Jan 9, 2015

Review: Titanic (1997)

Titanic was a big deal back in 1997 and it's easy to argue that its impact is still being felt today. What's funny is that it was seen as an inevitable flop as big as the Titanic was back before it was released. At the time, its $200 million budget was the biggest ever and not even its director, writer and producer James Cameron, the man who had previously made Terminator 2: Judgement Day and True Lies thought it be profitable.

Cameron fought to keep his vision intact though and you can't really help but respect the sheer size and scope that he packs into this 194 minute epic romance. Titanic was bold and the gamble somehow ended up paying off. $1,843,201,268 was made worldwide in its initial theatrical run, but what amazes me is how the subsequent 3D release was able to add on $343,571,034 for a total of $2,186,772,302. That's staying power if I ever saw it, but it helps that a significant investment was made for the 3D conversion and I've heard that Titanic in 3D is quite the experience.


Genre: drama, romance
Directed by: James Cameron
Produced by: James Cameron, Jon Landau, Rae Sanchini, etc.
Written by: James Cameron
Music by: James Horner
Running time: 194 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Paramount Pictures, Lightstorm Entertainment
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, etc.
Country: United Kingdom, United States, Czech Republic, etc.
Language: English, French, German, etc.
Budget: $200,000,000
Box office: $2,186,772,302 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bill Paxton, Bernard Hill, David Warner, Victor Garber, Jonathan Hyde, Suzy Amis, Danny Nucci, Jason Barry, Eric Braeden, Bernard Fox, Michael Ensign, Ewan Stewart, Jonathan Phillips



Aristocrat Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) embarks on the biggest ship in the world in 1912, the RMS Titanic with her fiancé Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) and her mother (Frances Fisher). Forced into the marriage due to circumstance, she's unhappy and feels trapped in her life despite its luxury and comfort. On the other side of the spectrum, artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) flies by the seat of his pants and manages to secure a ticket on board the Titanic. A chance meeting between Rose and Jack changes their lives forever.


Titanic is truly a behemoth of a story. It's composed of three parts: the modern day Titanic exploration story, the story of Jack and Rose's romance as well as the Titanic disaster angle. There's a lot going on but as a whole, I think it works pretty well. There's something for just about everyone in this film and it's all quite well put together even if it is a bit bloated.

When it comes to the modern day exploration stuff, I'm not so convinced that all of it is absolutely necessary. The underwater exploration scenes which were legitimately shot are quite incredible all the same and it provides an interesting contrast to the scenes we see of the past with the Titanic in all of its glory. I personally would've only included the modern scenes at the beginning and at the end instead of going back and forth multiple times. I don't usually have a problem with long movies, but we don't need all the additional exposition that old Rose (Gloria Stuart) provides.

Things get more interesting once we get to 1912 Southampton as everyone is boarding the Titanic. Different social classes in society at the time is a common theme in Titanic and we get shown that pretty much right away as Rose and her family disembark from their automobile. Besides one scene (Spoilers) where a mother tells her young daughter that they have to wait for the first class passengers to board the lifeboats as the Titanic is sinking before being to do the same themselves, (End Spoilers) James Cameron doesn't go too overboard with this contrast which is a good thing.

The romance between Jack and Rose is one that requires them to cross the line between their social classes. It's not the first time it's been done, but the barriers that James Cameron puts in place feel quite real and well done. There are also some pretty sweet moments between the two that I personally quite like. Take for example the way in which Cameron focuses on their hands as Jack and Rose are together. Seriously, watch for that because there's something about it that's really intimate. (Spoilers) I will also admit to being a sucker for the famous "I'm flying Jack!" scene. What can I say? It's the combination of emotions, music and visuals that makes it a shiver-inducing moment. (End Spoilers)

However, the big weakness in the romance department is the dialogue. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have come a long way since Titanic, but there are times where they both seem to visibly struggle with the more awkward lines. I'm pretty sure that Cameron is trying to create dialogue that's more old fashioned sounding, but something about it sounds off. This isn't really a problem for the whole movie, but it especially sticks out during these romantic scenes.

Once we get to the Titanic disaster itself, it's truly a cinematic experience. (Spoilers) Watching as the water slowly fills the ship after hitting the iceberg presents a whole lot of interesting situations and what's at stake has been firmly established. The sheer size of the production is truly felt here as you watch people panicking, trying to get off the doomed ship. (End Spoilers) The sets that are used are really well done and it all looks extremely genuine. As a production, this is where Titanic truly shines and the effects that are used still work very well despite being from 1997.

Despite some sweet and memorable scenes between Jack and Rose, Titanic doesn't fully deliver on its promise of romance. That still doesn't mean it fails completely in that regard, because there are some undeniable moments that even the most hardened soul should feel something. I know I did. What I personally admire about Titanic however is the quality of the production and making the Titanic come alive. Her short life and quick demise is superbly put together and truly awe-inspiring to watch. (Spoilers) I will also say that while the ending is pretty cheesy, it's the most beautiful kind of cheese you can have. (End Spoilers)



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