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Titanic

A 1997 movie directed by James Cameron.

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It's Good for the Most Part, But It Hasn't Aged Well

  • Jul 5, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+3
Almost everyone is aware of the movie Titanic.  It is the world's highest grossing film, and it doesn't look like anything will out-gross it any time.  Despite a huge box office gross, however, it's easy to say that there probably a million movies that are a whole lot better.  In 1997-1998 while it was reigning at the box office (staying at number 1 for fifteen straight weeks) it seemed like an unstoppable phenomenon.  People were seeing it more than once... a lot more than once.  It was then nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and won eleven of them... including Best Picture.  In terms of just being a film it really isn't bad.  There are some things that we can nitpick at.  But nothing can escape a harsh truth... Titanic hasn't really aged all that well. 

No one can remember the trailer for Titanic.  So just to referesh your memory on the movie (as if many of us could forget):



The movie begins with a bunch of people exploring the wreckage of the Titanic.  They're hoping to find the Hope Diamond (known as "The Heart of the Ocean").  They're exploring one of the rooms when they find a safe and pull it from the wreckage.  This, they think, has got to be it.  The Heart of the Ocean in their hands.  They crack open the safe and discover that there is no diamond.  The expedition was, once again, a failure.  Well, not a total failure.  Inside the safe there was a mysterious drawing.  And in this drawing is a woman wearing the hope diamond.  It was dated April 14, 1912.  The day the Titanic sank.  This is the closest Brock and his crew have ever gotten to the Hope Diamond.

It makes the news.  An old woman named Rose is listening.  When she hears about the drawing she gives Brock a call.  "I was just wondering if you'd found the heart of the ocean Mr. Lovett," she asks Brock.  He then wants to know if Rose can tell him who the woman in the picture.  "Oh yes, the woman in the picture is me."  That's all it takes for the crew to fly Rose to their ship in the middle of the North Atlantic.  They have items that are recovered from her staying room and they bring back memories.  As a survivor of the disaster she decides to tell the story.  

This isn't exactly the story of the Titanic, though.  This is a love story.  I imagine that after hearing it Brock must've been like, "This won't do shit for our research, but at least she had an interesting story... man she should've written a book it would've been better."  And it would've.  The movie is called Titanic but the only part the ship plays in the movie is the setting.  And SPOILER ALERT!  The ship sinks.

Quickly the movie flashes back to 1912.  A young Rose (Kate Winslet) is boarding the Titianc with her fiance Cal (Billy Zane, you know... that guy from The Phantom) and her mother.  Rose is a woman with a rich man for a husband.  Meanwhile as she's boarding, Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is playing a game of poker.  In a lucky bet, he and his friend win two tickets onto the Titanic.  Rose is the complete opposite of Rose, however.  While Rose is the rich girl, Jack Dawson is poor.  Very poor.  So poor that he has to settle for looking like Leonardo DiCaprio.  That is to say he doesn't really look anything like a poor boy at all.  But that's just being silly to complain about that. 

As we discover, Rose is not exactly happy with life.  Despite being rich, she's the fiance of a cold, mean spirited man.  Is he really good to her?  Yes, but only because she's beautiful and needs a wife to show off.  Rose, on the other hand, believes this is all she's good for.  Making sure Cal has a beautiful wife.  She has everything she could ever want.  Except the only reason she's with Cal is because of his money.  Her mother describes Cal as a "smart match."  Feeling trapped and as though she has no way out, she decides to commit suicide by jumping off the back of the boat.  Jack Dawsom, luckily, is there to stop her.  It is here that an unlikely friendship occurs, and soon it blossoms into passion.  Despite being poor, Jack knows that Rose can do better than Cal.  And this is because Jack really DOES love her and really DOES see something in her.  Like that she's more than a pretty face.

James Cameron as a director and screenwriter keeps things very simple by using one of the oldest and simplest themes.  Girl has rich guy.  Girl isn't happy with rich guy.  Poor boy comes around.  Poor boy sees something in her that the rich boyfriend can't.  Girl ends up leaving rich boyfriend for poor boy.  That's all Titanic is.  But the movie is, of course, a tragedy.  The ship sinks (I know, you didn't know that), but we're not exactly supposed to care about the Titanic.  We're supposed to care about Jack and Rose. 

The dialog, however, is downright cheesy, though.  It's not so much that the dialog is sappy in many instances as it is that at times it just lacks creativity.  In one instance Jack compares the lust and love he has for her to a flame.  "Soon that flame I love about you," he says, "that flame is going to burn out."  It sounds a little cheesy in delivery.  Part that may be because in 1997, Leo just wasn't as accomplished as he is now.  Leo was usually in some of the same roles.  The cute guy there to draw chicks to a theater.  Cameron himself didn't seem to realize Leo's talent.  Sure Leo does a magnificant job here, but he's essentially playing Romeo all over again.  He's mostly there to give the girls something to look at.  Kate Winslet does a good job here too, but she has had far better roles and done far better jobs.  Winslet was even nominated for an oscar.  Although it's hard to see just why.  For more than half of the movie she only has one line: "Jack!"  You could turn it into a drinking game... especially the sinking.  Every time Rose says "Jack!" take a shot.  Just make sure it isn't a strong drink.  My friends and I played this game.  The next thing we knew we all woke up in the hospital with doctors telling us we nearly died of alcohol poisoning.  Okay, I kid about that.  But you see my point.  Kate is a brilliant actress but much like Leo, her talent isn't recognized here.  The only actor who Cameron seems to have taken seriously is Kathy Bates.  Probably because she won an oscar before starring in this movie.  And as Molly Brown, she's amazing.  But she's also not in the movie that much.  

Titanic proves that perhaps the Academy Awards can be a joke.  Gloria Stuart was nominated for an oscar.  She plays "Old Rose."  The woman telling the story.  Why was she nominated for an Oscar?  She doesn't really have to do anything.

The movie is slow, but it at least takes time to develop characters and show Jack and Rose go from being people who just see one another on occasion to being lovers.  For the most part, the romance isn't so bad.  The basic story you're getting here, has been overdone, though.  So much so that the movie is just so predictable.  We can make all the jokes we want about how the ship will sink, but more important than that is just that the story doesn't try to throw any surprises at you.  There are some nice intimate moments between Jack and Rose at least that break the norm.  But it still stands:  Even when seeing it the first time it's as predictable as you can get.

The second half--the sinking--showcases some incredible special effects.  As the Titanic sinks, it ramps up.  On both an emotional level and as a visual spectacle.  Even if you're not one for sappy romance it's at least worth watching once just to see how James Cameron and company portray the sinking.  It looks as chaotic as you could imagine it to be.  It is also helped by having James Horner compose an excellent musical score.  It brings out even more emotion. 

Was Titanic really good enough to win Best Picture?  Or even get nominated?  Well, no.  As I said, it's cheesy and cliche.  It had a lot of commercial success going behind it, and it has a lot of good filming techniques.  Despite everything happening on screen, James Cameron never gives you a headache as chaos unfolds.  However, while there's a lot of good camera work and whatnot, it just doesn't separate from the fact that everything else about the film is subpar.  

If you're a history person, you're sure to be disappointed.  This isn't a history film... or even a historically driven film.  There are some basic things they keep in tact.  The approximate number of people who die, and of course, the boat sinks.  But this is really about it.  The movie takes place on the Titanic, but it's not as though you're really learning about the disaster itself.  Despite that the main reason that the crew brought Rose there was to hear about the Titanic and the Hope Diamond.  Yet the Hope Diamond in and of itself is only in the movie for one scene in particular.  For a movie that was centered around the Hope Diamond at the start, Cameron sure forgot about it pretty fast.  It doesn't even have much thematic use.  It mostly just serves as a plot device.  Nothing wrong with that.  You'll probably forget about the Hope Diamond anyway.  This is a love story about Jack and Rose.

The movie is also around 3 hours and 15 minutes long.  At least it doesn't always feel long.  The movie is divided into two parts.  The voyage and the sinking.  That's about it.  It's a long movie but once that makes use of just about everything it has at its disposal.  Although according to that Deluxe Edition DVD, this movie was supposed to be at least four hours.  There was quite a bit cut.  It's nothing you'll really lose sleep over, though.

Overall, it's not a bad movie.  But it isn't great either.  Were it not the highest grossing film of all time it might not be one of those movies everyone would immediately know.  Aside from it's legacy at the box office, Titanic has little that makes it that memorable.  It doesn't have a lot that makes it stand out.  It's got great film technique and a huge emotional impact, but there are dozens more movies that have the same impact (Schindler's List , Saving Private Ryan, LIfe is Beautiful, The Green Mile and even other movies that do it in other ways such as Wall-E and The Shawshank Redemption).  In short, it's a very average movie that had a fantastic run at the box office and a smart director behind the camera. 

It should also be known that the movie often falls into obscurity.  Despite having a huge run at the Box Office and good Oscar haul, as well as Celine Dion's famous song, Titanic still never made a significant dent in Pop Culture.  The highest grossing film of all time didn't make a huge dent?  Seriously.  It seems as though the only real legacy that the movie has is its huge box office gross and its lead actors.  

It's worth watching at least once, though.  Those who saw the movie when it came out may remember the craze.  Watching it now, however... it's hard not to wonder just what we were so crazy over it for.

What did you think of this review?

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January 16, 2010
Nice review. I pretty much agree with your assessment on this one. I would give it three and a half stars if I could. Highly entertaining but not a great film.. Nevertheless I think I will pick this one up at the library in the near future. I have only seen it once.
 
July 08, 2009
amazing review, Sean. I would actually rate this 2.5-3 stars also because while I understood that the audience needed to be entertained, I thought it was too cheap for the screenplay to focus on the young lovers and ignore the tragedy of the sinking--there were other people in the ship! I fell asleep when I saw it the first time in theaters and woke up when the ship hit the iceberg. I have seen it twice since then but still didn't change my opinion. Nice review, bud. Keep up the good work!
 
July 05, 2009
What a great review, very thoughtful and well-written. I remember being so awed the first time I saw the movie; I'd never heard of CGI before. The JACK! drinking game is a good idea. And thanks for the spoiler!
 
July 05, 2009
Nice review.....There have been numerous takes on the Titanic, dating back to the 1940s and yes, the most recent one as you discuss is about love, boy meets girl and so on. And I agree, some of the dialogue was on the "cheesy" side, making it difficult for Kate and and Leo at times to deliver their lines with any semblance of talent, which both are most endowed. Dialogue is most definitely not the strongest point of that film, nor is the acting. I remember the original reviews saying that Kathy Bates was most underused. The movie as a whole, though, does have something for everyone (Cameron made sure of that) with it's touching love story, outrageous sets, plenty of action, fabulous costumes and the list goes on. I own the film and am able to watch it whenever I want, and I think what touches me the most is the idea that "Jack" sees something in Rose that nobody else does. He views her as a women of strength with much potential, capable of tackling anything she sets her mind to, and that alone stands to reason why Titanic has maintained its popularity, especially with young women.....plus the fact that the movie is quite entertaining and Cameron seems to understand that people still want to be entertained.....that's why films were invented in the first place.
 
July 05, 2009
I really didn't like this movie. Cameron successfully trivialized an actual historic moment with his fantasy love story. Had I been one of those Titanic survivors, I would have hobbled my old ass over to James Cameron's film set and sunk his ego with a hit over the head with my cane.
July 05, 2009
Yeah, from a Historian's Point of View... it's just not going to be all that good at all. 
December 05, 2010
I'm not sure I follow you Scotman. Are you saying that Cameron's movie was a response to films from the 50s and 60s or to the historic event? I did not have 50s and 60s films in mind when I said he was trivializing a historic moment. Nor do I think film nostalgia obviates the point.
December 06, 2010
I am with Sniffcode on this one.
 
1
More Titanic (movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . January 17, 2011
One of the best movies ever, I cry every time I watch it.
review by . March 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A film that defined a genration and still has the power to speak to audiences of today...
The sinking of the Titanic was one of the greatest tragedies  in  history more than a 1,517 lives were lost to the frozen  waters it was a  tragedy that shook the  world  in  1912  and left a lasting impression on all those  who   heard of the loss of that day. Many films have been made in 1943 Werner Klinger used the events as Nazi propaganda to discredit British and American capitalist dealings and glorify the bravery and selflessness of Germanic …
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
Aside from it's legacy at the box office, Titanic has little that makes it that memorable. It doesn't have a lot that makes it stand out. It's got great film technique and a huge emotional impact, but there are dozens more movies that have the same impact... it's just a movie that had a fantastic run at the box office and a smart director behind the camera.
review by . July 15, 2010
I loved it..But Im really sad.
omg i loved this movie its the best movie ever..But its really sad the way everyone dies and i hate the way they show everything it breaks my heart ecuae thinking of kids and babies omg its soo sad to even think of such a traggic incident happening to you..I am really sad to see this movie..i was soo sad at the end of the movie..I felt so bad for the people who had to suffer the frozen water..i really liked the way Kate winslets toe dancing steps they were awesome..Both of there chemistry rocked...It …
review by . July 01, 2010
This move is moving. It was historical. It was kinda slow. There are just so many things that I don't understand about this movie. Much of it has to do with character motivation. Also one of my biggest problems with it, is that Dicaprio should not have died! I felt like he didn't want it bad enough. In these type of tragic movies I try to put myself into the shoes of the characters and try to think about what I'd do. And maybe it's just me, but I would've survived the tragedy. …
Quick Tip by . June 08, 2010
One of the best movies of all time. I cry every time I watch it.
Quick Tip by . May 03, 2010
posted in MovieSucktastic
Stunning visuals and story of lovers from different castes who meet on the doomed ocean liner. Too sad or long to warrant a new watch.
Quick Tip by . January 07, 2010
Wasting so much $$$ to sink a ship on the screen & then to market the movie as a Love Story? Total waste!
Quick Tip by . January 07, 2010
Reducing a tragic REAL event to a mere cheesy love story is appalling. Missed the social and moral implications of the tragedy...
Quick Tip by . October 01, 2009
Oh man, I totally saw this cheese fest when it first came out. It's something that I'll only ever watch once. Too long.
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Titanic
is a romantic drama film released on December 19, 1997 and produced by Paramount Pictures.  The film was directed and written by James Cameron.  Titanic was produced by Jon Landau along with James Cameron, and starred Leonardo DiCaprio,Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Victor Garber, Kathy Bates, GloriaStuart, Bill Paxton and Danny Nucci

Titanic is a fictional story of a rich woman and a poor man on the Titanic who meet on the unsinkable ship  perfect optimizer.  Featuring spectacular special effects set amidst the backdrop of one ofthe most tragic events of the 20th Century, James Cameron'saward-winning TITANIC stands as one of the greatest Hollywoodspectaculars of all time. Beginning with an undersea expedition in the1990s, in which scuba divers are searching the sunken ship for lostrelics, a painting of young Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) isfound. This triggers a flashback to the young woman's story as ithappened on the doomed Titanic. Rose is a daughter of privilege on herway to be married to an arrogant but wealthy young man (Billy Zane).Despairing, Rose finds herself falling in love with Jack Dawson(Leonardo DiCaprio), a carefree and poor young artist who is alsoaboard. When the great ship strikes an iceberg and begins to sink, Roseand Jack have only each other as their world falls apart around them.

After its releasethe film received 48 nominations, andcelebrated 76 various wins and 11 Academy Awardsin 1998 for ...

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