Titanic 3D – Is It Worth It?

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sole voyage, James Cameron and some clever visual effects people found a way to convert a 2D movie into 3D. Normally, I’m not a big fan of 3D, seeing it as a gimmick that often distracts me from the movie rather than enhancing it. The story is key to any movie, so I’d rather not sit there marveling at the technology rather than being lost in what’s happening to the characters.

Much to the chagrin of my friend James, whose valid objections are duly noted, I love Titanic. It’s probably the most moving film I’ve ever seen. (at age 33, married, and a father of two boys, I feel little need to prove to anyone how masculine I am, so Mark Driscoll can kiss my butt)

About a year ago, I discussed some of the emotional aspects of the film and whether it was unfairly manipulatively. But since I hadn’t seen it in maybe a decade, I decided to see it one more time on the big screen, this time through those weird 3D glasses. It was a different experience this time for two main reasons.

3D Update

As in the excellent Avatar, Cameron and his visual effect team struck the right balance in using the 3D effect appropriately, letting it enhance the film without becoming the focus. The ship itself received most of the 3D enhancement. The opening exploration sequence with the deep-water submersibles and cameras played much better in 3D, making it feel like you were there in the rusty, dark wreckage trying to find Rose’s room and trying not to bump into the 85-year-old hull. The 1912 sequences of the ship before it sank gave a greater sense of its size and grandeur with the addition of 3D, and the actual sinking became that much more horrifying. Thanks to several 3D previews and Cameron’s restraint with the effect, I soon forgot that I was watching a 3D movie and simply dissolved into it. Don’t ask me how they made it 3D when it wasn’t shot that way, but it works quite well. For the record, as one commentator wondered about, Kate Winslet’s prominently featured left breast is not 3D. Sorry.

Overall, although I rarely pay the extra $3 to see a 3D movie, I didn’t regret it here.

A Different Perspective

The other interesting aspect of this viewing, over 14 years and several life changes later, was how my perspective on certain elements changed. Different parts moved me more than they did as a 19-year-old. I was familiar with love back then, but had little experience in some other areas. For example:

  • One of the most painful scenes for me this time showed a father telling his wife and children goodbye as they climbed aboard a lifeboat. “It’s OK, this boat is just for the mommies and children. There’s another boat later for the daddies.” I can hardly imagine how it would feel to lie to my boys and let go of them as my last act as their father, knowing I would almost certainly die and hoping that they would somehow survive, albeit without their daddy.
  • I have a new appreciation for the nobility of having a profession and doing it honorably in the midst of chaos and despair. The string quartet that played on deck almost until the very end…the servant who stood beside his boss near the Grand Staircase while he sipped his final glass of brandy…the lifeboat captain who chose to return to the wreckage and look for survivors…all these people inspire me in my own work. Each person had a role, some more glamorous than others but all important, and each played his role well. I am reminded of my own office during tornado warnings like we had on Tuesday. I was home with my family, but dozens of my coworkers were on the job when the sirens went off and the building managers ordered everyone in headquarters to retreat to designated safe areas. The airline can run for a while without accountants, programmers, HR people, and other support groups, but Dispatch is the nerve center for the airline. We stay right in our seats in case our flights need anything. No, it doesn’t put my mother at ease, but there is honor in doing something well even when you’re tempted to bail out.
  • On a related note, I could sympathize more this time with the captain who buckles under his feelings of guilt and remorse in light of the tragedy unfolding around him. Thank God I’ve never been involved in an aircraft accident while on duty, but it’s a possibility every time I go to work. If one of my flights ever did have an accident, and I were in any way responsible (maybe I failed to pass on some information to the crew, or I convinced them to act in a certain way that was unwise), I would probably feel the same soul-crushing numbness that the Titanic captain felt.
  • This film was released in December 1997. About 3 1/2 years later, a few months after I graduated from college, four planes were hijacked in the northeast. Two hit the World Trade Center in New York, one hit the Pentagon, and one was brought down by the passengers in a field in Pennsylvania. I remember watching the footage in a training room at work with a coworker, our jaws hanging open, unable and unwilling to speak, overcome by shock and horror and emptiness. I saw that same vacant look in Ruth Bukater (Rose’s mom) and Molly Brown as they floated in the lifeboat a few hundred yards away, watching their boat break apart and their fellow passengers drown in the icy water.

So even though I’ve now seen the film at least six times, enjoying it in 3D and with a few more years under my belt made it worth three more hours of my time. Entertainment Weekly posted an interesting review of the 3D version, how great both are, and the added relevance certain elements of the film still have in light of recent events such as the Occupy movement and 9/11.