Producer Jon Landau stood about five feet from me with writer/director Jim Cameron at Paramount this morning to show 18 minutes of footage from the newly revamped 3-D Titanic. When they’re standing that close to you they can say a whole lot of things but you’re going to hear nothing but the pounding throb in your head: I’m five feet away from Jim Cameron and it’s freaking me out. Cameron was there to explain the process — in that detailed way only he can — of turning his and our beloved Titanic into a 3-D experience.
But the chitter chatter was mostly unnecessary, as the footage really speaks for itself, the detail and meticulous attention to every object on the frame speaks for itself. As Cameron finished talking about how many millions it took to heighten this already visually stunning film into 3-D, the lights dimmed. Immediately, from the first frame the movie looks the same, only different – it’s everything it always was only more of it – it’s kind of like being drugs (not that I would know) and revisiting familiar tastes and places – it’s all heightened – the colors, the sharpness, the shapes. It is one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen.
Titanic was also quite something in the Oscar race, deservedly taking almost every tech award it was up for. Kris Tapley goes through Titanic and Oscar over at Hitfix. Check it out.
I have a love/hate relationship with Titanic. I think it is at once one of the best and one of the worst movies ever made. It’s inexplicable how it can be both. Watching this footage, though, it struck me how good it really is. As more time goes on, the bad dialogue in some scenes just doesn’t seem to matter anymore because of what this movie ultimately is.
Like any master of great foreplay, Cameron teased us with this footage, showing us some scenes but of course reserving the money shot for when the film is released — April 2012 in IMAX 3-D. For me, the film really takes off once the ship hits the iceberg. And from then on, I bow down to Cameron as the god of cinema that he is. What a movie from then on.
I still cringe when I see the famous paintings (which are hanging in museums) floating by and I still sort of cringe when a line comes out of Kate Winslet’s mouth but with the 3-D heightening every tiny gesture, every dangling bead, every strand of hair and moistening of lips there couldn’t be anything less relevant than the dialogue.
I suspect this is why Avatar is such a miracle on screen with 3-D but just doesn’t work at all on TV or in 2-D. The 3-D is so dazzling, so unbelievable you can’t do anything but stare slack-jawed at what you’re seeing on screen.
After the 18 minutes of a few choice scenes, nowhere near enough, Cameron and Landau came back out to talk about the footage and answers questions. There weren’t many questions anyone was confident enough to ask. My first question Cameron answered without being asked — he said he “doesn’t have the revisionist gene.” I’d wondered if he felt compelled to tinker with the movie – to alter some scenes. He said no, that it is the film he made. They didn’t change anything.
The other thing I wanted to know was whether working in 3-D made you lazier as a director, less willing to use your resourcefulness and imagination to create great shots. Had his thinking changed significantly between Titanic and Avatar, for instance. But I never got up the nerve to ask.
Either way, I couldn’t be more excited about seeing Titanic on the big screening next April. Cameron seems able to really bring it when it comes to the magic of cinema like no other. Hopefully people will get the message and pony up the dough to see this film. There are times when paying for a movie ticket is nothing compared to what you get in return. The original Titanic was one of those. So was Avatar. There is no question that the 3-D Titanic will also be an experience worth the price of admission.