April, 1912. The most advanced liner ever built, Royal Mail Ship Titanic prepares to depart from Southampton with 2,224 passengers aboard. Among them are strong-minded debutante Rose DeWitt Bukater (Winslet), her fiancé, sneering aristocrat Cal Hockley (Z
Fifteen years on and the Ship Of Dreams sails again, this time mercifully unencumbered by tales of spiralling budgets and the sound of actors squeezing out sodden costumes. Kate Winslet may not have been near a ship since, but the scars of Titanic’s painful birth have healed, and unlike other 3D retrofits, it steams back onto the big screen with an ocean of goodwill and a cargo-load of Oscars.
Inevitably, with James Cameron at the wheel, this is no Clash Of The Titans-style refit. Titanic shows how good the conversion process can look — especially when you’ve got more than six weeks and a shonky Kraken to work with. If news of the 3D conversion flew in the face of Avatar’s in-camera philosophy, the results are impressive: subtle and tactile (although, in the circumstances, you’d hesitate to use the word immersive), and reason enough to revisit the director’s icescapade.
Surprisingly, it’s below decks that the 3D really comes into its own. The upper class snakepit into which Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) ventures now stretches intimidatingly into the distance, its polished silver glistening with menace, while the curves of the grand staircase loom ornately, seemingly within touching distance. Expect texture not tricks, and you won’t be disappointed.
If the sets still wow, the visual effects do look a little barnacled at times. Eyes conditioned by trips to Pandora may find the mo-capped promenaders strolling Titanic’s decks suspiciously artificial. For the most part, though, Cameron’s great edifice has defied the ravages of time. Perhaps the last great physical epic, it boasts a tonnage — a sheer DeMillean heft — that few movies can match. From its pounding pistons to the cut-glass elegance of the upper decks, the ship is a playground through which Cameron effortlessly sweeps us, and it couldn’t be more dizzying if we’d had a White Star Line stub pressed in our clammy mitts.
So has Titanic aged into a masterpiece? Probably not. The supporting characters are a thin soup, with Ruth DeWitt Bukater (Frances Fisher) delivering Edith Wharton dilemmas with Evil Edna subtlety and a caddish Billy Zane convincingly out-acted by his own eyebrows. Still, with DiCaprio and Winslet’s lovers offering a Selznick swoon and the great ship’s final hours a cinematic tour de force, the mighty vessel retains the power to stagger and thrill.
With a 3D conversion from the mediums pioneer-in-chief, Titanic is a big-screen romance thats every bit as epic as you remember.