Are you ready to go back to Titanic — in three dimensions? A very trim-looking James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau presented eight scenes from the newly dimensionalized second-highest-grossing-movie-of-all-time to a gaggle of press and industry types this morning in Los Angeles. The sneak peak was in anticipation of the re-release of Titanic on April 6, 2012, roughly 15 years after its debut in theaters and almost exactly 100 years after the doomed ship launched on its maiden, and final, voyage. (The ship ultimately sank on April 15, 1912.) “There’s a whole generation who haven’t seen [Titanic] in theaters at all,” Cameron pointed out while extolling the virtues of the theatrical experience. Noting he would have shot the film in 3-D natively if he’d had the chance, Cameron admitted that he’s “kind of very much against [3-D] conversion for films that have a choice.” But after 60 weeks and $18 million, he says he feels confident that Titanic is as close to 3-D perfect as possible. “It’s 2.99-D,” he said with a wry grin. That said, Titanic will also be re-released in regular 2-D theaters, as well as in IMAX (in both 3-D and 2-D), which will enjoy some added picture since Cameron shot the film in “Super 35,” which allows for more image above and below a normal widescreen frame.
But what you really want to know is: How did the film look in 3-D?
Pretty darn good. The first scene we saw was also, in hindsight, the most overtly three-dimensional: Rose’s arrival at the RMS Titanic as it’s being loaded up with steamer trunks, crates, and shiny new cars, all thrusting their way into and out of the frame. That iconic shot where the camera sweeps down from above Rose’s swooping hat almost made me laugh out loud at how odd it felt seeing this moment as if I was myself slowly dropping down over Kate Winslet. Another clip, with Rose and Jack dancing in the steerage section, also had a nice sense of bustle and space, and didn’t feel like it was a bunch of cardboard cutouts skittering about each other.
Yes, we also saw the iconic moment between Jack and Rose on the bow, and yes, almost in spite of myself, I felt a twinge of that sweeping romance that first hit me when I saw the movie on opening night. I have no idea if being able to fully appreciate the size of the ship behind them added to that feeling or not, and Cameron himself even admitted that it’s difficult to parse just what kind of affect 3-D has on an emotional experience.
That said, out of all the clips he screened — the panic as the ship closed in on the iceberg; the band playing mournfully on the deck as the passengers panicked to escape the rising ocean; the ship sinking vertically into the Atlantic — the longest and most effective was the sequence in which Rose struggled to free Jack from his handcuffs at the bottom of the ship. As she raced through the ship’s empty bowels, water rising with every passing second, the 3-D really did give me a greater feeling of how alone she is in those long and deserted hallways. Watching the water lap against the frame, always threatening to spill into the theater, certainly helped add to the sense of anxiety, too.
After the screening was over, Cameron couldn’t resist one final Cameron-esque jibe. After Landau noted that they were making zero changes to the film itself, Cameron added, “I don’t have that revisionist gene.” Snap.
So, are you intrigued, dear readers? Do you think Titanic in 3-D will be a smashing success, or a waterlogged disappointment?
Adam on Twitter @adambvary