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Movies Review

'Titanic' review: James Cameron revisits his blockbuster epic in 3D

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Released on Friday, Apr 6 2012


Titanic's astronomical budget, notoriously troubled production and non-marquee young leads made it a risky Hollywood endeavour for James Cameron back in 1997. 15 years later, and the film is the second highest grossing movie of all time (eclipsed only by Avatar), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are superstars and Cameron is the Oscar-winning, self-crowned "king of the world". Titanic's status as a movie phenomenon is pretty much undisputed.

With the 100-year anniversary of the maiden voyage approaching, Cameron has given his romantic opus a digital restoration and 3D makeover to hand Jack and Rose's doomed affair a second run on the big screen. It's as solid a post-conversion as you'd expect from a 3D evangelist like Cameron, but the most striking thing about it all is how well it stands up after all this time.

It's easy to be cynical and dismiss Titanic as schmaltzy nonsense, but there's no denying that it's movie-making with a capital 'M', a sweeping cinematic experience that needs to be seen on the big screen. All those years of TV repeats don't do it justice, it's simply too big to be contained in a household living room. This is epic in every sense of the word.

'Titanic' still
The 194-minute running time flies by as Cameron transports the viewer back to 1912 in a stunning recreation of the eponymous vessel's Atlantic crossing. In truth, Titanic is three different movies rolled into one. There's the underwater treasure hunt with Bill Paxton's Brock Lovett, the love story between Jack and Rose and the huge-scale disaster movie that kicks into gear as soon as the iceberg hits.

Cameron may occasionally have a tin-ear for the gooey romantic dialogue, but he's a master technician when it comes to spectacle and narrative momentum. Titanic builds to a devastating emotional crescendo that's made all the more effective by the chemistry between Winslet and DiCaprio. The latter, all fresh-faced and full of spirit, is a world away from the intense and super-serious screen presence he is now. Wouldn't it be great to see that smiling Leo make a comeback?

You forget about certain things, too, like Kathy Bates's memorable turn as "unsinkable" Molly Brown, Billy Zane's sneering "unimaginable b**tard" Cal Hockley and Jack having a pal called Fabrizio (complete with comical Super Mario accent).

Titanic is a dense, detailed film, from the lavish sets to the expansive cast of characters, most of whom are pushed to reveal their true selves - through courage or cowardice - as they face certain death. Some, like shipbuilder Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber) and Captain Smith (Bernard Hill), stay dignified to the end. Cameron's films tend to find out the most about their characters by pushing them to extremes. Titanic is no exception.

The 3D may not be earth-shattering, but the digital touch-up means each frame is pristine. It's certainly a jaw-dropping big screen experience, even though the outcome is never in doubt. Just make sure you bolt for the door once Celine Dion's caterwauling kicks in.

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