The Conversation: What are People Saying About the 3D in 'Titanic 3D'?

The Conversation: What are People Saying About the 3D in 'Titanic 3D'?

Apr 06, 2012

Note: This post originally ran after the Titanic 3D sneak preview on Valentine's Day. We've since updated it with the latest reactions from around the net. 

On Tuesday night, as a Valentine's Day treat, Paramount hosted special advance screenings of the new 3D version of James Cameron's Titanic. Although I have my issues with the idea of a money-grabbing re-release set to coincide with the disaster's centennial this April (not that it doesn't fit with 100 years of terrible exploitation), I did get to see a preview of footage from this 3D conversion last fall and as you might recall, I was genuinely "satisfied." I'm not a big enough fan of the movie overall to pay for and sit through the full-length experience this spring, but I wouldn't tell anyone to stay away. Unless you haven't seen Pina yet, because that's the best 3D movie for your money (and the Oscar-nominated doc is currently playing at theaters all over the U.S.!). 

Anyway, not everyone is as impressed with Cameron's conversion as I was, and maybe I could change my mind after seeing all three hours. But it's interesting just how divisive this re-release is for people who caught it this week. The dismissal from Roger Ebert is as predictable as criticisms come, and many of the positive reactions I've found are from fans who are nowhere near the "professional" level that he is. But there's also a lot of "10 out of 10" ratings as well as a dependable claim from the New York Post that Kate Winslet's breasts are worth every cent. I hope that praise ends up in the ads. 

What are people saying about the 3D in the Titanic re-release? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:

The best damn 3D conversion I've ever seen. [...] I was especially impressed by the subtle degrees of 3D enhancement that director Jim Cameron and his crew have applied. The film never feels tricked up or jiggered to deliver artificial 3D jizz. As much as technology has allowed Titanic 3D feels elegant and unforced. The $15 or $18 million that went into this conversion was well spent. The moment when Kate Winslet is threatening suicide and holding onto the stern railing and the camera looks down at the sea some 60 feet can really sense that it's a long way down, and that the water is colder than shit. This moment alone makes Titanic 3D worth catching. - Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere 

Titanic has never looked better on the big screen. It's one of the most impressive 3D conversions to hit theaters, and it makes the sheer size of Titanic itself and the production value of the film all the more powerful and impressive. - Ethan Anderton, First Showing
Cameron's shooting style on the film already relished in the opulence of Titanic's grandeur and scale, but with the added dimension of 3D, the hallways, stairwells, decks and dining halls all take on a more real-to-life depth. This does add a new element of wonder to the scenes shot on soundstages as well as the sequence of underwater exploration of the wreckage. However, it does not translate to exterior shots of the ship, which actually suffer from the conversion, looking flatter and less realistic than before when juxtaposed with such masterfully executed 3D revisions. - Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend 
The 3D conversion? It’s entirely unobtrusive, and entirely superfluous. The reason to see Titanic 3D is not for the 3D, but for the chance to see the film on a big screen again. You won’t even notice the 3D. - Maryann Johanson, Flick Filosopher 
A disappointment. The new version offers no new moviegoing thrills, and, to my eyes, is actually a less enjoyable visual experience. The converted "Titanic" has the same bugaboo that handicaps so many new 3-D productions/conversions - when you don those glasses, the lenses invariably dull the colors that you see on screen. And "Titanic" is a very soft-palette movie - a lot of muted grays and blues, with (in some early scenes) a mellow sepia haze often used to suggest a time long ago. - Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News 
That extra depth brings no added value by way of visual texture or narrative drive. If anything, 3-D conversion creates distance where there should be intimacy, not to mention odd moments in framing and composition: There are several distracting instances when figures in the side foreground of a shot receive equal visual billing with the actual subjects of the scene. - Ann Hornaday, Washington Post 
The very best 3D conversion of a film that I've seen so far. Having said that, I'm pretty much convinced that there's not much of a future for the process. [...] I think fans of the film were already used to be immersed in it when they watched, because Cameron's film is lush, dense, a hugely-involving sensory experience.  Adding 3D to that works technically, but I'm not sure it changed anything, one way or another, emotionally. - Drew McWeeny, Hit Fix 

Cameron has justly been praised for being one of the few directors to use 3D usefully, in "Avatar." But "Titanic" was not shot for 3D, and just as you cannot gild a pig, you cannot make 2D into 3D. What you can do, and he tries to do it well, is find certain scenes that you can present as having planes of focus in foreground, middle and distance. So what? Did you miss any dimensions the first time you saw "Titanic?" No matter how long Cameron took to do it, no matter how much he spent, this is retrofitted 2D. Case closed. But not quite. There's more to it than that. 3D causes a noticeable loss in the brightness coming from the screen. Some say as much as 20 percent. If you saw an ordinary film dimmed that much, you might complain to the management. Here you're supposed to be grateful you had the opportunity to pay a surcharge for this defacement. If you're alert to it, you'll notice that many shots and sequences in this version are not in 3D at all, but remain in 2D. If you take off your glasses, they'll pop off the screen with dramatically improved brightness. I know why the film is in 3D. It's to justify the extra charge. That's a shabby way to treat a masterpiece. - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

I found myself wanting to take the glasses off repeatedly. And here is why: it’s like watching the movie through a filter. Call it darkness, call it clarity… call it what you like. But for me, especially on Titanic, the slight facial fur and occasional acne under the make-up on Kate Winslet and the small pock marks on Leonardo DiCaprio’s face are a part of the intimacy of the movie. The movie takes such painstaking efforts to get every detail right… I want to see them, including the imperfections. And with those glasses on, I could not. Some might be happy not to see detail… to have the image smoothed out even more. But not me. These people are beautiful. They’re [sic] imperfections are beautiful. [...] There were, maybe, a half dozen shots in the whole movie in which the 3D made any difference of significance to me. And as I say, the glasses cost intimacy. - David Poland, The Hot Blog (Movie City News)

Despite Cameron’s much-acclaimed technical achievements with Avatar, the retrospective stereoscopy of this piece is certainly not going to be winning any awards. Like many other recent films produced in 2D and converted to 3D, the effect is far from convincing, looking like an assortment of 2D images with what may or may not be a bit of depth between them. What it adds is not enough to make up for the negative effects of the conversion; that is, the significant loss of image brightness and the eye strain/general discomfort/indignity caused by wearing the clunky glasses for three hours straight. Frankly, whatever your opinion of the original film, watching it with the addition of what I hesitate to call “3D” is not going to make it any better and, in fact, can only lessen the experience. [...] the addition of 3D in no way makes for a better film or counters the many problems with the narrative. It is ironic on several levels that Titanic is still heavily lacking in depth. - Kieron Moore, The Film Pilgrim

Overall it really adds nothing to the experience of a film you might have enjoyed or hated before in 2D. The ship’s breaking apart and its plunge into the icy waters looks exactly the same as it did when I saw it in 1998 and it evokes the same emotion from me as it did then, simply because it was an extremely well made film the first time round. [...] The film alone creates that magic and emotion for us, and that’s something 3D will never be able to achieve. - Patrick Samuel, Static Mass Emporium

The best that can be said about Titanic's 3D conversion is that it's not bad. But there isn't enough of an effect to warrant pricier ticket. That was no 3D. That was 2D with some optical illusion thrown in. If you want to see Titanic again, go see it because you want to see it on a giant-ass screen again with excellent sound. Not for 3D. - @stayfrostymw

There wasn’t much depth to the films overall 3D look. I felt that “Phantom Menace” has a better conversion job, mainly because of the context of the movie in some ways needed it. That movie is an action movie; this movie is a drama, plain and simple. So, I guess the 3D in this film is really a double-edged sword. 3D Grade: C-  - That Movies We Love Site

Titanic 3D rerelease > Star Wars Episode 1 3D rerelease - @XChadballX

I feel confident in saying that the 3D conversion for Titanic isn’t only the most impressive 3D post conversion that’s been done, but it also boasts one of the most awe inspiring utilizations of the format I’ve ever seen. Being right up there with Avatar and Hugo. It puts even more shame to previous rushed 3D conversions such as Clash of the Titans, Green Lantern, and even the recent bittersweet conversion of The Phantom Menace. The painstaking amount of work that Cameron and company put into converting each shot to 3D is evident from start to finish. Every shot utilizes a fantastic sense of depth and immersion.  Even the slower dialogue based first half consistently wowed me with the 3D. Some particular sequences where I felt the 3D just simply excelled include: the classic I’m flying” scene, Rose (Kate Winslet) navigating through the flooding depths of the ship and of course the sinking itself. Is Titanic worth returning to in 3D? Absolutely. 10/10 - Joel Walden, Joel the Movie Guy

In this very rare case, the 3D technology improves on what is one of the greatest motion pictures ever made. [...] As dreadful as another post conversion of a blockbuster may sound, this is as good as it gets. TITANIC 3D is a welcome return to this classic love story. James Cameron’s epic creation shines and visually, audibly, it is a stunning achievement, without the usual trappings of conversion. All low expectations and doubts can be thrown overboard. 10/10. - JimmyO,

Titanic 3D 10/10 #absolutelyperfect - @emmadunwoody

It’s a gorgeous transfer, and it makes the experience truly unique. There’s an added emotional impact when she sinks. The masses of people in the water seem absolutely incredible, and then in turn dwarfed by the sinking hulk towering over them. Another sequence where you could truly see the layers of a 3D film establishing depth, is Rose’s arrival in America while it’s raining, the rain has layer upon layer, not a single sheet… I can only imagine the work that went into converting this film to 3D… was it necessary? No. Does it actually enhance the theater going experience… Yes. - TD Rideout, The Mind Reels

Titanic 3D is pretty excellent. The visuals are crisper. It’s not the obnoxious kind of 3D where stuff is thrown at you. It’s almost worked seamlessly into the film. There are a couple scenes where it looked a little awkward. One scene where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) are trying to outrun a wave of water below deck was weird. It seemed for a second that Rose’s face was detached. The odd combination of the lighting and 3D effect did that. - Gabrielle Adelle, The Young Folks

I can honestly say that here, the 3D is magnificent, and not just for the spectacle of the sinking ship. [...] What impressed me most were the close-ups of faces, every wrinkle, reflection and hair are given new dimension from the 3D. It’s a very personal experience. Images of the actual wreck become more eerie and magnificently hulking. Also, the interior shots of the ship before it sank are breathtaking. As the camera moves through hallways, staircases and atriums, there is a real sense of space and grandeur. It also lends becomes frightful during the sinking sequences where looking down a vastly deep corridor filling with water seems all but hopeless. [...] the 3D here not only improves the experience, but also leaves you wondering what he could have done had he been filming it in 3D from the start! - Chad, Quiet on the Set!

The 3D version is a smash success and probably the best post-conversion every assembled. Why wouldn’t it be? Who would doubt James Cameron? Well in all honestly, me and I was wrong. Dead wrong. [...] Cameron uses the 3D to establish spatial relationships and you truly get a sense of that whenever two people are talking in a scene and the camera is shooting over the shoulder of one of them. The 3D doesn’t always work, but whenever it fails, the process isn’t to blame, it’s usually the dated visual f/x. Ninety percent of the visual f/x in Titanic are on point. They look incredibly realistic and hold up better than many films made today. But where an f/x shot was lacking in 1997, it looks kinda funky in 3D. [...] For the most part, the 3D conversion in this film works. I especially enjoyed it during the sunlit daytime scenes on deck and in the bowels of the ship where we see those giant pistons move up and down. Then there is the final death throes of the ship which looks spectacular in 3D, 2D, any way you slice it. [...] The movie and the new 3D are a marvel and together they work. They really work. - "Lucky Man Sven," a reader submitting to Latino Review

I had a great appreciation of how judiciously and subtly Cameron used 3-D technology to make a great film greater. [...] Though "Titanic'' is half an hour longer than his "Avatar,'' I found it less of a strain on the eyes. The 3D in "Titanic'' is more effective than in most films that were originally filmed in the process. It adds depth and makes the vastness of the titular ship, its decks and corridors look even larger and longer. [...] The already-spectacular effects in the long sinking sequence look even more breathtaking in 3-D. It helps that Cameron originally filmed "Titanic'' in a relatively classic style, so there are fewer of those quick cuts that can be so jarring in 3-D, which requires more time for your brain to process edits. Winslet's voluptuous figure in 3-D is one of the most magical effects -- along with DiCaprio's climactic slide into the depths, wonderfully rendered stereotypically. - Lou Leminick, New York Post

Twitter Responses


I can confirm : Titanic 3D is the best 3D conversion so far. I could swear it was shot with 3D cameras. - @VectorCroc 
I was pleasantly surprised with the 3D in Titanic. Worked pretty well. Definitely the best 2D to 3D conversion I've seen. -@Domar85 
Probably in the minority, but I thought Titanic's 3D conversion was exceptionally well done and the film benefitted a great deal from it. - @DanChallis 
Titanic's 3D conversion was good except for shots that were framed for 2D and just don't work in 3D no matter how much $$ you throw at them - @DominicFord 
The 3D conversion for Titanic was very impressive. Seemed a lot better than 3D movies actually shot in 3D! - @jj75XP 
You have to see titanic imax 3d!!! 3d conversion was excellent! - @trann9 
The 3D conversion of Titanic looks a BILLION times better than the Star Wars 3D garbage Lucas just put out. - @billyhammock 
Titanic's 3D conversion was good except for shots that were framed for 2D and just don't work in 3D no matter how much $$ you throw at them - @DominicFord

And here are some exit reactions from people who attended the Valentine's Day preview via College Candy:


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.







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