Titanic was the biggest film of the 1990s. Now it’s being re-released in 3D. Why?by Meghan Daum / March 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
Director James Cameron at the helm
If nothing else, the reissue of Titanic, this time in 3D, offers a panoply of handy metaphors and analogies with which to place it into something resembling a meaningful cultural context. These would be, in descending order of obviousness:
The sinking ship is a metaphor for a troubled global economy.
The sharp class divisions aboard the ship, particularly the obscene luxury afforded by the uppermost tier, is a perfect distillation of the current “99 per cent versus 1 per cent” political movement.
Conversion from regular 2D to 3D (see also The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and others) is this era’s answer to colourisation of black-and-white films: expensive, debasing, and largely pointless.
Leonardo DiCaprio is fatter now; Kate Winslet is thinner. Discuss.
Are we done yet? Alas, probably not. When Titanic hits cinemas on 6th April, nearly 15 years after its original release and just a few days shy of the centenary of its namesake’s ill-fated departure from Southampton, it’s sure to leave equal amounts of excitement and derision in its wake. Both responses will be perfectly legit. On one hand, it’s inarguable that James Cameron’s 1997 epic is not merely a technical masterpiece but something of a miracle of craft. The boat was a $57m custom sound stage built almost to scale. The sets were nearly exact replicas of the staterooms and Titanic historians were employed to authenticate every aspect of the production design—down to pieces of furniture and dishware and even the carpeting, which was made by the same company that supplied the real Titanic’s carpet. On the other hand, the movie is bloated and sappy, a paint-by-numbers love story superimposed over a slicker, pricier, post-digital version of The Poseidon Adventure. For all his perfectionism, Cameron’s knack for dialogue doesn’t match his ability to simulate a 45,000 tonne ocean liner breaking in two and sucking thousands of meticulously costumed extras into the Atlantic. Ergo those oft-mocked clunkers like “you shine up like a new penny” and, of course, the film’s signature chestnut “I’m the king of the world!”
As it turns out, 3D doesn’t do much for Titanic. It cost Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox $18m to do the conversion, which is a mere shiny penny considering the film’s original budget exceeded $200m. Still, despite Titanic’s grand optics, there’s no getting around the fact that it was never intended for the…