In a completely tasteful memorial for the victims of a tragedy, the epic 1997 film Titanic is being rereleased in 3D to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the horrifying shipwreck. For the second time around you can sit for the butt-numbingly long film and pretend you don’t already know what could possibly happen in the end.
We’re not going to bore you with a fifteen-year-old film trailer. Instead, astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to talk you through the only major change between the original Titanic and later versions. Speaking at the ‘Cosmic Quandaries’ lecture in St. Petersburg College, Florida last year, Tyson narrates the story of sitting through the film and realizing that the star patterns in director James Cameron‘s sky were wrong. Not only wrong; they were a dodgy mirror-image. Being an astrophysicist with a sense of humor, Tyson challenged Cameron; since the date, the year, the season and the location of the ship as it sank were known, it would follow that Cameron should be able to produce an accurate depiction of the sky.
The good Doctor knew of Cameron’s reputation for precision in recreating the Titanic and wanted to mess with him a little. But how important is historical accuracy when you have a fictional account of a real time period? There is a risk that instead of focussing on the important things — such as plot or the power to evoke — you could get caught up in things that don’t really matter and that very few people would even notice. Being persnickety about detail certainly has its place, however without some restriction, it could come at the cost of creating a piece of cinema that is all style and no substance.
It also comes down to why you watch films or read books. Is it because it was true or because it was a bloody good story? Perhaps during her epiphany in the shower, Oprah could’ve taken this on board in relation to the James Frey controversy. An over-concentration on such cold things as facts — like the tasteful way Oprah argues about the relative drama of Frey’s girlfriend’s method of committing suicide — risks completely undermining the emotional pull of the story.
It may be a case of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story; or it could just be a case of not going to the cinema with an astrophysicist.