James Cameron got a laugh this morning when he reminded the assembled press that "it wasn't just 14-year-old girls seeing it over and over" who made Titanic an unprecedented hit back in 1997; "Maybe that was $200 million of the gross, but you still have to account for the other $1.2 billion." No, Cameron hasn't gotten any more modest since he screamed "I'm the King of the World" at the Oscars back then; if anything he's gotten more confident, both in his skills as a filmmaker and his ability to promote any technology-- be it the face-capture animation of Avatar or, now, post-conversion 3D-- to a public that still adores him, which included the visibly wowed press who saw 17 minutes of Ttanic in 3D at the presentation this morning.

And I'm not being modest when I say I might have been the most adoring of all, or at least, the most personally affected by Ttanic even 14 years later. I've written before about my immense affection for the movie that led directly to my becoming a movie critic, and this morning, seeing the film on the big screen for the first time since May of 1998, I was instantly transported back to that 13-year-old, who went to the movies 8 different times to see Titanic, who owned both soundtracks and the poster and the behind-the-scenes book, which you can see for yourself in this video below. For my more personal reactions to the Titanic 3D footage, a preview of the re-release coming next April, check out the video below; I'll have some more quotes from Cameron and producer Jon Landau afterward.

What I liked about Cameron during the Q&A, and what I think everyone likes about interviewing the most successful filmmaker alive, is that he's completely candid. He was joking when he admitted "We're just greedy motherfuckers" in making the 3D conversion, but also frankly told us, "Let's remind ourselves-- Hollywood is a business, and there's nothing wrong with that." He and Landau stressed they they're "not changing a frame" in the conversion, not even to spruce up some of the dated special effects, but Cameron acknowledged "there are some shots that are cringers for me." It's true, some of the effects look a little less dazzling than they did back in 1997, but Cameron and Landau are right when they say that audiences want it that way; "There is a nostalgia element," as Cameron put it. "People want to see the movie they saw."

And Cameron also knows that the movie we saw might not be the movie we remember. There's a reason the 3D presentation focused mostly on the action scenes, including Rose rescuing a handcuffed Jack below deck and the climactic final moment before the boat sinks underwater; Titanic's second half is a damn good action movie, even if what lingered in the social consciousness was Celine Dion and the Heart of the Ocean. As Cameron said it, "The trailer is really more of a cuing device to remind you how the film worked. It wasn't just a sappy romance. The trailer reminds you it isn't that gauzy chick flick you think you remember." Then again, one of the scenes that looked best in the 3D conversion was Jack and Rose's first kiss on the stern of the boat at sunset, about as gauzy and romantic as Cameron has ever gotten in his career.

Cameron and Landau both want to de-emphasize the 3D conversation, which he called "just a part" of the excitement around a Titanic re-release. But they're no dummies-- they see how well The Lion King 3D did, they know their 3D conversion is superior to any other post-conversion we've ever seen, and they know the timing is right. I'm not convinced that the 3D is really necessary for Titanic, a movie that was perfectly good without it, but the chance to see it on the big screen again really shouldn't be missed. I already knew I was going to be there on opening day, but today's presentation I think convinced a few of my press colleagues, and made me confident that the movie holds up perfectly well, whether you saw it 8 times back in the late 90s or not at all.
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