This 3D Blu-ray edition of the James Cameron mega-hit isn't exactly the king of the world, but it's pretty damned close....
Paramount / 194 Minutes / 1997 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: September 10, 2012
Hard as it may be to believe in hindsight, but there was once a time when Titanic was pegged as one of the greatest boondoggles in cinematic history. With a budget spiraling upwards of $200 million, rumors of a megalomaniacal director abusing his cast and crew, and a last-minute postponement of its release date, the Titanic production was on the verge of sinking just as fast as the ship itself. But if I need to tell you how it eventually turned out, you've obviously been in a coma for the last decade or two. Welcome back.
Harking back to the classical moviemaking style of yesteryear, Titanic was a film many claimed "they just don't make anymore". Unabashedly old-fashioned, free from irony, and full of grand Hollywood spectacle, the film captured the hearts of moviegoers worldwide. Whether you love the film or hate it, you have to give Cameron credit for a remarkable achievement. Titanic touched people profoundly and transcended cultural boundaries.
There is little to be gained by discussing the overall plot of the film. As arguably the most seen film of the modern age, do I really need to comment on the specific storylines of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), the budding artist from steerage, and Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), the woman trapped by an unwelcome engagement forced by her mother to restore their family’s fortune? And I also suspect that just about everyone knows the historical story of the Titanic, the ill-fated, unsinkable luxury liner that put an end to the arrogance of the industrial age; it ranks as one of the most famous catastrophes in history. There have certainly been many retellings of the Titanic story, countless documentaries, and investigative reports. Most have something of value to offer, and probably the best-known cinematic version prior to Titanic was the classic A Night To Remember. However, Cameron most skillfully invests the audience emotionally with a story of two appealing people from very different societal strata. Titanic manages to touch us as no other film has touched us before or since. A skillful blend of classic cinematic storytelling, modern technology, and special effects magic, Cameron scrupulously avoids a cynical ‘90s tone.
Regardless of what you may think of the film, writer, director, editor, and producer James Cameron certainly mounted an impressive visual spectacle. There was some controversy when the film was not nominated for an Academy Awards in the Best Original Screenplay category (although it did snag Best Picture and Best Director and nine other Oscars), perhaps due to the most oft-criticized aspect of the film: weak dialogue. There was much obvious effort expended realizing the ship, props, sets, costumes, and a remarkable level of minutia to make the viewing experience as authentic to the period as possible, but the dialogue sometimes sounds awfully modern and out of place in the milieu. To be fair, Cameron has been quoted as saying he intentionally wrote the dialogue to be more universal to broaden the appeal.
So, what did I think? Well, I'll admit it; I fell for it. I thought Cameron mounted an impressive and largely successful voyage that was epic in scope and ambition. Sure, an effect here and there looks a bit digital, and there is some hokey dialogue. But ultimately, the film is very touching. It would take a very hard heart indeed not to become emotionally involved. And as I watched this film again after an absence of over six years, I found that divorced from the hype and publicity of the time, not only does the film stand up very well, but I found it more involving than during my initial viewing.
And now the thing is in 3D, and presented in high-def. Does it deliver?