It is when watching the movie Titanic in 3D that one appreciates anew the obsessive dedication to visual splendor, period detail and overall cinematic majesty that drives James Cameron to be the maker of not merely movies, but giant epics for the ages.
A special screening was held recently at Paramount to give a sneak peak of some of the three-dimensionalized footage of the 1997 blockbuster, the entirety of which will be released in theaters in April 2012 as Titanic 3D. Whatever one's usual taste or preference in filmed content, one simply has to admit that this movie looks fantastic, it's a hell of a piece of (dark) fairy-tale storytelling and the addition of that third visual dimension makes it in an even more immersive trip.
Cameron, along with his producer Jon Landau, spoke to the assembled after the roughly half hour showing of select scenes, and he was right on the money when telling the audience that adding the third visual dimension "is an enhancement even to regular, intimate, dramatic scenes," and not only to the obviously huge physical shots -- ship hurtling through the ocean, gigantic engine room shafts turning, the vessel horrifically sinking head down into the sea. All the shots, including those showing the romantic tension between Jack and Rose or between Rose and Caledon Hockley, or the longer interludes showing off the ship's ornate decor and the upper-class dandies occupying said parlors, dining areas and ballrooms became even more vital and lived in with the 3D effect. And scenes such as Jack and Rose dancing wildly to Celtic folk music with the salty, working class crew down below; the unlikely new couple soaring high over the nighttime ocean atop the ship's bow; and Rose wading through waist deep water in the corridors became scenes of pure action.
During the Q & A afterward, Cameron seemed both congenial and good-humored in his banter. He started off with a quip that this 3D re-release provided "A good way to wring applause out of a 15 year old film." He then told of his longtime fascination with marine sciences and archaeology and how these interests dovetailed with his hobby of diving, leading up to his own explorations of the Titanic wreck and his desire to tell a story "working backwards," from the present day knowledge of a great ship at the bottom of the ocean, to a living, breathing, group of human beings with varied lives who boarded that vessel for one of the most infamous voyages of all time.
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While he takes pride in his hiring of historians and other experts to recreate everything accurately, Cameron admitted that "rivet counters" in the audience could still probably find minute background details that were off.
After some techie talk of "4k digital masters," having shot in Super 35 (allowing extra height in the frame) and how even the new 2D version will look better, Cameron answered an audience member's comment about 3D films often looking annoyingly under-lit with a very short dissertation on why that often appears so. "Exhibitors turn down the projector lamps in the theaters in order to preserve expensive lamp bulbs, and they can't do that, in order to keep the proper level of lighting in most 3D films," he says.
The meticulous Cameron then explained that he and his producers make a point of speaking with all the major exhibitors and asking that they keep their projector lamp bulbs set to the proper and necessary level for his 3D releases. It is this kind of attention to visual detail that makes Cameron perhaps the unparalleled master of gigantic cinematic spectacle, highly enjoyable popcorn movies that even the most elite art film connoisseur can enjoy with gusto.
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