For many people, 3-D has become a blight on the film industry… an over-used cash-grab that does little more than, well, grab extra cash from the wallets of the world in exchange for eye-strain and migraine headaches. Granted, when the technology is applied properly, the results can be astounding, such as this past summer’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, or 2009’s Avatar, the film that completely redefined what a 3-D movie experience can be. Since the release of Avatar, however, Hollywood has been churning out a steady stream of films using a process commonly referred to as “post-conversion”, which allows filmmakers to turn their work into 3-D features without actually shooting the films in 3-D. It’s a process that’s rarely done with any real care or attention to detail, as well as the primary cause of the aforementioned eye-strain and headaches. In short, it’s a way for Hollywood to take more of our money. However, James Cameron, the director of Avatar, wants to prove all of the naysayers wrong.
It’s no secret that Cameron has been the most outspoken supporter of the 3-D format. In 2003, he directed Ghosts of the Abyss, a documentary filmed during one of Cameron’s three deep-sea explorations of the underwater wreckage of the “Titanic”. That film was shot using special cameras designed specifically for 3-D filming, and released in the IMAX format, grossing $28.8 million worldwide. It was Cameron’s first experience filming in 3-D, and he reportedly stated afterward that he never wanted to make another film that wasn’t shot in the format. Six years later, he broke his own amazing record when Avatar rode a massive wave of 3-D popularity on its way to becoming the highest-grossing film in worldwide box-office history, eventually grossing a mind-boggling $750 million in ticket sales in the U.S. alone (the previous box-office champ had been Mr. Cameron’s last full-length feature, 1997’s Titanic, which “only” grossed $600.7 million in the U.S. and was the number one film in America for 15 straight weeks. It also won 11 Academy Awards and launched Kate Winslet’s career into the stratosphere). Cameron fully believes that any filmmaker who wants to make a 3-D movie should simply use the proper equipment and do it right the first time, and after bearing witness to such horrendous hack-jobs as 2010’s “3-D” versions of Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender, he’s got a valid point. Now, he’s out to prove that with the right people doing the job, post-converting can be a viable option if it simply must be done… and he’s intending to illustrate his point with a shiny new 3-D edition of Titanic.
At a cost of $18 million, and with 300 artists painstakingly doing the job, the conversion process will have taken just over a year by the time the film hits theaters on April 6th, 2012 (the 100-year anniversary of the day “Titanic” set sail). Yesterday, October 11th, 17 minutes of the newly-converted footage was screened for a handful of journalists in New York to give an idea of what to expect, and apparently the footage is spectacular. If the early reports are accurate, and Titanic is the 3-D experience that James Cameron is promising, that cash will most likely be recouped in the opening weekend, if for no other reason than there are probably millions of people who would love to see the film again on the big screen, not to mention all of those who have never had that experience at all. Of course, by the time Titanic makes its 3-D debut, audiences will have already had their first taste of a big-budget post-conversion of an older film: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hits theaters on February 12th. Here’s hoping that the folks at Lucasfilm care as much James Cameron does.