I’ll Never Let Go, Jack: Not Even Fifteen Years Later

Where were you when it happened?

Not when the Titanic sank, of course. That was almost 100 years ago!

But where were you when you first saw the James Cameron movie?

Okay. Now hold that thought and skip ahead fifteen years, because Titanic is being re-released on the 100th anniversary of the ship setting sail — April 6, 2012. (Because I guess the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking was tacky?) And I have a confession to make, that I will pose in the form of a question:

Am I the only one who stumbled upon the trailer for Titanic 3D and got a little misty?

In my lifetime, there has been no cinematic event like Titanic. I saw it four times in theaters. This is mainly because it was still in theaters for nearly a year after it was released in December 1997. I was in junior high, and the world was in agreement — Titanic was pretty much the best.

But it’s been awhile since I revisited Titanic. Mainly because the only format I ever owned it on is VHS (two tapes!). Also because I don’t often have exactly 3 hours and 14 minutes to kill. There are many who will claim that Titanic hasn’t aged well, or, worse — that it was never all that great to begin with. These people are evil and not to be trusted.

No, there’s never been another Titanic. Not even Avatar, which ceremoniously dethroned the former champ as the #1 grossing film of all time (mostly thanks to the 3D surcharge and inflation). This defeat is made a little less tragic by the fact that James Cameron directed both films and only unseated himself as, um, king of the world. But still. It took less than a year for everyone to realize Avatar was essentially a vapid, hollow spectacle — entertaining, sure. Dazzling, even. Without a doubt, a technological marvel. But it’s not Titanic, and never will be.

Take away the 3D and put it on a small screen, and Avatar isn’t that great. Can you believe it almost won Best Picture? Now, I’m not hating on it — Cameron is better than most at delivering that big, loud, crowd-pleasing stuff. I’m just saying, box office aside, Titanic is the biggest film of my lifetime, and I get very defensive when anyone claims otherwise. It was a phenomenon! It was epic! It always has been and always will be unsinkable.

Of course, I will concede that much of my sentiment may have to do with the fact that I was in junior high when it was released. Other things I liked at this time include 7th Heaven, The Gap, No Doubt, and a bowl-shaped haircut, so… some hits, some misses. But I was not alone in my awe of this behemoth. Surely you remember what a Big Deal it was, and be honest — has any movie made a bigger splash? (No pun intended.)

(Oh, who am I kidding? Pun totally intended!)

Yes, the quotable dialogue became an instant cliche. Yes, despite his best efforts to the contrary, Leonardo DiCaprio became overexposed as a teen idol. And yes, it only took about two minutes for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” to become insufferable. There are elements of Titanic that might come across as cheesy today — was it only fifteen years ago that the world collectively fell for a love story that earnest? But ultimately, as an epic romance and tragedy, I’m betting it holds up just fine. Remarkably, even.

Still, I had no idea I had all this pent-up love for the saga of Jack and Rose until I sat down to watch Hugo and was bombarded with trailer after trailer of kiddie schlock. (Ugh, is there really a Claymation pirates movie that makes multiple “booty” jokes? Ugh, is Drew Barrymore really starring in a save-the-whales movie with “Miracle” in the title and a website called everybodyloveswales.com?)Then, magic. That kinda-corny James Horner score. Old Rose waxing poetic. The haunting image of that sinking ship. I never expected the trailer for a fifteen-year-old movie to hit me the way this one did. Not even Celine Dion’s belting pissed me off! It was, in fact, strangely… comforting. Like going home to an old friend, who is about to drown or freeze to death.

And then… I felt… a tingle.

That’s it. No tears, I swear to you. But there was a tingle, I’m just going to admit it. Did I even cry when Titanic was originally released? I don’t remember. Not all four times, anyway. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen it in awhile, or maybe it’s just a really effective trailer. All I know is, hearing those beloved lines of dialogue and seeing those iconic images all over again, I was swept by an overwhelming wave of emotion. Like an iceberg to the gut.

And then I was pissed. Because, fuck! Am I really old enough for movie marketers to manipulate me with such nostalgia?

Guess so. That makes me feel more ancient than Gloria Stuart. But am I excited to see Titanic again on the big screen, for the first time in 3D? Fuck yes. And I am unashamed (read: only slightly ashamed) to admit it.

This is despite a few factors. First of all, I hate 3D. I find distracting. I find it unnecessary. I always opt for the 2D version of every single film, except Avatar. That one wowed me so much I put at #10 on my year-end list of best films — and I will not be so duped again. (In my defense, 2009 was a weak year for movies.) Still, if I trust anyone with 3D, it is Mr. Cameron.

I also am not a fan of obvious cash grabs. And though I’m not normally the sort of person who will pay full price to see an ages-old movie on the big screen (with notable exceptions), I will definitely see Titanic in theaters. Again. For the fifth time.

Can there ever be another film phenomenon like Titanic? Is that even possible anymore? Or is 1997 an era long past? The good ol’ days? I fear this is the case, even as I realize said nostalgia has just all but cemented me into an early, irrelevant grave.That’s fine, I guess. Let the kids have their Avatar. Their Transformers. Their sparkling vampires fighting werewolves in broad daylight. Maybe the re-release of Titanic will show them the error of their ways, or maybe not. It doesn’t much matter.

All I know is no one can persuade me that Titanic was a flash in the pan, undeserving of a slew of Oscars (including Best Picture, natch), and not a great movie. I was there, dammit! No, not on the Titanic. Just… in the world, when pretty much the most astounding movie of all time was released. I remember it all, and I’ll never forget.

I’ll never let go, Jack.

I’ll never let go.

(Please tell me I’m not the only one who almost cried at this.)

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