By now, most of us are probably acclimated to the idea of 90s revivalism, especially in the world of indie rock. But this Easter weekend looks specifically like the late 90s: a brief tour of December 1997 through July 1999. It’s like I’m graduating high school and entering college all over again. The most obviously late-90s revival, of course, is Titanic 3D, James Cameron’s conversion of one time (of three or four) that he made the most expensive movie ever and one time (of two, to date) that he also made the highest-grossing movie ever. This is why I’ve never understood attempts to dismiss Titanic as a passing fancy of teenage girls, a fad that no one remembers or likes anymore; even if you want to play the adjusted-which-is-to-say-estimated-for-inflation game, it’s no less than the sixth-biggest movie in U.S. history, nestled in between The Ten Commandments and Jaws. In fact, unless there are some big-time Commandments-bashers out there (and I kind of hope there are), Titanic may be the most-post-release-maligned movie on that list, except possibly Return of the Jedi, which is a favorite target of those who generally wish the Star Wars series was less enjoyable, or for Avatar, Cameron’s latest biggest movie ever. I have minimal interest in seeing how Cameron converted his movie to 3D—painstakingly, I’m sure; respectfully, yes; movie-changingly, probably not—but I will go to bat for Titanic being an awesome movie any day of the week.
Yes, Cameron’s dialogue lacks wit and/or reasonable imitation of actual human speech, and the central love story is proudly, unabashedly corny. But it works, and having star-crossed lovers dominate the movie allows Cameron to have fun portraying the experiences of two characters traveling on the ship, rather than attempting to cross-cut through every possible angle. When disaster strikes, the film feels all the more immersively menacing. Cameron wields large-scale effects with near-peerless skill—even after almost fifteen years of technological advances, there’s still something vivid and frightening about that iconic shot of the underside of the boat as it tips upward. I know Cameron loves his 3D, but the remastering that could get me back into the theater (having seen it three times in the original run, and having a DVD at home) would be an IMAX treatment. Could Cameron have resisted the urge to shoot the whole thing in IMAX cameras, had that been feasible in the late 90s?