15 years later, the 3D version of Titanic is here, with a few days remaining until the centennial anniversary of the ship’s demise. Can you believe it has been 15 years since Titanic was released? In my head, it feels like only a few years ago that I was a little boy amid the hype of Titanic where every single person I know was talking about that movie.
84 years after Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, an old woman named Rose (Gloria Stewart) sets to tell her story as treasure hunters search for a diamond necklace named “The Heart of the Ocean,” believed to be last seen aboard the ship. In 1912, Rose’s earlier self (Kate Winslet) is a rich first-class girl, engaged to Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) who wants nothing of her but to be his trophy wife. Feeling suffocated after boarding Titanic, the most luxurious ship at the time, she tries to jump off deck, only to be stopped by Jack Dawson (Leonardo Dicaprio). “You jump, I jump” is the line. Soon after, Rose and Jack strike a young romance that blossoms over the coming days, until Titanic meets its fate when it hits an iceberg and goes down in the Atlantic abyss, taking the lives of 1500 out of its 2200 passengers with it.
The last time I had watched Titanic was 1998. So I was revisiting it with more or less a blank slate – what I remembered was very minimal. And the movie managed to surprise me in 2012, as it must have done in 1998. Leaving your prejudice aside – the fact that Titanic became such a talked-about movie doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie to begin with. It wouldn’t have won 11 Oscars and went on to become one the highest grossing movies of all time (the highest grossing movie of all time, in fact, for over 12 years) had it been a bad movie. But as it is with pop culture, the more popular something becomes, the more people feel they need to oppose it to have a relevant opinion. This is the case with Titanic.
The thing about Titanic is that it is still a ground breaking movie, even today. Leave the cheesy love story aside, you can’t but be taken in by how detailed James Cameron’s portrayal of the ship is. He actually built a 90% to scale replica, down to the most minute of details: the stairs, the porcelain china, the chairs, etc. That level of precision never goes unnoticed. The 3D conversion only serves to intensify that. Many movies are hurt by being converted to 3D. Titanic is not. The conversion contributes to immersing you in its feel, making you part of what was happening on the ship as it sailed to its doom – the ship snapping in half, the people swimming, trying to fight for their life, only to be left as frozen corpses; the sense of despair, injustice and ultimately life – all of these are increased. The 3D conversion doesn’t take away from the movie’s value. It doesn’t cheapen it with silly gimmicks. It adds depth.
Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio’s roles have become iconic over the years. Titanic is the movie that propelled a 21 year old Dicaprio and a 20 year old Winslet at the time to the status they are in today. Billy Zane, on the other hand, has never managed to shake off the image that Cal gave to him. In fact, Titanic’s screenplay, which in typical Cameron fashion gets weak at some points with redundant lines and flagrant loopholes (which you actually notice this time around), is held together by the strength of its cast, relatively unknown people at the time, making the screenplay’s weaknesses irrelevant somehow. 15 years later, you can’t really write a critique of their performances that gives them justice. And in retrospect, the Academy Awards have really messed up by not nominating Dicaprio for best actor at the time.
Titanic‘s musical score is still among my favorite movie scores, even 15 years later. James Horner’s Hymn to the Sea has to be one of the most chilling compositions produced for a movie. Hearing Titanic‘s music, with its Scottish influences and maritime feel, in a movie theatre cannot but be considered an experience in itself.
My advice for you is to check your prejudice at the door and give this movie a very needed second chance. Odds are you’ll be surprised. At the end of the day, it’s really difficult not to sympathize with the ordeal the characters go through and the magnitude of the tragedy on screen. Titanic, the movie that broke boundaries in 1997, doesn’t feel outdated in 2012 – in fact, it actually feels current and much better than most movies being released nowadays. As that final scene rolls, you can’t but feel absorbed in Titanic. Seeing the sight of the ruined ship and thinking about all the lives lost with it will stay in your thoughts long after your take off your 3D glasses. Titanic has the same effect on audiences as it had 15 years ago and that is the mark of a great movie.