The ship sinks. Passengers die. Some survive. The bony French-Canadian lady sings “My Heart Will Go On.” Roll end credits. Done.
That is still not stopping Cameron and company from spending $18 million to covert “Titanic” into 3-D and re-releasing it into theaters this week. It pulls into port just in time for the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s unfortunate iceberg incident on April 15, 1912.
But will “Titanic” — which made a staggering $1.8 billion, yes, that’s spelled with a “b,” at the box office — resonate with audiences in 2012 as well as it did with Clinton era audiences?
Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street and Great Recession generation will read something more into the story of a plucky poor boy named Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) from steerage hooking up with a spunky society girl (Kate Winslet) and falling in love aboard a doomed ocean liner. It’s class war gussied up in fabulous costumes.
Or maybe a lot of macabre movie fans are just anxious to see those guys hit the rails and spin in 3-D as they plunge from the deck of the sinking ship?
During its initial run in theaters, the predominately young female audience for “Titanic” was swooning over DiCaprio, who was as girlish and pretty as a prom queen in those days. He had not yet perfected his perpetual expression of painful constipation. In other words, he was still a young actor and not an Important Major Movie Star. He also launched more copy-cat haircuts than Justin Bieber and Jennifer Aniston combined.
For a brief time there in 1997, DiCaprio really was “king of the world,” as Jack so famously bellowed from the bow of the big ship.
Back in the water
“Titanic,” which was shot in Mexico on a budget of around $210 million, was the most costly motion picture made in the 20th century. It also was done before computer-generated special effects totally revamped the way Hollywood does disaster movies. Those are real sets and that’s real water in “Titanic.”
Speaking of water, the temperature of the seas in the North Atlantic was between 28 and 30 degrees when the Titanic slammed into the iceberg. That means the average human being without a wet suit would be unconscious or totally exhausted in 15 minutes after coming into contact with the icy water. Death would follow after 30 or 45 minutes.
In the film, DiCaprio and Winslet’s characters spend more than an hour running around the flooded hallways and rooms of the Titanic as if they were enjoying a summer day at the Shipwreck Island water park in Panama City Beach. The hypothermia doesn’t hit them until they jump into the actual ocean. Maybe the water was being miraculously heated up before it flooded into the big boat?
And, let’s face it, there is far too much time wasted in “Titanic” with passengers running back and forth in freezing water. The movie clocks in at 194 minutes, which is three minutes shy of director David Lean’s masterpiece “Dr. Zhivago.” The patience-testing story is framed with bookends about modern-day treasure hunters trying to find a diamond in the sunken ship’s rusty remains. That just gives Cameron an excuse to take a submarine and camera to the bottom of the Atlantic to film the Titanic’s actual grave.
Picky, picky, picky
Because “Titanic” was such a mega-blockbuster and attracted repeated viewings, a cottage industry of spotting inconsistencies and anachronisms in the story quickly bobbed to the surface. Some of the nit-picking includes:
When Jack is shown running to the gangplank of the Titanic, he is carrying a Swedish Army rucksack from 1939.
Nearly everyone in the film smokes filtered cigarettes. Those kinds of coffin nails did not come along until World War II.
Jack talks about going ice fishing on Lake Wissota, near Chippewa Falls, Wis. Lake Wissota is a man-made reservoir that wasn’t built until 1917.
And so forth.
The most specific “Titanic” criticism, though, came from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the high-profile astrophysicist, chat-show guest and director of the Hayden Planetarium in Manhattan. Tyson became annoyed during the scene when Winslet’s character, Rose Dawson, is bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean and looks up into the night sky. The constellation of stars is totally wrong for that time of year in 1912.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Tyson “sent a letter to James Cameron. Five years later, he cornered Cameron at an event and lodged his complaint once more. A few years after that, he brought it up again at an intimate dinner party with Cameron. And now, ‘Titanic’ will be hitting theaters in 3-D, with no other alterations to the film except that now, Rose Dawson will be looking up at the same stars those doomed Titanic passengers saw that fateful night.”
The stars finally have aligned perfectly for “Titanic.”