Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Titanic 3D: Timely or Tasteless?

            On April 15th, 1912, the RMS Titanic and 1,517 passengers sank to the bottom of the freezing North Atlantic Ocean.  The tragedy instantly made the headlines of newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic (with a few exceptions: The Christian Science Monitor’s headline that day read: Passengers Safely Moved and Steamer Titanic Taken in Tow), and has continued to be a massive source of interest to this day, eclipsing the notoriety of other disastrous voyages, like those of the Lusitania or Hindenburg.  And now, less than three weeks to the centennial of the event that has so captured the imagination of the public, I am faced with a moral quandary: Is the release of Titanic 3D an act of commemoration or exploitation?
            On the one hand, it is an area of public interest, especially as the centennial approaches.  Furthermore, the movie itself is well-regarded and made tastefully.  It doesn’t wallow in disaster footage.  At its heart, it is a love story, set aboard the Titanic.  It was released in 1997.
            I can’t believe that it’s a coincidence that the film is being re-released less than two weeks before the anniversary of the Titanic disaster, although the official website doesn’t mention it.  But even if the release date’s significance is intentional (which I assume it is), does that mean it’s exploiting the disaster, or just using the fact that it’s going to be back in the public consciousness?  If a movie is done tastefully, and represents the tragedy in a human way, is it really so bad?  And don’t you wish you could see the characters kiss… in 3D!?
            Look, I don’t hate 3D.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another tool that can be used to tell a story (the immersive visual world was the only thing that made Avatar watchable).  And movies that are filmed in 3D by a capable director can have a new, exciting layer added to them.  Titanic was not filmed in 3D.  The conversion process from 2D to 3D lowers the video quality, but you can charge an extra $3 or so per ticket.  This is where I draw the line on tastelessness.  The movie is set almost entirely on a boat, which makes me wonder why the 3D is even necessary (oh, right, $3 or so a ticket).  This is a case of a gimmicky use for 3D that serves no purpose to the film, and in this case it’s just shameful. 
            The sinking of the Titanic has been so romanticized in culture, that we forget that over 1,500 innocent men, women, and children DROWNED.  A way to commemorate what was, in no uncertain terms, a tragedy, is not to find the gimmickiest way to make money off of it.  If you want to see Titanic in theaters, I urge you to see the 2D version.  If for no other reason than the footage would look better.


  1. I agree that it's a little tacky to re-release the movie at this particular date. Though I wouldn't have even thought of it that way if you hadn't raised the point.
    The release date and the 3D are just ways to increase sales. That's just marketing people making a living. You can't blame them.
    So, yes, I guess it comes down to a personal choice.

  2. This. I got funny looks when I asked why someone would want to watch a horrible disaster in 3D.