Thursday, 29 March 2012
FILM REVIEW: TITANIC 3D
20th Century Fox Films
"Are you ready to go back to Titanic?" Hells yeah! Some 15 years after its original release, and in time for the 100th anniversary of the cruise liner's infamous maiden voyage sinking, James Cameron's Titanic returns this month to cinemas -- in 3D.
And while the 3D is unnecessary -- it doesn't muddy the colour palette but it adds nothing to the viewing experience -- it's great to see the film back on the big screen where it belongs; as much an old style Hollywood spectacle as it is a classic romance.
Everything that was great about Titanic -- Kate Winslet's performance, the second half of the film, beginning with the iceberg and culminating in the ship's sinking -- remain so. And those elements that were troublesome the first time around are there too.
Namely the screenplay, which has always been the film's own iceberg, preventing Titanic from achieving true greatness. Cameron would have been wise to have someone else pen his screenplay (or at least doctor it, uncredited), for as Rolling Stone's Peter Travers remarked in his 1997 review, the director has "a poet's eye for visuals and a tin ear for dialgoue".
But enough of the bad, let's celebrate the positive i.e. Kate Winslet. Having already broken out in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (1994), and securing her first Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actress) the following year in Ang Lee's Sense And Sensibility, Titanic presented Winslet with her first Hollywood leading role. And she shines.
Winslet has gone on to give far greater performances than this, but in the role of Rose DeWitt Bukater, the young woman engaged to be married to a rich but soulless man (Billy Zane), and who finds love with the poor but passionate Jack Dawson (Leonardo Dicaprio, looking younger than ever), she has never been more luminous.
She spends the second half of the film wet and bedraggled, yet Winslet is undeniably beautiful; whether her face is brightened by a distress flare or flushed with, what I believe to be genuine fear, when attempting to outrun a flood of water below decks. She is also refreshingly full figured.
Rose is also tough. She may be a lady but she a has resolve of steel. Full credit to James Cameron, who may not be a wordsmith but knows how to write strong females.
Cameron is also a perfectionist, and he went to great lengths to ensure the look of Titanic was authentic; the production design, the costumes, even the fine china seen in the film was produced by the same company which originally created the dinnerware for RMS Titanic.
Of course, the director comes into his own with the sinking of the ship. Visual effects and CGI have come a long way since 1997, but the vision of the great ocean liner as it cracks, up-ends and finally descends below the icy Atlantic remains an impressive spectacle. The ocean alive with passengers, flailing and screaming -- a literal sea of humanity -- is also quite affecting.
Titanic won 11 Academy Awards including Best Director for Cameron, and Best Picture (Winslet was nominated for Best Actress, and Gloria Stuart, who plays the elderly Rose, for Supporting Actress). Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential probably should have won Best Picture, but the Academy voters were understandably smitten with this throwback to epic, romantic old Hollywood.
Audiences certainly were. Until Cameron's Avatar (2009), Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time, and I'd imagine a great many of those people who saw it in 1997 will, like me, be eager to revisit it, 2D or not.
Note: Until November 2012, the Australian Maritime Museum, in partnership with 20th Century Fox, is hosting an exhibition, Remembering Titanic - 100 Years.