James Cameron’s Titanic Review 

Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

 

The year of 1997 was a very interesting year for media. On the animated film arena we had Hercules and Anastasia fighting for supremacy and in videogames we had Sony launching a multimillion dollar advertising campaign on one of the greatest and most ambitious videogames ever created Final Fantasy VII. Most likely after you saw the TV spot for Final Fantasy VII you probably saw a trailer for a movie that was about two lovers aboard a doomed vessel called Titanic. Director James Cameron was always fascinated by shipwrecks and wanted to tell a story about the most famous shipwreck the Titanic that would capture the sense of loss and tragedy on an epic film scale with a love story as the means of conveying the massive loss of human life. Cameron wrote a script that was heavily researched and analyzed by historians that were versed in the event as well as meticulous research by the filmmaker himself. When Cameron pitched his ideas the executives were flexible, but weren’t too keen on the idea because it didn’t have all the popcorn movie clichés of a modern big budget Hollywood movie.

Anyone who was following Hollywood news at the time knows that this production was plagued with budget problems going way over budget and ended up being the most expensive film ever made at the time with a $200 million end budget with both Paramount and 20th Century Fox collaborating on the film to get it done. Many critics and other Hollywood minds predicted failure due to the rising budget and delayed release dates, but after preview screenings in Minneapolis and the world premiere at the Tokyo Film Festival people started to spread internet buzz of the movie’s greatness and after the Hollywood premiere December 14th 1997 and the December 19th opening in theatres the attendance numbers would continue to grow and grow and grow. Theatres began to sell out and they just kept it in theatres. The movie continued to make money and was the #1 movie for 15 consecutive weeks in the US!!! It finished its box office run after 10 months of playing in theatres with $600,788,188 in the US alone and it had a grand total gross of $1, 843,201,268 and became the highest grossing movie of all time. Now I was merely a boy of 6 and didn’t see it until a few years later. Back then I thought it was definitely a decent movie, but definitely NOT deserving of the highest grossing movie of all time. In some cases I still believe that, but as far as the quality of the film goes I now believe after seeing it in 3D that Titanic is one of the best movies ever made. It’s definitely in the top 20 or 30. The scale and scope is insane, the story is epic and grand, suspenseful and sad. The characters are well acted and engaging and emotionally accessible. The effects are still pretty good even by today’s standards and of course I’ll add the 3D element. Ladies and Gentlemen as Brock Lovett said to old Rose “Are You Ready to Go Back to Titanic?” Well too bad ready or not we’re gonna do it anyway!

 

STORY

 

Okay let’s be honest here do I really need to do a synopsis? Well I guess for you younger folks out there who haven’t see n the movie I will. The movie begins in the present day. Well present day back then circa 1996 where undersea explorer and treasure hunter Brock Lovett played by Bill Paxton is searching the Titanic for a very valuable diamond necklace called “The Heart of the Ocean”. After excavating a safe where he thought the diamond would be he’s disappointed that it’s not there, but when other artifacts are being processed and preserved Lovett sees a drawing of a woman wearing the necklace and he knows he’s getting closer to the diamond. When the drawing is shown on TV as part of Lovett being interviewed an elderly woman sees it and calls Mr. Lovett and tells him that the woman in the drawing is her. The elderly woman and her granddaughter are flown out to the excavation ship and there she examines the artifacts. After proving her identity she begins to speak her account of what happened on Titanic and then we are transported into the flashback and see the ship in all of its glory. We are introduced to the old woman now a 17 year old girl in 1912 when Titanic sailed and sank. I think her name is Rose Dewey Bookdale… no that’s not it. Give me time folks the character has an odd name. Anyway you know who I’m talking about right? She’s played by Kate Winslet in the flashback. Okay. Anyway she’s part of a rich family and is engaged to a very rich steel tycoon named Cal Hockley played by the awesome Billy Zane. She doesn’t really love Cal and wants pretty much what Belle from B&B wants to find a more meaningful life beyond the boring and petty world she knows. Anyway she meets a penniless and free spirited artist named Jack Dawson played by Leonardo DiCaprio and the two eventually fall in love. As if overcoming the class barriers weren’t enough Titanic around midnight on April 15th 1912 struck an iceberg and stopped in the middle of the North Atlantic and two hours later would sink. The last act of the film chronicles the lovers’ fight for survival amidst the chaos and disaster of the sinking ship.

 

This story is classic and very good. It is often called out as harkening back to the old school Hollywood epics that Hollywood doesn’t do anymore. It is an epic love story that has everything. There are obviously romantic moments, but also comedic moments, suspenseful moments and of course sad moments. The film also does a very good job story wise by familiarizing people with the incident by showing a computer simulation of the sinking so people unfamiliar with the incident know exactly how the Titanic sank and in the flashbacks it even shows why as far as management and the thought processes that contributed to the ship hitting the iceberg. Now if you want me to nitpick the story yes there is an inconsistency because if this is a flashback how come we’re being shown some scenes where Rose isn’t there? But come on we’re all here for the flashback the occasional cut back to the present is only to provide structure and commentary. One of the great things about the story is if you pay attention in the beginning you already know the outcome, but are still sucked in and care about the leads and are genuinely frightened for them in the suspenseful scenes even though you know how it ends.

 

CHARACTERS

I didn’t get into the meat of the character interactions because that’s more of a character thing then a story thing even though it impacts the story greatly. Here are the characters of Titanic.

 

THE ENSEMBLE CHARACTERS

For the sake of time I’m going to have the ensemble all tied up in a summary despite their importance. There are quite a bit of bit characters aboard that are seen multiple times throughout the film. The audience gets to slightly know these characters just as we would if we were really aboard the ship and said hello to them everyday. So when most if not all of these characters die when the ships sinks it really effects you and it really drives home the tragedy for everyone in the audience even though they’re minor characters.  Now here are the two most important ensemble characters.

 

Captain Edward John Smith played by Bernard Hill

The man that would later play King Theodan in Lord of the Rings plays the real life captain of the Titanic. He does a nice job of playing a Captain and he’s so charming and likeable that you don’t dislike him for his misjudgments in sailing the ship. In the scene where the ship does start to sink and the life boats are running thin and that mother is holding her baby and asks the Captain where to go to find a boat the look on his face is superb acting and it really hit me. It’s so emotional and sad and that’s when he decides to do what any honorable captain would do and that’s go down with the ship. He does this because it’s a sailing rule, but also to redeem himself and also the look he gives to the crewmember that actually had the nerve to give him a lifejacket is also very telling to the Captain’s portrayal in this film. One the great stand out characters.

 

Thomas Andrews played by Victor Garber

Victor Garber portrays the real life designer of Titanic and is one of the most if not the most likeable character in the film. In fact he’s the one that wanted enough room in the boats for all passengers and wanted a few more safety mechanisms put in place, but was over ruled by the company. Even though he tried to make the ship safe during designs and construction he still feels guilty for not building a stronger ship and that more than half the people aboard will die. Victor Garber portrays the character very well showing charm, fear and guilt, and kindness especially when he explains to the Captain and his officers that the ship will sink and also the scenes with him and Rose. The best one being when he gives his lifejacket to Rose (which would undoubtedly help save her life) and says goodbye to Rose and Jack while he stays behind to go down with the ship as well. A great character that is often underrated when talking about this film.

 

Brock Lovett played by Bill Paxton

Brock Lovett while not in the film very much is still an important character because he represents the people that are too wrapped up in the sensationalism of the event and doesn’t fully understand the full emotional scope of what occurred that night. He spent 3 years looking for a diamond while the more precious things in the world were passing him by and Rose Dewitt Bukong’s … wait no, anyway Rose’s story touches his heart and he presumably moves on and forgets about the diamond to pursue the better things in life.

 

THE VILLAINS

Okay I love the villains in this movie. Attention all nerds I’m going to give you an excuse to see this movie now. Did you know that the main villain is played by Ansem the Seeker of Darkness from Kingdom Hearts? And did you know that his lackey is played by the guy who was the scientist in the second TMNT movie and the voice of Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman TAS and the voice of Herbert Landon in Spider-man TAS and the Arch Mage in Disney’s Gargoyles and here’s the best one he played Commander Sark in the original TRON? I believe you should be buying Titanic on Blu Ray. You want to know what the best part is? The actors of Billy Zane and David Warner respectively are their nerd characters in the film. That’s even more awesome!!! Here are the baddies of Titanic!!!

 

Cal Hockley played by Billy Zane

Cal is Rose’s fiancé and he is a filthy rich, snooty, arrogant, and sexist pig that thinks money can buy everything and he wants to control every aspect of his life even Rose. He’s so arrogant and will stop at nothing to get what he wants that he would compromise his own safety by continuing to stay on the ship just to get Jack and Rose. Billy Zane is so good at playing this charming and sophisticated person that contains a little bit of insanity. He’s channeling Ansem before that character is a thought in Tetsuya Nomura’s head. It’s a great performance to the villain of this epic love story.

 

Spicer Lovejoy played by David Warner

Spicer Lovejoy was a fairly skilled constable and was hired by Cal’s father to keep an eye on Cal and is his eyes and ears to Rose’s activities on the ship. He uses his policeman skills to track Rose down easily and constantly reports to Cal and in a lot of ways is the footman for Cal when it comes to following and chasing our leads. Much like Sark in TRON. We all remember the scene where he’s chasing them right? Lets take a look at that scene and then take a look at the next one. You’re probably going to nod your head because it makes perfect sense and it’s awesome.

Chase Scene

Sark

He’s completely channeling Sark right? You know after the door locked on him he said this…

Logic Probe

LEADS

If you don’t know who they are by now something’s wrong with you.

 

Okay let’s try this again. Rose Dewitt Bukater ….. Nah that can’t be it. Played by Kate Winslet

Rose is a smart and beautiful girl and makes a great romantic leading lady. She’s relatable despite her social class because she’s relatable on an emotional level. We understand what she’s thinking and feeling and like Jack we want to help her. We also get insight into why she loves Jack through the couple’s interactions because he completes her as well as shows her a new outlook on life and an escape from the path that she doesn’t want to follow, but feels she’s forced to. Are you taking notes Twilight? One of the great things about the ending scene of the film which fascinates me is how the camera focuses on her pictures so that we see Jack’s influence on her life even though he’s gone (Yeah I don’t think I spoiled anything did I?). The ending scene is interesting because Cameron intended it to be read multiple ways. Old Rose is sleeping in her bed and then we are taken inside the wrecked hull of Titanic and then we are taken into the grand staircase all new and everyone is waiting for Rose and at the top of the stairs Jack is waiting for her. You could interpret this as a dream or that she died and returned to Titanic. I don’t know what to feel about that. I believe it could be either or so you decide that for yourself. Kate Winslet’s performance as Rose (Gloria Stuart as Old Rose was fine) was great. She captured the intelligence, suffering and eventual happiness and sadness of the character very well and truly shows her growth as a person the more time she spends with Jack.

 

Jack Dawson played by Leonardo DiCaprio

Now I’ve never been much of a Leo fan. I’ve never really seen any of his work. Although I did like his performance in Growing Pains as well as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Now I’m sure we all remember an age before Edward and Jacob and that was Leo. Girls went insane for him. It was a huge craze. I remember girls at my elementary school were nuts about him when this movie came out. You know it’s a shame people went to go see a genuinely good movie for just one element. Despite the fan girl craze for Leo I don’t think this was the only contributing factor to the film’s success. You can certainly get a lot of big numbers because of the pretty boy element, but to reach these astronomical numbers you need a lot more than that. This movie had to touch people emotionally or do something to engage so many people to be that successful. That’s why I disagree with people that right off Titanic’s success as multiple viewings by teenage girls. It just can’t happen with those box office numbers especially the international ones. Now back to Leo’s character and performance. I think this is DiCaprio’s best performance. He captures the youthful spirit of Jack Dawson and is so full of life and always maintains hope even if he has to create it himself. I love the scene where he gets angry at the man at the gate and re rips the bench out of the floor and he rams it into the gate clearing the path. I also think he’s a great romantic leading man and his chemistry with Kate Winslet is excellent. The little nuances in the performance and interactions of those characters is so natural and is probably why so many people myself included were hooked. I love the scene where they’re actually in the water after the sinking and he puts Rose on the floating door and when he realizes that it can’t support both of them as opposed to looking for something that can support both of them and probably die while searching he decides to basically sacrifice himself and stay in the water to not only stay with Rose, but also protect her from people trying to steal her spot on the debris. In fact there’s a deleted scene where someone tries to do that and Jack tells the guy to back off or he’ll kill him. I also really like Jack’s final monologue and that’s what I find romantic and sad. He tells Rose not to say goodbye yet with the promise they make HE’S actually saying goodbye. He’s not stupid. He knows he’s going to die, but he wants her to survive and move on and live the greatest life she can possibly have. And also when Rose says “I Love You Jack” that is the only time the phrase “I Love You” is said in the entire movie. I just find that very interesting. Jack Dawson is a great character in this great film.  Oh yeah and I would be remiss if I didn’t put this scene in here.

I was Frozen Today

 

MUSIC

I have a like hate relationship with the music of this movie. The score by James Horner is amazing and it fits the epic scale and the visuals and the haunting vocals are done very well, but the thing I hate is very simple and I think you know what it is by now…

 

MY HEART WILL GO ON music and lyrics by James Horner and Will Jennings

 

Good God I hate this song. It’s not that it’s a terrible song it just doesn’t SHUT UP and it NEVER WENT AWAY!!!!!!!!!!! I swear after the movie came out every time I changed the channel to MTV this music video would be playing! Ugh!!!!!!!!!!!  I swear it played well into the year 2000 and same thing goes with the Radio Stations! Oh yeah by the way it was sung by Celine Dion.

 

SOUTH HAMPTON THEME

 

I love this theme because it captures the epic feel and scale that the movie was going for. You can feel the power of the ship just by listening to it. It captures the presence and mystique of the ship before the realism kicks in when the ship actually starts to sink. Excellent work by James Horner!

 

ARTISTIC PRESENTATION

 

The effects were astounding back then and in a lot of respects they’re still impressive now after 15 years. There are some effects where I say to myself “yeah that doesn’t look like a model or a Playstation 1 quality computer animated character for big overhead crowd shots”. The effects of the ship sinking are actually still good. Now for the 3D. I really don’t care for the real technicals of whether 3D  is used properly or not. It’s all by feeling and you know what the 3D was okay in some scenes and in others it was actual good at enhancing things. When there were scenes of the real Titanic being shot at the bottom of the sea the particles in the water did make you feel like you were there. I think the best part about the 3D was that it made the ship more tangible. Now I don’t think this was intentional or it may have been just me after all I still had my 3D glasses on, but during the scene where the 1 boat comes back to rescue people there was a light on my leg (my leg was up on the foot rail because I was in the middle of the theatre) and when the officer’s flashlight moved the light moved from my leg back and forth across the theatre and it didn’t look like a normal light reflection while looking at a screen. Since the camera was at the same level as the people in the water the effect had an even bigger impact and it really made me feel like I was there in the water looking at the rescue boat.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I originally perceived Titanic to be a decent, but extremely overrated movie, but after seeing it again I now appreciate its greatness. It still didn’t deserve the title of highest grossing movie, but it’s more deserving than AVATAR. It has great storytelling, very good writing, great acting, solid effects, great music, and an emotional core and attachment that “never lets go” even long after you’ve left the theatre or turned your TV and video player off. Thank you very much and stay tuned next time where I review some attractions and shows I watched when I went to Disneyland last week!!

 

VERDICT: 4.8 nude drawings out of 5

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.