Don’t have 3D glasses handy ? – simply click the ‘3D’ icon on the video above and select ‘Turn off 3D’
Fifteen years after it was first released in cinemas, and to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, James Cameron’s mastrerpiece has been re-released, obnly this time in glorious full feature 3D.
“You’ve got a gift, Jack. You see people,” says Kate Winslet’s Rose DeWitt Bukater to Leonardo DiCaprio’s starving artist Jack Dawson. “I see you,” Jack replies, pointedly.
The equivalence between seeing and understanding is as significant as that iceberg floating silently in the north Atlantic. The meaning of a James Cameron film is right there in what you see on screen; not in how, or even what, you think about it. Cameron’s detractors grouse about his use of scale and spectacle to invest archetypal, even clichéd stories with an extra, unearned emotional significance. And they’re absolutely right, with one crucial caveat: there’s absolutely nothing unearned about it.
In this respect, Cameron’s decision to convert Titanic into 3D is a no-brainer. In this format, so his logic might run, an audience can better comprehend the ship’s colossal dimensions and the colossal scale of the disaster itself, therefore driving home the colossal significance of the basic human drives – love, jealousy, courage and greed – that steam the plot towards its colossally inevitable, colossally tragic conclusion.
Astonishingly, that’s precisely what it achieves. In the film’s audacious 25-minute prologue, in which Bill Paxton’s treasure hunter introduces us to the barnacle-encrusted wreck of the Titanic, a third dimension makes the silty lifelessness of the ship that bit more tangible. When we slip back to 1912 and join Rose and Jack on the Southampton quayside, the riot of background detail and foreground drama feels richer and more vibrant than ever.
But as with Titanic’s pioneering use of computer graphics in 1997 – used only where essential – Cameron and his team have applied the 3D with intelligence, and often restraint. Scenes that benefit from an extra dimension get one, but in the film’s more intimate moments it’s almost entirely absent. Readers must discover for themselves into which of these two categories the much-paused portrait scene fits.
Yet there’s an equally fascinating new perspective here that you don’t need plastic glasses to appreciate. Re-watching Titanic 15 years on, there can surely be little remaining doubt that this film ranks alongside Gone With The Wind and Cleopatra as a once-in-a-generation Hollywood epic. It has aged without dating. It transcends target audiences. It is simply too big for genre.