James Cameron gilds his finest lily with the 3-D version of "Titanic," a grand, romantic spectacle made no grander by an $18 million technological upgrade. The new effects in this movie, which opened Wednesday, add a sliver of depth to the doomed cruise liner's final, magnificent wreckage. But there's no improving on the movie's most captivating images: the young faces of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as a boy and girl who fall in love and ultimately succumb to fate.
Nearly 15 years after its release, "Titanic" still amazes as the kind of massive, build-and-destroy production that few filmmakers have the ambition or budget to make. If anything, the 3-D occasionally makes the elaborate staterooms and enormous engine room look flatter and less impressive. But special effects were never what pulled all those repeat viewers (presumably female) back to theaters in 1997, making "Titanic" the highest-grossing film of its time. This is a love story, and it beats with the hearts of its two perfectly matched Hollywood stars.
DiCaprio is still irresistible as scruffy third-class passenger Jack Dawson, and Winslet is a gauzy vision as society girl Rose DeWitt Bukater. Both actors now have grown-up careers -- Winslet has an Oscar, DiCaprio a resumé of collaborations with Scorsese, Eastwood and the like -- but they may never again re-create the magic of that soaring kiss on the bow of Cameron's great ship.
The new 3-D can't heighten any of the movie's already fine performances, including Billy Zane's deliciously overripe Cal Hockley (Rose's treacherous fiancee), Kathy Bates' "Unsinkable" Molly Brown and Victor Garber's tragic shipbuilder Thomas Andrews. Cameron may sense this, because he frequently dials back the 3-D so much that it virtually disappears. Those are actually the best moments, when "Titanic" is free once again to carry you away.
PLOT Young lovers Jack and Rose return in the 3-D version of James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster. RATING PG-13 (intense action, nudity, language)
PLAYING AT Area theaters in 3-D; some in IMAX.
BOTTOM LINE Grand, thrilling and romantic as ever, though the new 3-D is best when it stays out of the way.
You go, girls, to the movie theater
According to tracking surveys, young women are the most interested in seeing the 3-D version of "Titanic" -- the same group that helped drive "Titanic's" run last time with multiple viewings.
Paramount's marketing has targeted females, with a promotion during ABC's "The Bachelor," a spot during the Academy Awards broadcast and 50 sneak screenings around the country on Valentine's Day. Teen girls have helped spur interest in the film on social media, pushing the "Titanic" movie Facebook page up to 18 million likes.
"It doesn't surprise me that the people who are admitting they want to see the movie are 14-year-old girls," said director James Cameron. "It's the idea of romantic love . . . a love that completely sweeps you away. It's really about Kate's character, about the example she sets of how a young woman deals with issues of identity and societal suppression of her individuality. All girls go through it to some extent.
"They can relate to her," Cameron added. "But men will go, couples will go, families will go. The 14-year-old girls were the repeat offenders last time, but by the end we were about 50/50 male-female. Look, those girls have to go to the movies with somebody."
-- Los Angeles Times