Five key takeaways from watching the 4K 3D remastered re-release of Titanic, out now in cinemas
Over the weekend, I went to watch the Titanic 25th anniversary re-release with two delightful colleagues from Euronews.
The 1997 Oscar-winner is now out in cinemas in 4K 3D and has already grossed $22.3 million at the global box office, while Avatar: The Way of Water added an extra $25.8 million to its tally in its ninth weekend of release.
I was thrilled at the prospect of re-watching this epic on the big screen once more, and to my surprise, they’ve changed it completely.
In a twist no one saw coming, the unsinkable ship manages to dodge the iceberg, pass the Statue of Liberty on time, Rose DeWitt-Bukater does get off with Jack Dawson as she promised and that adorable older couple holding each other on the bed while the ship was flooding in the original cut make it out alive and go on to enjoy twilight years in peace.
A bold move on James Cameron’s part to tamper with the original cut so much, but what a joy to witness a happy ending for the ages.
I jest, of course.
Jack gets human-popsicled, the evil Cal survives and Rose goes on to tell her story to Bill Paxton and his Heart of the Ocean-hungry crew. And further tears were shed at what is arguably the saddest death in movie history when Isidor and Ida Straus (that sweet couple in bed) accept their fate and manage to sneak in one last spoon.
It’s no coincidence that this re-release comes in time for Valentine’s Day. Cameron is a numbers man and Titanic 3D has now buoyed the movie to $2.217 billion globally, meaning that it still stands as the Number 3 worldwide release of all time. The second Avatar has reached $2.213 billion and it will doubtlessly overtake Titanic in just a matter of days. And that will be a sad, sad day, considering how terminally naff his long-gestating sequel truly is.
Nevertheless, and putting my cynicism aside for Cameron and his box office domination plans, I sauntered into the theatre with my two compadres and sat down to watch one of the greatest cinematic spectacles of all time.
Here’s what I learned.
1) The 3D does nothing
First things first: the 3D 4K HDR and high-frame-rate transfer of the film is a scam.
While the visuals still take your breath away and the story remains engrossing, this restauration proves once again that all 3D does is muddy the vibrant colour palette and adds absolutely nothing to the spectacle. All it does is make viewers fork out for a more expensive ticket – which goes some way to explaining the re-release’s already huge box office intake.
Worse, the conversion effort adds little depth and there were irritating flashes on the screen. That, and when the ship finally sank, the sea looked bright red for no apparent reason, showing that the conversion needed far more thought and careful consideration. The whole endeavor didn’t feel planned out properly, and it looked like the same 3D re-issue version we’d already been given in 2012.
So, if you do go watch Titanic again on the big screen – something which you absolutely should do – try to find a non-3D showing. You’ll miss out on nothing. Granted, it can depend on which theatre you visit, but having gone to the biggest multiplex, 3D and its annoying glasses remains a fad that needs to sink to the bottom of the ocean and stay there.
2) The unsinkable film
While the 3D conversion is a nightmare and a shameless ploy to gain extra ticket revenue, the film itself remains pretty damn close to perfection.
It was joyful to hear audience members laugh, gasp, cry and snivel, especially at the end once Celine Dion’s power ballad kicks in. I’m certain some members of the audience in the screening I went to had never seen Titanic before, as there were audible reactions that truly made the viewing experience an excellent one.
While I have seen Titanic countless times before – and twice when it came out in 1997 because my younger sister wanted to go a second weekend in a row, bless her heart – nothing since has dented my appreciation for the epic and its especially tense moments. Not the disastrous poster fail for the 2023 re-release. Not even some of the best memes and parodies around.
I’m thinking in particular of these two gems, the first from OwlKitty, the second from SNL:
Genius. Pure genius.
I’m still waiting for that album to drop.
3) I knew I’d heard that line before…
I grew up with a (not so) healthy appreciation for Twin Peaks, an obsession that has followed me well into adulthood. I have rewatched all three seasons of the iconic show so many times, the last being during the pandemic lockdowns.
And when I watched Titanic this weekend, it suddenly struck me: one of the film’s best lines isn’t Titanic ’s at all! It was taken from Twin Peaks.
When Rose finally confronts her cruel fiancé Cal with the line “I’d rather be his whore than your wife”, it dawned on me. The exact same line was spoken previously in Season 2 Episode 16 of Twin Peaks.
Add the fact that both Billy Zane (who plays Cal) and David Warner (playing his righthand man Lovejoy in Titanic) both appear in important supporting roles in Season 2 of Twin Peaks (Zane as John Justice Wheeler and Warner as the evil Thomas Eckhardt), and you’ve got yourself an unbreakable link that I had previously passed me by. Plus, Season 2 Episode 16 was Zane’s first episode on Twin Peaks!
Coincidence? I think not.
So, when you think of that perfect line – and it is a perfect line – just remember that Twin Peaks got there first. #JusticeForPeaks
4) Bad 3D conjures up memories best forgotten
Whatever you may think of James Cameron as a director, there’s no denying his weakness for tin-eared dialogue and his proclivity for running towards any and all clichés he can embrace a bit too tight.
Titanic is one of his superior films – arguably his finest – but as I was watching it once more, battling with the godawful 3D, I couldn’t help but be reminded of his original ending, one so bad that it was laughed at during test screenings and subsequently removed.
If you haven’t seen this alternate ending, here it is (skip to the 2-minute mark to see the horror that could have been):
“That really sucks, lady!”
And poor Bill Paxton having to result to that manic laughter in order to do the cliché-riddled script justice.
“Would you like to dance?”
Thank Jack’s icicle nipples we got something else.
5) The unsung victim of Titanic
Speaking of the ending, I had another late revelation.
While everyone harps on about the 25-year-old debate that still rages on regarding whether Rose and Jack could have both fit on the floating door frame – Myth Busters proved they could have but who really cares, as he needed to die for the romantic tragedy to be complete – my qualms lay elsewhere.
For the longest time, I was fuming that old Rose (played to perfection by the late Gloria Stuart) heartlessly chucked the diamond to the bottom of the ocean (until Britney Spears' squeeze went down and fished it out for her, as we learn in ‘Oops,... I Did It Again’ – “Awwww you shouldn’t have!”) when her granddaughter could have been set up for life with the added cash influx it could have provided her.
Seriously, babs, in this (or any) economy???
However, upon rewatching Titanic this time around, the beautiful ending struck a false note for me. Maybe I’m getting old and some of the romance has drained from my tired eyes, but what about Rose’s husband, the late Mr. Calvert?
We learn that Rose married later on in life and had a great life with him as Mrs. Calvert – happy years, children, and someone had to be taking all those photos she holds so dear…
His first name is never mentioned, but older Rose does say to her granddaughter and her audience that she never told anyone about Jack Dawson – “Not even your grandfather”.
If there is an afterlife, as the ending strongly suggests, Rose goes back to Jack on board the Titanic.
Yes, it’s a perfect shot and ending, and considering the life-shaping event and the fact it’s only through Jack that Rose was saved, as she admits herself, it makes some sense. But I put myself in the dead shoes of Rose’s late husband and felt quite sad.
All those years spent together, all those photos taken, and I’m here eagerly waiting for my beloved wife on my heavenly cloud… and nothing. Still nothing. She’ll be there any minute now and we’ll be reunited in post-death bliss… Oh, no. Wait… She’s picked the blonde bombshell she met for a handful of days on a big ship while I sit in the afterlife like a chump, twiddling my heartbroken thumbs at the thought of an entire relationship dismissed. I thought she was my one true love, but here’s the final kick to my otherworldly cha-chas I didn’t deserve.
If rewatching Titanic has taught me anything, it’s that Mr. Calvert is unquestionably the unsung victim here. While I fully understand that you can’t just introduce a new character in the final two minutes of the film and need to loop the dramatic and romantic loop with a reunited Rose-Jack couple, there’s a celestial injustice here. I can only hope that Mr. Calvert is over it and not still using up Heaven’s supplies of tissues at the continued thought that he was eternally wronged.
Depressing revelations aside, whether you’re going for the romance, the action, to remember a simpler time when Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t making headlines for the age of his girlfriends, there truly is something for everyone in Titanic.
25 years on, it remains unsinkable. In 2D, that is.