When "Titanic" arrived in theaters in 1997, it rode the waves of romance and became the biggest box office draw ever at that time.
The image of the adventurous Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the spunky Rose (Kate Winslet) at the bow of the Titanic became one of the most iconic scenes in film history. Their wide-eyed optimism about the future slams into reality and creates a beautiful, but bittersweet, moment.
There was an iceberg-sized irony to the way fans embraced the movie, considering they knew the ending long before sitting down to the 195-minute long production. Its monumental popularity came from director James Cameron's approach. He made "Titanic" a love story set against a historical disaster, rather than focusing on the history and making the characters afterthoughts. The film took its place with classic love stories such as "Gone With the Wind" and "Casablanca," other great films that used history as a backdrop for memorable characters.
"Titanic," the winner of 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, steams back into theaters in 3-D after 15 years of television and DVD dry-dock. It makes little sense to review a film with so many honors and such a perfect story of love and loss had it not been for the total cinematic makeover.
Considering the recent history of such transformations, there's reason to have concern about tampering with such a well-loved movie. Films that haven't been shot in 3-D - and transformed later via computer, like the poorly altered remake of "Clash of the Titans" or the much-loved "Lion King" - have not benefited from the forced perspective. Such efforts have upset some moviegoers who object to the added ticket cost to offset the weak changes.
"Titanic" was not originally shot in 3-D, but each frame has been meticulously transformed. The result is a film that - surprisingly - is improved by the technological makeover.
The 3-D is effective because it finally gives the audience a real sense of the massive world that was the passenger ship. This new look isn't necessary in the scene where the Titanic's aft section rises and crashes into the ocean before sliding into the blackness of the sea night. There's little that can be done to improve that sequence.
It's mostly the effect in the interiors sequences, where corridors seem to extend for leagues and the rooms feel cavernous. In the scene where Rose struggles through a flooded corridor to save Jack, the new depth magnifies the battle by one small woman to overcome massive odds. You can almost feel the cold chill of the water as she struggles to make her way through the maze of hallways.
Had 3-D never been added to "Titanic," it still would be one of the greatest silver-screen love stories. But the conversion really makes it feel like your heart will go on.
Rated PG-13 for language, partial nudity, disturbing images. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Kathy Bates, Gloria Stuart. Directed by James Cameron. Running time: 195 minutes.