I was off-island when Titanic fever hit in early 1998 but on the mainland, I felt it as much as you’d feel an iceberg slap into an ocean liner. When you speak of James Cameron’s Titanic, it’s inevitable that you discuss the phenomenon surrounding the film as much as the movie itself, which opened during the Christmas of 1997 movie season, was the number one movie in America until April 1998, spawned a hit soundtrack and Celine Dion single that wouldn’t go away, swept the Academy Awards and became one of the most popular films of all time.
There were reports of Leonardo Cry Parties in Japan, where girls would have slumber parties, bring all their Jack Dawson/Leonardo DiCaprio paraphernalia, sit in a circle and, well, cry. I knew a girl who plastered her wall with every DiCaprio movie poster she could get her hands on and I had a male friend who would see Titanic once a week. Then there was this girl I really liked who wanted to go to the Molly Brown Museum in Denver, which was a quiet, quaint little historical home dedicated to the life of the ship’s most famous survivor. After the movie opened, this once-dead tourist trap became a lines-around-the-block ordeal and do you want to guess what song they had blaring in the gift shop?
Fifteen years later, the film is back in theaters, with Cameron’s upgrade of 3D. Personally, I wish he would modify Aliens and The Abyss, his true masterpieces, into 3D and re-release them and not this one but oh well. How does the film hold up? It has the same problems and assets. It still looks like a million bucks (or, $175 million, to be exact), moves briskly for a three hour film and has a third act full of powerful and sometimes genuinely touching imagery. No question, the recreation of the ship and the spectacle of it sinking are still remarkable. Kate Winslet’s hard-working performance is still gripping, even when her dialog sinks faster than the Titanic.
Mr. DiCaprio, who has since become one of our most reliably great, intense modern actors, still looks too young for Winslet and for the lead. In a dinner party scene, his slicked back hair makes him look like a kid going to his first and last prom. The modern day sequences, with Gloria Stewart playing the survivor and Bill Paxton her audience, are interesting but silly and so is the love story in general. In the space of a few hours, we’re supposed to believe Winslet’s Rose would fall for DiCaprio’s Dawson after he teaches her to hock a loogie, Irish step dance, ride the ship’s mast, pose nude and have a quickie in someone’s car. Then there’s Billy Zane’s hilariously awful, mustache-twirling villain, so dedicated to being nasty, he chases our love struck couple with a gun as the ship sinks.
The supporting cast includes Kathy Bates (in too small a role as Molly Brown) and, for some reason, Eric Braeden from The Young and the Restless but no question, Cameron’s the star. The film still looks great, the sadness of the lives lost comes across and the film may still leave one weepy enough to plan their next Leonardo Cry Party. Not me. Titanic works, but man alive, is it overrated!
Titanic in 3D
★ ★ ★
Rated PG13/732 Min.