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After Fifteen Years, “Titanic” is Still a Classic that Should be Seen on the Big Screen

April 9, 2012

By John C.

From the first part of the film where we get to know the characters aboard the “unsinkable” ship and that last half as the huge vessel starts its tragic descent towards the ocean floor, I’ve always found it impossible not to get swept up in the pure spectacle and emotion of James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic.  The first half allows us to fall for these characters, and the last act holds the audience in captivating and heartbreaking suspense even though we already know the ending of the story.

The Oscar-winning film was released in 3D theatres this past Wednesday, in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage being remembered this week.  From the excellent performances to the beautiful music by James Horner, the experience of seeing this breathtaking classic back on the big screen is one that should not be missed.  The expertly done 3D conversion adds an immersive sense of depth to the entire film.

The story of Titanic is centred around a romance that beautifully captures the differences in treatment between the passengers who had money and the ones relegated to the lower levels of the ship.  Rose (Kate Winslet) is set to marry the arrogant but wealthy Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) and is about to throw herself over the edge of the ship when she meets Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a travelling artist with little money to his name.  The two fall in love over the course of a passionate love affair and forever change each others lives, before tragedy ultimately tears them apart.  At 11:55 PM on April 14th, the Titanic struck an iceberg and at 2:40 AM the next day the ship that was said to be unsinkable was completely underwater.

The way that James Cameron shoots the riveting final sequence is nothing short of mesmerizing, capturing the personal heartbreak amidst the spectacularly produced tragedy.  The camera smoothly moves forward through the ship, as water comes up all around us with the acceptance of death flashing on the faces of the characters.  The way that the lights blink on and off as Jack and Rose struggle to get back up to the deck of the ship, as the painful truth becomes more and more clear that there simply aren’t enough life boats and everyone isn’t going to make it out alive.  We know the story and pretty much everyone going into the theatre has already seen the film at least once, but the power of the story and the seamlessness with which it is brought to life never fails to keep us on the edge of our seats.  The shots of the ship broken in half and sticking up straight out of the water are quite simply unforgettable.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing when it comes to the movies, and Titanic delivers on multiple fronts.  There is remembrance for one of the greatest tragedies of the early 20th century, and nostalgia for one of the biggest movies of all time.  With a blockbuster budget of $200 million and an extra $18 million added for the 3D conversion, every cent was poured into making this as authentic and captivating an experience as possible.  For twelve years, Titanic remained the highest grossing film of all time with over $1.9 billion, giving numerous moviegoers stories of seeing it multiple times during the original theatrical release.  The film went on to win eleven Oscars including Best Picture, which is a record that is also held by two other movies.  James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar finally dethroned Titanic from the top of the box office in 2009 with nearly $2.8 billion, a feat that has yet to be matched.

Besides the stunning visual effects of the film, I think the more personal reason why so many people keep revisiting Titanic is for the timeless story of two people who fall in love and change each other’s lives against the backdrop of tragedy.  “Titanic was called the ship of dreams,” the elderly Rose (Gloria Stuart) nostalgically tells us in the haunting prologue to the film.  “And it was.  It really was.”  After 100 years, the unforgettable story of the Titanic still has a profound affect on millions of people around the world, and fifteen years later James Cameron’s film is still a breathtaking and deeply moving classic that should be experienced on the big screen.

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