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April 5, 2012 | 6:30 p.m. CST
Despite how much rancor Titanic inspires, it’s hard to dismiss the second-highest grossing film of all time. It’s even harder to argue with 11 Academy Awards. With the release of Titanic 3D, the old complaints are going to start creeping back about the contrived plot, the overwrought performances and how overrated the film was when it was first released in 1997. Sure, all these criticisms are true, but Titanic still has a certain anodyne sweetness to it that makes it hard to ignore the second time around.
After 15 years, the plot is still the same, and it’s hard to imagine a sentient member of society who needs a rough outline of the story. In brief, Rose (Kate Winslet) is a poor little rich girl who is filled with existential dread at the thought of marrying her bull of a fiancé. Woe is her until she meets Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), whom she falls head over heels for in two days. That is, until an iceberg complicates things a little bit. Spoiler alert: the ship sinks.
In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that DiCaprio and Winslet were ever able to parlay their Titanic roles into such lauded acting careers. Their performances are melodramatic and grating. In their defense, the two didn’t really have much of a script to work with. For all of James Cameron’s talents, his dialogue is about as compelling as an ingrown toenail.
That being said, Titanic captures the imagination as almost no other film can. The way it comingles fetishization of a historical tragedy with a plot that’s absolute cotton candy is purely addictive. The film was a cinematographic masterpiece when it was first released, and the 3D format only enhances how sharp and gorgeously shot the film is.
We’re nearly to the 100-year anniversary of the April 15 sinking of the RMS Titanic. And we’ll probably be hearing derisive references to the phrase, “I’ll never let go, Jack,” for the next 100. However, whether for nostalgia’s sake, or for how saccharine the romance is, audiences will flock to this film. It’s hard to blame them.