Review: “Titanic” (1997)

The most financially successful film ever made. Kind of a lot for a movie to live up to.

I know, I know. With adjusted inflation, the title actually goes to “Gone with the Wind.” Then there’s the blue people over on Pandora. My point is that at one time, “Titanic” and its 11 Oscars were the benchmark for filmmaking.

So when I decided to watch James Cameron’s tragic tale for the first time (save your shocked face for someone else), I tried to stay objective and not let the hype get to me.

Since the Titanic sank 100 years ago and the film came out in the late 90’s, I won’t bother giving a story recap. If you don’t know it by now, it’s not my fault

My initial thoughts going into the film were that it was a love story inspired by, but not based on, Romeo and Juliet (R – Rose/Romeo, J – Jack/Juliet). Since we’re talking James Cameron, I also expected the sinking portion of the film to be top notch.

What often makes “Titanic” sound like a chick flick is the romance between Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio). I guess guys in the audience can only take so much and by the point in the film where Rose is “flying” over the ocean, they’re practically welcoming the iceberg with open arms.

I didn’t feel that the romance was too overwhelming. DiCaprio is his usual charming self and Winslet is fantastic. I was genuinely surprised that I cared about both of the characters (Winslet being my clear favorite). It usually helps when good actors are in these types of roles rather than Katherine Heigl.

What I did find utterly exhausting is just how much Titanic trivia Cameron felt needed to be in the film. I lost count of how many times the word “unsinkable” left someone’s mouth. Then there are several comments about lifeboats. And ironic comments about how nothing will ever go wrong on the Titanic ever. Never. Nope, not one thing. We get it.

There are also way too many characters in this 194 minute movie. I appreciated many of the smaller characters having at least SOME arc or purpose (Kathy Bates, Victor Garber and Bernard Hill mainly). How about Jack’s friends in the bottom of the ship, though? Maybe 10 minutes on screen out of a 3-hour film?

Then there are the historical innacuracies with the film. Some are small, like the flashlights used hadn’t been invented and the lake that Jack talks about back home wasn’t a lake yet. Others blatantly change the entire film and are brushed aside to make room for the romantic plot.

The best things I can say about the film come after the Titanic has struck the iceberg. The last hour of the film is filled with tension and suspense. Between the rising water levels, the quickly filling lifeboats and the antics of Billy Zane’s character, it’s pretty intense. The set designs of the film are also very well done. While the special effects could probably benefit from today’s technology, they are still breathtaking.

“Titanic” is far from the perfect film that some would like to claim but it is rather good. Such a complicated film of great magnitude cannot be easily put together. It may be lacking in a few areas, but a great cast and a technically sound film make it worth watching at least once. Whether you watch this film or catch a special on the History channel, take some time out of your weekend to note the great loss suffered by those in pursuit of a better life 100 years ago.

Grade: B

In the coming days I’ll have a review up for the Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard film “Cabin in the Woods.” Come back then and check it out. Happy viewing.

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3 thoughts on “Review: “Titanic” (1997)

  1. I thought the personal plot genuinely detracted from the drama of the sinking. I really felt quite angry that the director had these characters involved in plot-line we’ve seen a hundred times before at precisely the point when I wanted to be focusing on teh story of teh Titanic itself.

    • That’s a good point. Around the time I was writing about the historical stuff, I was thinking how much I would like to see a movie that’s more devoted to the ship’s actual story. I hope one day there is a film that is more about the Titanic, rather than a story which happens to take place on the boat. (A fictional story at that.)

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