An idea bulb went on when Jim Cameron yesterday mentioned a current project to dimensionalize Titanic — i.e., create a 3D version of it. Which he said would take about 12 to 14 months to complete. Peter Jackson, sitting right next to Cameron, was a bit more circumspect. He said he’d love to dimensionalize the Rings trilogy but that Warner Bros. is currently fearful of a shortage of 3-D equipped theatres. But Cameron was having none of it.
The Avatar director basically said “pshaw!” and explained that if major want-to-see 3D titles are in the pipeline, exhibitors will step up to the plate and audiences will follow. It’s basically a matter of the people in charge needing to grow a pair and roll the dice.
If Cameron can dimensionalize Titanic then obviously any film can undergo the same conversion. So why don’t distributors man up and start dimensionalizing all of the major big-format, big-spectacle movies made over the past 40 or 50 years? The first Star Wars trilogy, naturally. And Braveheart, of course. Ridley Scott‘s Alien and Cameron’s Aliens. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ben-Hur. Gladiator. Spartacus. The Harry Potter films. Black Hawk Down. Platoon. Full Metal Jacket.
And of course, Lawrence of Arabia. Can you imagine how exquisite that film could look in 3-D if it’s done right? With those striking desert vistas? All right, that’s it — get to work on it now and have the 3-D Lawrence ready for the film’s 50th aniversary in 2012.
An hour ago I wrote Robert Harris, the blue-ribbon restoration master who worked with director David Lean on restoring Lawrence in the late ’80s. “Cameron is re-doing Titanic in 3D and made a case that this could be a new growth industry — the Next Big Thing,” I wrote. “I’d love to see Lawrence in 3D some day….y’know? And The Alamo? All the great large-format films.
“So would I,” he answered, “but it comes down to artists’ rights. Without the filmmakers, we really don’t have the moral right to make changes. Great idea however.”
And I wrote back, “Moral rights? Are you kidding? Are you telling me that David’s family and whomever else holds the rights wouldn’t be interested in making this happen if the price was right and if you were on board to 3-D it the way David would have wanted?
“You wouldn’t be messing with David’s film — you’d just be creating a dimensional version for commercial (and spiritual and aesthetic) purposes. Where would be the harm? Who would object as long as the original materials are intact and the flat version is as safe as it’s always been since the restoration? No one.
“I would do backflips if a 3D Lawrence could be created. Are you kidding? They need to do this for the 50th annniversary.
“And you’re the guy to do it, Bob. You’re the Lean link who worked with him, knew him, knew how he thought, what his aesthetic criteria was all about, etc. Lawrence would be breathtaking in 3D. And you must know David would be delighted if it was done right. He was no stuffy drawing-room elitist — he was an elegant showman who wanted to reach people in their theatre seats and make them swoon over their popcorn.
“Cameron said yesterday he’s very happy with the 3D Titanic test footage so far. Obviously with a will the same process could be applied to Lawrence. As O’Toole/Lawrence said, “Aqaba is over there. It’s only a matter of going.”