‘Titanic’ dazzles on screen again in 3-D transformation

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‘Titanic’ dazzles on screen again in 3-D transformation

If any film should be redone in 3-D, it’s “Titanic.” And if any filmmaker should be the one doing the redoing, it’s James Cameron. He has been a pioneer in advancing this cinematic technology for years now, from his underwater documentaries to the record-breaking juggernaut that is “Avatar.” So ironically, for a film that hasn’t got an ounce of understatement in its three-hour-plus running time, “Titanic” in 3-D is really rather subtle and finely tuned. There’s nothing gimmicky about the conversion process; it’s immersive and actually enhances the viewing experience the way a third dimension ideally should.

It’s also gorgeous: crisp and tactile, warm and inviting - until all hell breaks loose, that is. So often when 2-D films are transformed into 3-D, they’re done so hastily with results that are murky and inaccessible. Cameron clearly took his time here - 60 weeks to be exact, with a team of 300 people working on a frame-by-frame reconstruction to add the illusion of depth. So while the romantic first half of the film remains more emotionally compelling, the disastrous second half has become even more visually dazzling.

If you’re going to devote an afternoon to “Titanic’’ again, you want to feel as if you’re on that boat when it snaps in half. And you will.

No, Cameron didn’t rewrite the ending, or history. The maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic still goes down after a fateful collision with an iceberg. As writer and director, Cameron has stayed true to the content of his 1997 film, the winner of 11 Oscars including best picture - and that includes his clunky script filled with hokey dialogue and broad characters. No amount of 3-D wizardry can make Billy Zane’s villainous millionaire leap off the screen and seem like a fully fleshed-out human being, but his mustache-twirling machinations are still amusing.

What also remains intact is the earnestness of “Titanic,” the absence of snark or irony, and the sensation that you’re watching a big, ambitious, good old-fashioned spectacle that can withstand the test of time.

Let’s recap the plot really quickly: Paxton’s character and his crew are exploring the underwater remains of the shipwrecked Titanic, looking for the rare, priceless Heart of the Ocean pendant. Its original owner, Rose (Gloria Stuart), who’s now about 100 years old, comes forward to say it belonged to her and share her story of survival.

Flashback to April 1912 and the launch of the world’s biggest and most expensive cruise ship, one that’s supposedly unsinkable. Young, well-bred Rose (Kate Winslet) is on board with her smarmy, controlling fiance Cal (Zane) and her condescending, old-money mother (Frances Fisher). But so is the poor but resourceful artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has made his way onto the ship with a winning poker hand. Rose is more free-thinking than she looks, Jack is more charismatic than he looks, and in no time he’s sketching her naked and they’re doing it in the back seat of a car in the cargo hold.

Anyway, you know the story by now, but the 3-D actually makes it seem new in some ways. The costumes look more refined, the sense of vertigo feels more severe, the rushing water feels more immediate. And it’s just fun to see once more the buxom, feisty Winslet and the boyish, charming DiCaprio in the roles that made them superstars on the big screen. AP
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