Screen Rant's Ben Kendrick reviews Titanic 3D
Following the success of Avatar, James Cameron became the poster child for modern 3D in Hollywood - setting the gold standard for how filmmakers could approach the format artistically (i.e., subtle depth as opposed to gimmicky pop-out effects). As a result, more and more directors are coming around to the 3D format, and delivering their own enjoyable implementations of the effect (such as in Martin Scorsese's Hugo).
However, while Cameron may have opened the eyes of directors and producers - not just money hungry studios - to the benefits of shooting in 3D, many moviegoers are still skeptical of films that are presented with post-converted 3D. Non-native 3D offerings are a mixed bag with unnecessary (My Soul to Take) or flat-out ugly (Clash of the Titans) conversions, not to mention underwhelming applications of the format to re-releases (Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace). Can Cameron once again set the bar - this time for post-conversion - with Titanic 3D?
NOTE: As with previous 3D rerelease reviews, we'll be focusing on whether or not Titanic 3D is worth the price of admission, instead of revisiting prior criticisms that have been routinely brought-up over the fifteen years since the Titanic's original release (the lengthy run-time (3 hours and 15 minutes) and an (at times) overly melodramatic romance, etc). While moviegoers no doubt responded to some of the film's characters and plights, Titanic relied heavily on spectacle. But is that spectacle even better in 3D?
Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes. However, before addressing the 3D, it's worth mentioning that Cameron and his team not only retrofitted the film for three-dimensional visuals, they also polished up the footage pre-conversion. As a result, Titanic 3D offers a noticeably sharp picture (at least compared to other re-releases from the late 90's) and could, aside from a few shots where the CGI looks slightly dated, stand toe-to-toe with modern digital films.
Unlike Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace 3D, which really played-up the "experience it in 3D" angle, the Titanic 3D marketing has been a bit more subtle (i.e. revisit Titanic - now enhanced with 3D) which fits with Cameron's approach to the format, in general. Despite mostly solid performances from the leading and supporting players alike, some audience members (now older in age) may find some character moments to be a bit more stilted and hammy than they might have remembered. Overall, though, the film still delivers a beautiful and at times chilling theatrical experience. Fans, as well as moviegoers who never had the chance to catch Titanic on the big screen, are likely to be pleased with the results even if it was offered in 2D, since the movie still presents well-rounded theater entertainment. That said, Titanic is only getting a 3D rerelease with no official 2D showings - which means that if you want to see the film, you'll have to be ready to splurge on the upgraded ticket price. Fortunately, Titanic is worth the price of that 3D admission, as it employs the same subtle "style" of presentation as Avatar.
At first, audiences may be underwhelmed by the 3D - as the scenes on Brock Lovett's treasure-hunting ship, as well as those on the seafloor, are surprisingly flat. However, as soon as Rose takes the audience "back to Titanic," it becomes immediately clear why Cameron chose to present this particular film as an example of post-3D conversion done right. The Southampton Port scene is filled with eye-popping (not eye-hurting) 3D visuals that successfully add to the frantic energy and anticipation of the moment - from the massive crowd vibrating with excitement to the loading of a Renault motorcar. Like Cameron's prior 3D efforts, the effect is extremely subtle - and, as a result, very natural and immersive. Even in the non-action scenes, where the camera might merely pan around a dinner table, the extravagant sets, costumes, and depth of field make even the most familiar moments fresh and captivating.
Calm 3D shots of passengers strolling on the deck or engineers monitoring the enormous cylinders in the engine room offer plenty of immersive visuals; however, unsurprisingly, the effects really take hold in Titanic's latter half - as the character drama shifts into an epic disaster film. As mentioned the effect is subtle, but plenty of scenes are enhanced by Cameron's 3D choices, dialing up the tension or, at the very least, outright visual spectacle in a number of memorable moments - such as Captain Edward John Smith's window view on the sunken bridge, the flooding of E Deck, or the lifting (and subsequent sinking) of the stern - not to mention the frozen ocean graveyard.
The success of the post-conversion rests heavily on Cameron's pre-commercial 3D skills as a visual filmmaker, which were readily on display in Titanic. This includes his attention to detail (painstakingly recreating the ornate particulars of Titanic and her passengers) as well as utilization of the full depth of field (both inside and outside of the ship's hull). Very few of the film's shots are ever uninteresting, as there's nearly always something in the background worth having in the frame (whether it's the static but elaborate details of Hockley's stateroom or living breathing Irish immigrants dancing at the third-class party). As a result, anyone hoping for the kind of eye-popping visuals featured in Michael Bay's shot-in-3D action spectacle Transformers: Dark of the Moon might be a bit underwhelmed, as the effect is rarely "in your face." However, in this case, that's actually a relief - since Cameron wasn't as interested in outright wowing audiences with crazy visuals as he was in immersing them with the stories of the RMS Titanic.
Titanic 3D is easily the best example of post-conversion 3D to date. It might lack some of the creative synergy that could have been explored had the film actually been shot with 3D in mind (15 years ago) and it's likely that some viewers, looking for non-stop 3D eye candy, could be underwhelmed by the film's subtle effect. However, with plenty already going for it and a fresh polish from the pre-3D remastering, the post-conversion in Titanic 3D successfully enhances an already sharp big screen experience.
If you’re still on the fence about Titanic 3D, check out the trailer below:
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below.
Titanic 3D is rated PG-13 for disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language. Now playing in 3D theaters.