Fifteen years after Titanic sailed into the hearts of moviegoers, love for James Cameron's epic film about the ill-fated ship endures, but as old Rose says of the reflection that stares back at her through a long-buried hand mirror, that love has "changed a bit."
For starters, post-Recession viewers are a bit more cost-conscious than they were in 1997-8 and far less likely to flock to the theater two, three or eight times just for the heck of it. It will interest ticket price watchdogs to know that the 3D upgrade is worthwhile, but the best use of this added visual impact arrives about the same time as that damn iceberg — two thirds of the way through. Not long afterwards (as you'll remember), all Hell breaks loose, as 2200+ passengers and crewmen gape at the murderously icy waters of the North Atlantic. Sheer carnage and seemingly endless human misery never looked so good — or so close!
But is it still unnervingly depressing? Dear God, yes! Even before civilized society goes out the window and so many seemingly dignified people drown (or freeze, or are electrocuted, as the case may be), Titanic takes us back to a time when the poor were so poor and the rich so rich that they all but thought of each other as different species. Unbeknownst to them, members of the ruling class who propagated Social Darwinist theories and dog-eat-dog economics were superintending a system that made their own white-collar-clad necks dependent on the very souls they felt entitled to crush, and at the end of the day everyone goes down on that ship. Right, 99 percent?
Titanic also reminds us, quite painfully, of a time when we could be a little more forgiving of over-engineered plot devices meant to draw out our tears. Some elements of the film will consequently seem heavily dated, the first being the "present day" scenes that bookend the flashback to the ship's voyage. These scenes, starring Gloria Stuart and Bill Paxton, were never Titanic's strongest, but were they always so infuriatingly pointless? I challenge anyone to defend the "heart of the ocean" necklace as anything more than an emblem of Cameron's own vanity and lasciviousness, as it serves mainly to (a) provide an excuse to use the real underwater footage he so desperately coveted and (b) get Kate Winslet to take her clothes off.
But, as has always been true, we love Titanic for its flaws as well as for the thrills and pangs it gives us. Revisiting it as a whole, cinematic event — with just a bit more oomph in its propellers — is like being stuck for three hours in an elevator with an old flame. We are reminded of what we loved, but also of why we moved on.
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
"I'm really into the Avett Brothers as of late."
"My girlfriends are I - we are very nerdy. We started a book club and the first book we read was Gone Girl."
"I thought it was a great film and I thought Jennifer Lawrence was incredible, you know those angry tears, I've certainly experienced that."
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