A movie review
By Andrew Hesner
GREENSBURG, Pa. — “Every shipwreck is a human story,” said “Titanic” director, writer and shipwreck explorer James Cameron during his 1995 exploration of the “unsinkable” luxury liner. After embarking on his fifth trip to the wreckage, he started production of the film which the American Film Institute deemed the sixth best epic of all time.
The 3-D “supercharged” 2012 re-release of the 1997 Oscar-winning film proved to be even more visually amazing than the original. Cameron waited for the 100th anniversary of the sinking to resurrect what critics called “the love-story that stole the world’s heart,” and clearly succeeded.
Cameron’s 3-D conversion debuted April 4 and grossed $4.4 million on its opening night. It took in an additional $17.4 million over Easter weekend. The global profits, as of April 10, total $61 million.
The 1997 “Titanic” was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won 11 of them. It earned $8.6 million on opening night and almost $29 million over the opening weekend. It accumulated a grand total of $1.8 billion worldwide making it the highest grossing film until, 12 years later, James Cameron made “Avatar.”
While attending a 2:30 p.m. showing on Saturday, April 7, at the Carmike 15 cinema in Greensburg, my first thoughts before the screening of the film were that the 3-D conversion would ruin Cameron’s near-perfect epic. I was under the impression that it would have a similar fate to the 3-D conversion of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” “Episode I” was already bland and lifeless. But director and creator George Lucas decided to convert it. But it still felt two-dimensional. (Lucas might actually succeed with the five remaining “Star Wars” he is planning to convert as well. Oh boy.)
The combination of “Titanic” 3-D’s three hours of visually stunning special effects proved me wrong. The added dimension only heightened the disaster, tragedy, grandeur, terror and romance.
Unfortunately, 3-D is a double-edged sword. It is amazing on a 40-foot-long theater screen but utterly worthless on a 50-inch 3-D screen. So to get the most from Cameron’s pricey $18 million 3-D conversion (almost double the amount Lucas spent on the conversion of “Episode I”), you have to drop $9 to do so, and almost $13 for a late-night show. And don’t even bother with the $8 popcorn; you’ll be broke before you sit down.
Despite the prices, audiences are eating it up, said Carmike 15 assistant manager Taylor Kistler during a 1 p.m. phone interview on Saturday, April 7.
“It’s pretty popular,” Kistler said. “It hasn’t sold out yet. But this weekend will definitely change that.”
Is it worth the price? It is.
When the 1997 version was released, I saw it eight times in the theater. And each time was the same positive experience. But after seeing it in 3-D, I was blown away. That 1997 experience was remade and revitalized.
For the few who managed to miss seeing the original in 1997 during the 22 weeks it was in theaters, the plot is simple — a love story set amid one of the most devastating civilian maritime disasters in history. On April 10, 1912, the luxury liner Titanic set sail for New York from Southampton, England. Five days into the ship’s maiden voyage, a North Atlantic iceberg stuck it. Within two hours the ship sank, and 1,514 of its 2,224 passengers lost their lives.
Among the passengers, in Cameron’s fictionalized re-telling, is one of Hollywood’s most iconic couples — poor-boy Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and rich-girl Rose (Kate Winslet).
The first half of the film is a mixture of Cameron’s 1995 exploration footage of the wreck at the bottom of the North Atlantic and romantic drama aboard the advertised “unsinkable ship.” We go from seeing thousands of waving hands and smiles to a hunk of mangled and corroded iron two and half miles down. It’s as if Titanic’s cold, black, mysterious and barnacle-encrusted grave is speaking out to us and saying, “Tell my story.”
The remaining half of the film focuses on the historical aspect of the ship’s demise. What made “Titanic” different from other disaster films is its combination of several different genres — romance, drama, action, documentary and tragedy.
Cameron uses the actual wreck as a backdrop and a character-development tool. It’s used to show class differences, true love contrasted with material things. The bond Jack and Rose form is not one of 56-karat diamonds and social status. It has a certain simplicity and substance that makes it so sought-after and emotional. As Cameron has said, a love story mixed with human tragedy will convey emotion.
Cameron himself is another interesting aspect of the film. His idea for the film came not during a three-martini lunch in Tinsel Town over a teaser pitch for a script but during two actual dives to the Titanic wreckage. It was during those 1995 dives that he wrote much of the screenplay. Cameron co-produced and co-edited it, too.
He’s done it before. His first major success was “The Terminator,” and has been known for his success in “Aliens,” “The Abyss,” “Avatar” and a slew of documentary films, including “Ghosts of the Abyss,” “Aliens of the Deep” and “Expedition: Bismarck.”
Canadian-born Cameron recently became the first person to reach the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, the Challenger Deep. Although two men preceded him in 1960, Cameron was the first person to make the trip solo.
Overall, “Titanic” in 3-D was a positive experience. The only change, although barely noticeable, was to the sky. After Cameron’s 1997 release, American astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson accused “Titanic” of having the “wrong stars” and that Cameron, a notorious perfectionist, should have known better.
At the April 7 screening in Greensburg, the audience’s mood seemed positive, judging by the teary-eyed teenage girls who seem to always choke up when Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” starts playing during the closing credits. Roughly 80 of 192 seats were filled with a combination of middle-aged women dragging along their spouses, young couples and packs of teenage girls. The audience turnout was greater than what I expected for a Saturday, 2:30 p.m., matinee.
In my 1997 “Titanic” film viewings, the sobbing and sniffling started with about five minutes of the film remaining. In 3-D, it started about 15 minutes earlier. This is one of the reasons why I feel Cameron has succeeded. Audiences, for the most part, will always be emotional at the end of this film, but the fact that a 15-year-old movie can make people cry harder in 3-D, proves to me that it emotionally struck harder.
“All the emotions were heightened and it felt more real,” said Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) senior Magnolia Pritchard, 22. “I cried more in this one than I did in the original.”
What: “Titanic” in 3-D
Where: Carmike 15 Cinemas, 5280 Route 30, Westmoreland Crossing, Greensburg, Pa. 15601. Phone: 724-834-1190
When: runs through April 19
Andrew Hesner is a junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is from Blairstown, N.J. He blogs about film at The Film Critique.