Has anybody seen this? Chances are, you probably have: As of this writing, the Titanic Facebook page has been "liked" 18,181,157 times since its debut on May 19, 2011. Eighteen million! Am I reading that right? Do that many people still care about Titanic? Sure, the thing made about a gazillion dollars when it first came out, and deservedly captured the imagination of millions of movie-goers worldwide, but still. How many people who "liked" the page were even alive when it first hit theaters 15 years ago?
This is all in preparation, of course, for the April 4th re-release of everyone's favorite Lovers-On-A-Sinking-Ship saga - in 3D! Only this time, you'll be able to experience the thrills and the romance up close and personal - in 3D! Witness the chill of the icebergs, the terrible cracking of the ship's hull, the hand pressed up against that steamy car window - in 3D! Let's hope they super-impose Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" music video over the closing credits, because it'd be great to see that - in 3D!
Cut to fifty years later. Though 3D had gained in stature from the mid-1980s on (due mostly to theme park and IMAX attractions), the format finally hit its stride with Twentieth Century Fox's Avatar - also directed, not coincidentally, by James Cameron - in December 2009. Cameron's innovative mix of 3D and motion-capture filmmaking thrilled audiences - to the tune of $2 billion worldwide (the first and only title ever to achieve such a feat).
Then - wouldn't you know it? 3D films were suddenly everywhere, ranging from the exploitative (Piranha 3D, Jackass 3D) to the gloriously animated (How To Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3) to the merely ho- hum (Clash Of The Titans, Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland). The latest trend in depressing Hollywood gravy train laziness? Retrofitting already-released titles to 3D format (which, admittedly, makes better fiscal sense than shot- for-shot remakes of older movies with brand new production teams, but I digress). During the past seven months, we've already been treated to post- converted versions of The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast, Star Wars Episode I, and now, Titanic.
Which brings us full circle, for better or worse, and back to my question: Do people still care about Titanic? 18,181,157 "likes" would seem to be a resounding "yes." And this is honestly surprising, since at the last movie my wife and I were able to escape to, we heard nothing but snickers during the trailer for Titanic's upcoming 3D release:
I've always been a story guy myself, in case you haven't noticed. Give me characters and a plot worth caring about, and I'll like your movie just fine, thank you very much. The basis for any movie should be a good, solid script, and everything else - casting, cinematography, editing, direction, music - should follow after that. Cinematography and special effects, especially, can be used to punch up the screenplay's overall themes and resonance, but the best movies will always use that as a backup, not as the focus.
That's why 3D will always seem like a fad to me (well, that and the fact that the human eye was never intended to consume 3D imagery for extended periods of time). Done right, it can make for an immersive experience, designed to envelop you in its world and its fantasy figures at play (I'll say this for Avatar: Jim Cameron sure knows how to bend and twist technology to his own particular whims). Done badly, and all you've got is a string of endless empty images, with people pointing stuff at the screen. If you have to keep using that as a crutch, then maybe your movie wasn't worth making in the first place.
Also, just what is the point of taking older titles and lacing 3D imagery over top of them? Do you sit there watching Titanic at home and thinking to yourself, "Boy, this is sure good and all, but do you know what really would have made this a classic? That's right: 3D! Boo-yah!" Or is it simply just a way to coax your fad-conscious mind into doling out ten extra bucks for something you've already seen? (That's how they market these things, by the way: See it again... like you've never seen it before! Has there ever been a more pandering way of getting you off your couches?)
Then again, this type of thing isn't really meant to appeal to my particular demographic. If you happen to be one of those folks who saw Titanic in theaters many, many times all those years ago, I suppose there's nothing to stop you from seeing it again on the big screen, right? I seriously doubt, however, that giving the movie a three-dimensional makeover will improve it at all.
For the record, I happen to be a Titanic fan myself. The first half is still a bit of a slog, with its ho-hum modern-day framing device and ham- fisted voiceover (the bothersome thing about narration: too often it repeats what we already see on the screen, as if we're too stupid to process information visually). But from the moment the ship hits the iceberg, the tone is pretty much pitch-perfect. The dawning panic of the passengers and crew, the slow descent into chaos, the characters who reveal their innermost courage or cowardice - it's spectacle on a grand scale, and hardly deserving of the backlash it received afterward. (Anyone who gripes about the schmaltziness of the dialogue might as well complain the same about Gone With The Wind.) It's the emotion that really sells it, though. In two dimensions or otherwise.