On the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, James Cameron re-released his 1997 epic, TITANIC, in theaters with a brand new 3D conversion.  Mike Finkelstein was there, ready to see one of his favorites back on the big screen.  Here is his review of “Titanic”.

PLOT: The love story of a young wanderer (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a beautiful debutante (Kate Winslet) as they travel aboard the doomed RMS Titanic in the Spring of 1912.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Say what you want to say about James Cameron’s TITANIC.  Go ahead and scoff at the hokey love story, and laugh at the constantly parodied lines (“I’m flying”, “I’ll never let go”, “I’m the king of the world!”, etc).  Hell, I’ll even give you a moment to shudder at the thought of “My Heart Will Go On” surrounding you from every corner of the theater.  But here’s the thing…while you may laugh at all that on the outside, when you’re sitting in that theater seat, watching this unbelievably beautiful epic unfold before your eyes, all those years of being jaded will be gone, and you will be engrossed from the first moment to the last.

It has been 15 years since TITANIC was first released in theaters.  Expected to be a box office disaster, the movie went on to play for over a year, win 11 Academy Awards and become the highest grossing film of all time.  (Ironically, it would only be beaten by Cameron’s next film, AVATAR, but I personally put an asterisk next to that, due to IMAX and 3D ticket prices being more than double the average cost in 1997.)   For five years, Cameron meticulously researched every detail of Titanic and its sinking.  He took a total of twelve dives down to the real wreckage to get every angle and aspect exact.  He worked with the White Star Line and commissioned crew to create exact replicas for the sets.  He incorporated real passengers, real photo moments (ie Douglas Spedden), and real tales of survival and mourning to bring this tragedy to life.

Now I know what you’re thinking: why the hell would anybody put such a hokey, melodramatic love story in the middle of a true tragedy that can stand fine on its own?  Excluding A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (the other quintessential film about the sinking), every other attempt to put the TITANIC on screen has basically failed because of the writers throwing too many perspectives at us.  With the story being told through Rose (first class royalty) and Jack (a “gutter rat” from steerage), we get all those perspectives and characters in one shot, not to mention some career defining performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Gloria Stuart, as well as too many beautiful supporting performances to list here (just go to IMDb and go down the cast list).

Put together such intricate detail and a love story spanning three classes, TITANIC also succeeds as the best history lesson ever.  You may be focusing on Jack and Rose being chased by Cal, but take a second to look around, and realize that you are being brought on a tour of every facet of that ship, both before and during the sinking.  We get a glimpse of every deck as the ship makes its way through the Atlantic, and we see everything from steerage to the dining room to the Grand Staircase—as well as everyone in these locations—as she goes under.

But enough about the story…you’ve seen the movie.  You know it’s good.  (If you don’t like it, sorry to tell you, it hasn’t changed.)  The only real question is how is the 3D conversion?  By itself, TITANIC is nothing short of visually stunning.  Even 15 years later, it is incredible how well the special effects and cinematography hold up (sans one shot that looks a bit like a SIMS recreation…I’ll let you find it).  Seeing that ship leave port will leave you breathless, and watching it go down over the last hour will do exactly the same.  And while I will admit that most of the time, the 3D was either unnecessary, or not intense enough to illicit a huge response from me, it did add an extra layer of beauty at moments, and an extra layer of dread in others.  For a movie released in 1997, that’s impressive enough for me.

TITANIC is a film that belongs on a movie screen.  Seeing it again just reaffirmed the fact that what Cameron was able to do was nothing short of extraordinary.  He created a stunning work of art that does justice to one of the greatest human tragedies of the last century.  Whether or not you’re a fan of 3D, go see TITANIC back in theaters.  In the end, it’s not about an extra layer.  It’s about seeing a masterpiece back where it belongs.

GRADE: A

Mike’s LIKES:

1) TITANIC: Visually stunning and historically sound, TITANIC is nothing short of a masterpiece in film.  Seeing it again on the big screen just reaffirmed my belief that James Cameron did something extraordinary.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) 3D UNNECESSARY: I would have loved to have the option of seeing TITANIC back in theaters in its original 2D format.  While the 3D did add a bit and never took away from the film, it was nowhere near necessary, and it would have been nice to not have to wear those damn glasses for three hours.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) When Jack is preparing to draw Rose, he motions her to lie down “Over on the bed…the couch.” DiCaprio actually made an honest mistake and James Cameron liked it so much, he kept it in the film.

2) The scene in which Rose meets Jack to thank him for saving her life was completely improvised.  The spitting scene was also almost all ad-lib. Cameron also credits Kate Winslet with the famous line, “This is where we first met”, as well as Rose spitting in Cal’s face instead of the scripted suggestion of jabbing him with her hairpin.

3) When astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson first saw the movie in its original theatrical release, he noticed that the configuration of stars that Rose looks up at as she lies on the floating door bore no resemblance to what the sky really looked like on that night.  After contacting Cameron three times about the inaccuracies, Tyson was contacted by a post-production technician working on re-release, who asked for a picture of what the sky really would have looked like.  It was then altered and fixed.