April 7 was my first real return to Titanic since its 1997 theatrical explosion. Sure, I watched the double-decker VHS so many times I’ve learned to anticipate the intermission between tapes (the moment the captain says “I believe you may get your headlines, Mr. Ismay” – duhn-duhn-duhn), but when the epic picture returned to theaters it was kind of a big deal.
My best friend and I set aside an entire Friday evening, procured snacks our ten year-old selves would have envied, slipped our ticket stubs into that section of our wallets reserved for promising fortune cookie fortunes and coupons for free Ben and Jerry’s, and hunkered down at a theater in Manhattan eagerly anticipating the film’s iconic opening credits while trying to suppress our desires to whisper all the lines we couldn’t wait to hear before the real action started. And after three-hours of freshly-remastered 3-D sailing (and sinking), we came out on the other side with a few realizations. On one hand, Titanic’s still got it (there were plenty of twitterpated moments and crocodile tears), but there a few things that we remembered a bit differently.
1. Was Rose Always Such a Brat?
While many of us (don’t deny it) whispered Jack’s clandestine “They’ve got you trapped” speech to ourselves a million times as young, obsessed pre-teens, there’s one part we tend to gloss over: “You’re no picnic, you’re a spoiled brat even.” How did we not notice this? Jack’s lady love may come around by the end of the movie, but she starts out as self-important brat (but she reads Freud, so we’re supposed to be okay with it). If anything, watching her verbally abuse our darling Jack for the first hour of the film just makes us love our hero even more; he “sees people,” but seeing through her exterior of elitist prejudices was nothing short of a titanic miracle.
2. Spooning Saves Lives, Jack and Rose.
Now bear with me here, because I feel that after seeing the post-sinking water-borne scene in 3-D that I’ve had a good enough look to know that the piece of wood that saved Rose really should have saved both Rose and Jack. Set design really screwed the pooch on that one. When Jack and Rose plunge into the icy water that eventually turns Rose’s beloved into a human popsicle, they try once (seriously, one time?) to hop up onto a nearby giant slab of very sturdy wood. When they fail, Jack puts Rose up there and resigns himself to his tragic fate. However, anyone who’s ever used one of those inflatable pool rafts covered in children’s cartoon characters knows that it takes a few comically clumsy tries to get two people up there, but it is definitely possible. And isn’t Jack’s whole claim to fame that he can survive anything with his infinite street smarts? Besides, Jack could have acted as a human blanket for Rose – like a gentleman. Come on, you two. Science! Body heat! Spooning could have saved them both! Granted, if Jack had lived, I wouldn’t have perfected my perfect, single tear cry while watching this movie eight times in 1997.
3. Are We There Yet? (Holy Ship, This is a Long Movie.)
We get it. The film is epic, it deserves a decent runtime. But let’s be honest, it could have shaved it down a little if James Cameron wasn’t so concerned with showing off his shiny new CGI toys. While the shots of the Titanic’s propellers, the pistons below deck, the furnaces powering the ship, and the sweeping shots of the little computer people running around the deck of the massive boat helped convey the magnificence of the ship at its time, they’re a bit overwrought. To be fair, at the time, the CGI was considered to be monumental. Now, it just comes across as a giant, over-long humble brag.
4. Why Didn’t This Movie Traumatize Us as Youngsters?
Call it a case of the pre-teen hormone blinders, I guess. We were so hopped up on forbidden romance in the face of sheer disaster that we didn’t have the emotional capacity to feel the incredible sadness that accompanies the captain’s death by shattered glass and walls of water at the helm; or the fact that Murdoch’s incredible guilt over the ship hitting the iceberg on his watch drives him to suicide; or the moment we realize one of the frozen bodies in the water is the poor mother who shook her baby at the “cap-ee-tan” looking for help; or the notion that “propeller guy’s” death isn’t so much a "oh man!" moment as a truly terrifyingly desperate moment for a man staring death in the face. There’s also the added weight of being a part of the 9-11 generation. We became adults in a post 9-11 world, so these moments of desperation and disaster ring truer to the reality we know too well. Don’t get me wrong, the romance of the film has staying power, but the more tragic elements have been piqued by events in contemporary reality. It’s just not a movie I’d let a 10 year-old use to learn about the tragedy of first love and DiCaprio's haircut anymore.