In case you haven’t heard, a big ship sunk 100 years ago. In case you also haven’t heard, a big ego recreated the ship sinking almost 15 years ago. With the centennial celebration / mourning over the almost 1500 souls lost that fateful night, we have the opportunity to relive that moment in 3D. My first impulse has me lining up to relive an important movie from my youth, my second impulse begs the question, why do I need a more “realistic” experience of watching a ship sink and having all of those people die? Wasn’t once in 2D enough?
I was young-ish when Titanic came out and caused a firestorm in the press. People were going to see it over and over and over, sending the box office through the roof. Many of my peers were caught up in the romantic OhmyGodLeoissooooohot-ness of 1997, but I remember being completely aware of how silly the backdrop of the love story was against such a devastating event. Let’s be honest - the whole first half is a poorly written schlock fest simply trying to raise the audience high to give it more distance to fall.
But that’s kind of Cameron’s thing. Yes he’s cutting edge on effects, but Titanic (and Avatar for that matter) was a terrible love-story that served as a vehicle for a later reveal of the cool shit Digital Domain could do. I liked Titanic simply because I was entertained and had the opportunity to see something new, not because I was moved to my core for most of the movie. That is until the ship sank, and the reality hit. I appreciate Cameron for what he can do to bring fear alive on screen (Terminator 2 is one of my all time favorite movies. All. Time), and that lengthy experience of trying to get off the boat to safety is no exception, but I can’t figure out how he keeps pulling off these insanely budgeted movies while banking on some high-impact effects to pull him through, while other movies (yes you, John Carter) become a punch-line.
Which brings me back to a few months before Titanic came out when I read an article in EW that was designed to expose all the chaos and misery from the set of Titanic. It was hedging its bet against “the most expensive movie ever made” and basically anticipating its failure. I actually dated someone who was one of the 10,000,000 names that rolled at the end of the credits (see you learn more and more about me every day), and he would tell horror stories of the cast and crew; the water being freezing, actors whining, people getting fired left and right (thus the 10 million names), Cameron being an insane man, and I was 100% sure (right along with EW) that the movie would be a complete failure. Cut to 12 years later, and I bet against Cameron again when Avatar came out. It was too expensive, too shrouded in mystery, he can’t write to save his life (he can’t, by the way), but again, it tore up the box office charts.
Now I understand that Avatar relied heavily on the 3D component to sell itself in the marketplace, and maybe that's part of my issue with the Titanic re-release. I am still on the fence about the use of 3D and if it is a worthy medium for this kind of story telling. I never quite find myself immersed enough in the experience when it is 3D because the more the format tries to involve me in the action, the more aware I am that I’m watching a 3D movie. That’s exactly what I hope to avoid when sitting in a dark movie – self-awareness - and that's exactly my experience with 3D thus far.
So that leads me back to my original question (yes it was a long walk, thanks for coming with me). If this event was not the Titanic sinking but it was 9/11 instead, I would never think to watch a movie in 3D that put a love story as part of the set up for such a catastrophic, devastating event (and before you ask, I have no interest in seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). Granted, I guess one could argue that we see this with Holocaust stories, with Civil War stories, with other gruesome events brought to life for us to relive, but I’m not sure I want to go through the isolation and terror felt while trapped on a boat sinking into darkness. I did it once, but I’m not sure that’s what I need 3D for. And the reality is it’s not the chaos and panic of the boat sinking that sticks with me all these years later, it’s the wide shot of darkness and isolation of the people AFTER the boat went down. I’m not sure putting that in 3D would make it more impactful.
So for now I guess it’s a game time decision if I’m going to brave another round in the theaters with Titanic. My only request from all of you is that in the meantime, please don’t tell me how it ends. The optimist in me wants to hope that there is a different fate for all of those lost souls.
P.S. - here are four things that still bother me about the movie (in no particular order):
1. Who really believes that some old lady would actually throw a huge ass rock like that over the side of a boat - and why does she pretend to drop it (even saying “whoops”) with a smirk on her face if no one is watching?
2. How is Kate Winslet hotter now than she was in her early 20s?
3. How can anyone think “My Heart Will Go On” is a good song?
4. What happened to Billy Zane?