Sunday, April 8, 2012

Titanic 3D

The first time I saw Titanic, I hated it. (But really, what 15-year-old boy didn’t hate Titanic?). I watched it again soon after it came out on video (for whatever reason), and then one final time just last summer. The summer viewing was done on a whim, at random. It was starting on HBO and I figured, What the hell, why not… let’s see if this thing is as bad as I remembered. (Hint: it was.)

Fast forward to two days ago where I sat through all 194 minutes of James Cameron’s epic disaster film. Two hours of forced love, hammed up “villainy,” lavish set designs, and flush cinematography. One hour of disaster. And 14 minutes of worthless epilogue. I sat and watched and paid attention. And when it was done, I was struck with two profound things: 1.) Titanic wasn’t as bad as I remembered, and 2.) Because of 3D technology, Titanic was worse than I remembered.

You all know the plot so let’s just skip right to the good stuff: What’s really wrong with Titanic? First is the acting. Aside from Kathy Bates’ “Those are your men out there,” pleas for desperate guilt, the acting in Titanic is universally dismal. Frankly, I don’t see how someone can argue against this point.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet sound like two elementary school kids awkwardly approaching how to conduct their first kiss, while 20 other kids stand around eagerly waiting for some action. They enunciate all the wrong words in all the wrong ways, their accents shift back and forth more times than one can count (Rose’s Philadelphia accent sounds rather British, and is that a country twang in Jack’s voice?). In short, every action exercised and every emotion evoked feels ungodly forced. Same goes for Bill Paxton, Frances Fisher, and especially Billy Zane. (Gloria Stewart gets a pass, simply because her character does nothing.) So, how is it that two kids who had already been nominated for Oscars (him for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, her for Sense and Sensibility) managed to put in such lousy work? Simple: lack of a script.

Since The Terminator was released in 1984, James Cameron has asserted himself as the most important figure of cinematic special effects since George Lucas. But with that in mind, Cameron simply has no earthly idea how to pen an effective screenplay, especially as it relates to dialogue. While the situational scene scenarios in his films may produce epic results, that is the action talking. His characters, on the other hand, say so much without saying anything. There’s a reason Titanic won 11 Oscars but wasn’t even nominated for Best Screenplay. (Cameron's films have garnered 41 total Oscar nominations. Best Screenplay has never been among them.)
How is it, for instance, that a movie told from the perspective of just one person has the ability to be privy to conversations in which the storyteller was not present? When did Jack explain to Rose all of those side conversations Jack had with Rose’s fiancé and his bodyguard? Granted, this is an all-too-common narrative flaw committed by many American films, but the hypocrisy of that storytelling device irks me to no end.

Another problem I have with this Titanic is no real fault of the film, and that is its new 3D conversion. Yes, 95 percent of the 3D movies we have seen have been converted to 3D in post-production, which makes Titanic by far the best post-production 3D conversion ever displayed on a movie screen. In fact, the 3D itself isn’t bad at all. There are no lame tricks of objects (or people) flying at the screen; like Hugo, Cameron made the 3D in his film completely atmospheric, and it works. The problem, and this can be said for every single 3D movie that has been made in the past 10 years, are the glasses.

Putting on those 3D glasses casts a notably dark hue over the screen, which isn’t good for a movie that takes place largely at night. I equate it to turning the brightness on your TV to 50 percent – it just doesn’t work. And in addition to the darkness, the glasses cast a puke green shade over everything. So when Rose is telling Jack she’ll never let go, that gorgeous, deep blue that they are bathed in is absent, instead replaced with a color that makes the characters look like they have gangrene, which I don’t believe is the purpose.
Left is what Titanic looks like on DVD, right is what in currently looks like in theaters.

Now, fair is fair so let’s be fair. Is Titanic a horrible film? No, it is not. The hour and four minute boat sinking sequence was revelatory in 1997, and it’s revelatory today. For better or worse, that sequence will be remembered and adored for the rest of our lifetimes, so fair enough. But if I’m giving the film its due credit, then lovers of Titanic have to meet me halfway and admit that the film is long for the sake of being long. It’s as if Cameron said, “Yeah, but if we break three hours, people will be forced to take us seriously.” No, Jim, they won't.

The main reason I have been so hard on Titanic for the past few weeks is because I’m sick and tired of filmmakers of wildly successful films rereleasing their movies to make more money. You want to do this generation some good, digitally restore and colorize every single frame of Taxi Driver and release it in 3,000 theaters. But, given Titanic 3D’s rather embarrassing box office take this weekend (just $17.4 million), maybe people are just as sick of this gimmick as I am. It seems as though it’s time to let go. C- 


  1. I first saw this film when I was 17 because my younger sister dragged me to see it because she was soooo into Leo.

    I thought it was all right. I re-watch it now. There's a few flaws in the script and some of the acting but I think it's a pretty good film.

    Come on, you can't say no to a topless Kate Winslet when you were 15. Plus, she still looks great. And who would've thought Leo would turn out to be a great actor?

  2. I like Titanic. It's natural that when a film becomes as wildly successful as this one did that eventually there will be some backlash against it. While I don't love the ending (Rose pulls a total dick move), I enjoy this film for what it is.

    That said, I have no interest in seeing it in 3D. First, I hate 3D because it hurts my eyes. Second, this is not a film that I necessarily want to see on the screen again. And third, I really hate 3D.

  3. @thevoid99This is gonna sound really dorky, but I remember being furious that Titanic still got a PG-13 rating, when every other film up until that point and since that has showed female breasts has been R. I get it, it's because it's ART. (But really, it's because the MPAA knew Titanic could potentially be the biggest film of all time if it was PG-13, and it was.) But yeah, I can't complain about 'em haha.

    I thought both Leo and Kate were excellent actors before Titanic, but after that, I though Leo's career plummeted. Took me until The Aviator to think he was a good actor again. (I think his performance in Gangs of New York is worse than his Titanic performance.) But yeah, regardless, they are two of my favorite actors now.

  4. @SJHoneywell I'm right there with you, I detest 3D. Hugo is the only worthy instance of it that I can think of.

    I also completely agree that success can provoke backlash, but that's not at all why I don't like Titanic. I actually don't hate on Cameron at all for making this flick - when the studio wouldn't give him any more money, he put up all the money himself. Smart businessman, that dude.

  5. I am a rational person when it comes to spending money,especially on movies- if I don't like the synopsis or read too many bad reviews or I just don't feel it, I don't go. Titanic is a movie that came out in 1997; I saw it at least 3 times on TV and I probably have a DVD of it somewhere. WHY should I pay at least 10 pounds to see it? will the 3D make my experience something different from what I can see at home? I sincerely doubt it. I feel like James Cameron is robbing people of money honestly, I really do not see the point of releasing the same movie, even if it is in 3D (which I can't particularly say I enjoy- except Hugo, like you). But then again, people have done stupider things when it comes to entertainment.

  6. I'm surprised you had problems with the performances, I thought the chemistry between Leo and Kate was part of what made Titanic memorable. Winslet was nominated for an oscar let’s not forget. I also think you have to consider it's set in 1912 so they are going to behave differently than today. Perhaps because you are American the accents bothered you.
    What do I know, I read Winslet and Dicaprio both don't like their acting jobs in the movie, I suppose I'm biased since it’s among my favorite films. Surprising that despite hating Titanic, you still rewatched it 2-3 times.
    I agree about the perspective of Gloria Stuart, privy to conversations in which the storyteller was not present. But I don't think many viewers noticed that flaw.
    I completely agree too many old movies are getting 3D releases, but I do think Titanic is better on the big screen in terms of spectacle, so I forgive them for this one.
    Interesting review, even though I disagree with a lot of what you say ( :

  7. @Diana I have nothing to say in response to this, except a big, fat AGREED!

  8. @Chris Hey man fair enough. I saw your very passionate post about Titanic on your blog, which I admired greatly, but the movie just isn't for me. Their accents bother me, sure, but it's more than that. Most every facial expression and mannerism feels forced to me, not just by Kate and Leo, but by the majority of the cast. There certainly are solid acting moments (nearly everything Victor Garber says feels genuine), but again, oh well.

    I'm weird, if I hate a wildly popular movie (and I do hate a few wildly popular movies) then I like go to back and revisit them every few years to see if I'll enjoy them as much as everyone else seems to. I rarely do, but sometimes I appreciate certain movies more as I get older. Like I said, weird.

    As for Kate's Oscar nomination... I've long since thought that just because you're nominated, doesn't mean you deserve it. I know you disagree with me about Kate's Titanic performance, but look at, say, Sandra Bullock. She actually WON for arguably the worst performance in a mainstream movie in the past decade. Ugh.

    Thanks for reading and commenting so kindly, glad we can talk maturely about our movie tastes!

  9. Can never watch this was bad enough...but in 3-D? Must be torture...3 hours of talking and then a boat sinks...sounds like the ultimate eye sore. Haha.

  10. @Ty Ha, yeah, pretty much my sentiments exactly.

  11. I'm waiting for the 4D version, allowing me to go back through time and unwatch it. And if I'm lucky, just about everything else Cameron has done, except, ironically, the films that ARE about time travel.

    Also, 3D is dumb. The idea pops up every 20-30 years, people forget that it was dumb the last time, think that the idea has gotten "better", and then it mercifully goes away for another couple decades. With any luck, I'll have to go through only one more cycle before I'm dead.

    1. Ha, yes! Love this. I think I've seen 2 films that were worth the 3D surcharge. Definitely dumb.

  12. 3D so real, you can actually feel James Cameron stealing money from your pocket.
    Fun fact: I own As Good as It Gets, Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential (haven't seen it yet) on dvd legally but I have the nonlegal version of Titanic on dvd (my mother pirated it). Wonder if I could find The Full Monty on dvd.

    1. Ha that's awesome. I own As Good as It Gets, Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential as well. Definitely watch L.A. Confidential as soon as you can. It's amazing.

  13. So in a year where there was films like As Good as It Gets, Good Will Hunting, Boogie Nights, Donnie Brasco AND Jackie Brown, they gave the Oscar to Titanic. So lame!