Titanic 3D Floats

Last night, I saw Titanic in its new 3D release at an AMC ETX (Enhanced Theater eXperience) venue. Using two projectors and RealD passive glasses, the image was brighter than single-projector RealD and way brighter than Arclight's Xpand active-glasses system. So how was the 3D conversion?

Much better than I expected. Unlike the dreadful 3D conversion of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menacewhich I wrote about hereTitanic's 3D is much more pronounced and generally quite effective. Of course, leave it to James Cameron, the movie's writer/director and a 3D maven, to do it right, undoubtedly at great expense. The main subjects of each shot are primarily in the screen plane, and most of the depth is "behind" the screen. Items intended to be in front of the screen are mostly at the far sides and often out of focus, increasing the sense that they are closer to you without being in your face.

That isn't to say the 3D is perfect. Many shots have that "cardboard cutout" appearance with only two or three distinct layers, which makes the actors look like they're in front of a flat set. Also, most long shots of the ship and deck are not stereoscopic—there's no divergence in the image if you look without the glasses. This is a bit odd, but I suppose these shots were deemed to have enough "depth" in and of themselves—either that, or such shots are too difficult to convert well.

Still, I found the whole experience to be surprisingly enjoyable, especially since I wasn't really looking forward to it all that much. Aside from the historical tale of British industrial hubris, I've always thought the fictional love story lacks any real depth. Everything about it is so two-dimensional (pardon the pun), including the characters, the rigid class divisions—which resonate more today than they did when the movie was first made in 1997—and the inevitable tragic ending.

Yet I found myself responding more emotionally than I thought I would—hate for Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), the rich jerk to whom Rose (Kate Winslet) is forcibly engaged; hope for the star-crossed lovers, Rose and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio); and anxiety for all 2200 souls trying to escape the doomed metal leviathan as the icy water slowly engulfs it. Whether or not you think Titanic is a great movie, it is certainly great moviemaking.

Is it better in 3D than in 2D? I wouldn't say so, but neither would I say that the 3D conversion detracts from it. It's simply a different experience. If you're not fond of 3D in general, don't go. But if, like me, you enjoy well-done 3D, the new release of Titanic is worth the price of admission. Just be sure to visit the restroom before you sit down for over three hours!

HDMan72's picture

Went a few days ago to my IMAX theater and it was a great presentation. The soundtrack sounded better than ever and the 3D conversion was great. Really looking forward to the Blu-ray 3D in September!

Jarod's picture

My wife and I saw it at The Warren IMAX 3D in Moore, OK and it was fantastic on there 6 story tall 90 foot wide screen. The conversion was incredible. Much better than I expected. I may or may not have teared up once or twice lol. Gunna be picking this one up on Blu-ray 3D once its out.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
I live near Straus Park in Manhattan, a tiny triangular sliver of green at Broadway and West 106th Street. There was quite a turnout for the April 15 memorial event for Ida and Isidor Straus, who went down with the Titanic and are commemorated by the park itself as well as yearly ceremonies there. Isidor helped turn Macy's into the retail landmark it remains today. I wonder what the Strauses would have thought seeing their story onscreen -- especially in 3D!
Rob Sabin's picture
I saw this while on vacation in Florida the day after it opened, and unfortunately, wasn't within even a hundred miles of an Imax theater and so had to watch in plain old RealD. But I was blown away by how well both the story and the execution held up some 15 years after the film's release. It's just a great movie in any format, and the special effects and recreations don't look the slightest bit dated by today's standards. Perhaps today it would have all been shot on green screen with CGI instead of on the Titanic reproduction Cameron built in Baja, but the original remains thoroughly you-are-there convincing and natural. I was impressed but not surprised (given Avatar) by the tastefulness with which the 3D was applied. It was never used as a gimmick and NEVER once called attention to itself in any way that would pull you out of the story. It simply enhanced the experience and drew you more into the image by adding sublte, realistic depth. I forgot I was watching 3D. And that's good. It was there in service of the story.