It's an epic film, laden with eleven Oscars and one of the biggest box-office returns in history. It also has a running time of biblical proportions, and many backsides were irretrievably numbed by the experience. But do you really need to see Titanic in glorious, stereoscopic 3D? Director James Cameron thinks you do.
What Is It?
The 3D conversion was first announced at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. Cameron has personally overseen the entire process, which may explain why it's taken so long to complete. As he said at the time, "We've tested it, seen a couple of minutes converted. It looks spectacular. But it really requires the filmmaker to be involved to make sure that the Stereo Space decisions are made correctly".
The timing works out fine, since the film's re-release on 4th April is just six days shy of the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic's maiden voyage. What better way to commemorate the tragic and pointless death of thousands than by strapping on plastic goggles and gawping at the spectacle in a darkened room? It's just a shame they couldn't push the date back to the anniversary of when the Titanic actually sank...
Who's It For?
This is a very good question. A significant portion of the original audience for Titanic were teenage girls, so infatuated by the saturnine (yet punchable) face of Leonardo DiCaprio that they went to see the film repeatedly. That same audience remains famously immune to the charms of 3D.
Perhaps 20th Century Fox are using Titanic as a gateway drug. Women can revisit their crush on Leo, or a new audience of girls can discover it anew, and at the same time they'll be introduced to the 3D habit. But dragging their boyfriends and husbands along might be a problem.
Post-production 3D conversions are notoriously shit. If your film has to be in 3D (and that's not always a requirement), then nothing beats filming it *natively* in 3D. Cameron's own Avatar remains the benchmark here. But the funny thing is, Titanic actually benefits from the conversion. The murky lighting (a consequence of wearing what are effectively sunglasses in the dark) goes a long way to conceal the aged CGI work, and makes the film's opulent recreation of the past look more credible.
The story has held up surprisingly well, but the description of gender roles and class struggle in the early Twentieth Century remain as clunky as they ever were. That's not to say that modern period dramas like Downton Abbey are any better, mind.
The performances by Leo and Kate Winslet are also pretty good, in hindsight. Both have gone on to have "serious" acting careers, and in the intervening years we'd forgotten how light-hearted they were once capable of being (even in a disaster film).
The film's epic length is a matter of record, with bums grazing against the running time like the titular boat crashing into the iceberg. Regardless of watching it in 3D, it still hurt our arse more than it hurt our eyes. But we did notice a few tears running down cheeks at the end of the film, so perhaps there were isolated incidents of eyes bleeding from the strain. Or Leo's death, we can't be sure.
The Best Part
Seeing Kate's norks in spectacular 3D. She gets them out in that scene where Leo pretends to draw a nude sketch of her, and they nearly poked our eyes out.
And, obviously, the sinking of the boat. Do you honestly need a spoiler alert at this point? The camera swoops and swirls around the decks as the ship goes down, repeatedly shifting perspectives and angles, and it's entirely appropriate for the 3D format.
Billy Zane's performance remains as wooden as ever. And the 3D treatment seems to accentuate his bizarre hairpiece and drawn-on eyebrows.
But on a technical level, there are moments where the 3D causes innocuous items like ropes and chairs to "pop" into the foreground, even when they're not supposed to. It's mildly annoying, but only noticeable in the film's quieter moments.
This Is Weird
The screening we attended is prefaced by a single trailer in 3D. It was Ridley Scott's Prometheus. It looks great, but the 3D left us feeling a bit removed from the action. We're hoping it gets a standard 2D release.
Should You Watch it?
Eh, we're torn. Titanic 3D is an experience that you can only have in a cinema (currently), and it benefits from a sensitive conversion process. If you'll excuse the pun, it looks... "Oar-some". But the whether you want to see it depends on if you liked the film in the first place. We'd give it a cautious thumbs-up.