realized historical backdrop. Just so, Jack lifting Rose above the railing of the ship -- “I’m flying, Jack!”-- is a tremendous moment in its own right.

It is perhaps odd to acknowledge in a review that you need to allow Titanic to sweep you along to appreciate it fully -- in other words, it’s critic-proof. But that’s the rare power of this film. Identifying and picking apart its flaws are fruitless endeavors, because it transcends those criticisms. The accusation routinely leveled at Cameron -- that in pursuit of the overarching spectacle, he loses sight of his human characters -- is the inverse of the reason he makes more truly beloved and medium-redefining blockbusters than any late-20th century filmmaker, with the possible exception of Steven Spielberg.

Cameron has an astounding ability to connect on an elemental level with his storytelling, to invite us to sympathize with archetypal characters, and to help us experience an innocent enchantment. Cameron’s hubris long ago became part of the movie, and part of the reason why it is great.

Fifteen years on from its original release, Titanic isn't dated at all. It is one of those movies that demands to be seen on the big screen to appreciate its vision, virtuosity, and beauty. The 3D only makes these aspects clearer. It is a classic well worth revisiting.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.