In a lot of ways “Titanic” has aged beautifully since its 1997 release made it a cultural phenomenon. In other ways, it has not.
To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Titanic’s April 1912 disaster, James Cameron re-released the film last week in 3D, a process that cost $18 million, according to MSNBC.
The timing and the upgrade did not help the film dominate the competition. Not only did the re-release fail to unseat “The Hunger Games” from the top spot in the domestic box office, it also came in third behind “American Reunion” with $17.4 million for Easter weekend.
This could be because those films, unlike “Titanic,” offer something new that is not piggybacking on the anniversary of a tragedy. Despite this so-so reception, “Titanic” still has what it takes to thrill viewers.
A major strength of “Titanic” is that it does not feel outdated. I went in expecting a cheesy ‘90s film directed toward an audience from two decades ago. But, overall, “Titanic” looked and felt modern.
This is partly due to the enhancements added with the re-mastering of the film. But there is also a timeless quality to aspects of the storytelling.
The audience I watched the film with laughed at every joke from Leonardo DiCaprio’s real life Freudian slip (“Lay down on the bed – I mean couch”) to the dry comedic timing of Gloria Stuart’s Old Rose.
It is difficult to create something that makes people from different time periods laugh, so that is impressive.
What did not age well for me during the last 15 years was Jack and Rose’s star-crossed love story.
I was in elementary school when “Titanic” was first released. Back then, it didn’t seem odd that the protagonist fell in love with a stranger within the span of a couple days and decided she would not only plan a future with this man but also risk her life for him again and again and again.
Aside from the unrealistic pacing of the romance, they also shared some of the most idiotic dialogue pre-dating “Twilight.”
Exhibit A: “It doesn’t make any sense,” Rose said after announcing her plan to spend her life with a self-proclaimed drifter with no plans for the future beyond eventually riding a rollercoaster. “That’s why I trust it.”
Exhibit B: “How did you find out I didn’t do it?” Jack said.
“I didn’t,” Rose replied. “I just realized I already knew.”
Exhibit C: “Jack! This is where we first met,” Rose said as the ship sank into the ocean and their fellow passengers screamed and drowned around them.
The love story appealed more to the elementary and junior high school version of me than my 2012 self. But that makes sense. The crowd of teeny-boppers who adore Edward Cullen and his attempted-suicide inducing love for Bella Swan will still swoon over Jack and Rose.
Where the film truly excelled was in the disaster itself. “Titanic” is a much stronger thriller-disaster movie than a romance.
The way the ship’s inevitable doom is slowly built up to with quick, damning scenes here and there is just fantastic. When Titanic actually hits the iceberg, the rising water is used almost as a horror movie villain, creeping steadily across floors, rising higher along the walls and causing the ship to eerily groan under the pressure as Rose trudges through darkened hallways.
Bloody slasher films have trouble inducing that kind of tension.
Overall, “Titanic” is definitely worth another watch, particularly on the big screen.