Monday, April 23, 2012

Titanic 3-D: Wow

When James Cameron's Titanic first came out in December 1997, my wife and I joked to our daughter "why are you going to see this movie? it sinks!!!!". Then we finally went to see it in a theatre in May of 1998 (yes, the movie was in theatres that long) and loved it.

Since then, of course, the movie has been the subject of Oscars, adoration, commentary and criticism, much of which was directed at James Cameron's dialog and story-telling ability. This is likely because any other faults are just too minor to be serious. Cameron, known for the Terminator franchise, simply can't write good movies, so the argument goes. The same criticism was put to him when he released Avatar. That may be true but he can write a movie people want to see. Cameron's writing is similar to those movies that are cliched, predictable, cheesy but are so well done it makes people want to see movies. This is the reason why Michael Bay may make movies that makes several million dollars with cheesier dialog but they come nowhere close to Cameron's successes. The man knows how to make a movie. This is why, perhaps, he has the two top movies of all time (in money made) by a huge margin. He also knows how to do 3-D well. Given an estimated budget of $200 million, Avatar made good 3-D possible - incredible for a technology that was cheesy at best in the 1980's. The rush of movies that were converted into 3-D after being shot started with most results being fairly lacklustre (Clash of the Titans, etc). Most of those movies are fantasy-based.

I was slightly concerned about how Cameron could add 3-D to a movie that is 15 years old, let alone a movie that isn't fantasy but tied to the real world. I shouldn't have worried. While many critics have said he did 3-D right with Titanic, I still wanted to see it for myself. This is similar to a film-maker adding colour to a black and white movie. Could it really measure up?

It does. For an estimated budget of $18 million, all I can say is wow. It makes this movie feel like it was just made for 3-D. Certain scenes such as the actual Titanic going over the ocean don't need 3-D; other scenes are typical (subtitles appear floating over movie itself); but the overall impact is just tremendous. Can a love story benefit from 3-D? It can, when done right and those individual scenes were done subtly enough, they were near perfect. When the camera moves through the water, looking at remnants of the ship, the depth contrast is amazing. But as expected, the real fun comes with the action sequences.

I saw this movie in one of Cineplex's new AVX theatres with bouncy chairs. It was a great experience but I'm glad I didn't see it in a full IMAX 3-D. At the end of the movie, I left the theatre actually feeling queasy, not just because I sat through a full hour of watching a ship sink, but because I felt like I was actually in the water, bobbing up and down while waiting for lifeboats.  During scenes where depth is important, such as when looking over the rails at the water, you actually feel the grandeur of this ship, much like being at the Grand Canyon - it's simply incredible.

It's only in theatres for a few more days (having grossed an additional $50 million since its re-release - not bad for a 15 year old movie) - but if you have the opportunity, see it.