It’s hard to say what was crazier: spending $200 million on a period love story with a downer ending or the backlash that started a few nano-seconds after the film cleaned up at the Academy Awards. Make no mistake, L.A. Confidential was the superior picture that got robbed of the Best Picture statue, but snubbing a superior, less commercial film has become sort of an Oscar tradition in recent years.

Just because Confidential was the better movie doesn’t mean Titanic sucked, not by a long shot. James Cameron’s epic no more deserves the constant elitist sneering and sniping it has received any more than it deserved the Best Picture award.

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When Titanic works, it works brilliantly and when it gets sidetracked by its somewhat silly plot, it’s still decent melodrama. At its best, the movie recreates the experience of sailing aboard the doomed ocean liner in vivid detail and recreates her death throes even more vividly. The special effect shots of the ship in port and at sea are almost seamless, except when the computer-generated people don’t quite uphold the illusion of reality.

The love story that Cameron sets against this backdrop actually works quite well when it focuses on the film’s two appealing leads, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet). It only degrades into silly melodrama when Billy Zane and David Warner appear on screen to twirl their mustaches. I think there was (and is) a tendency to dismiss the two leads as pretty faces for the teen market, but this forgets a key fact. Both actors were known at the time for taking challenging, unconventional roles (and have continued that career path since). Before Titanic, DiCaprio was best known for off-center films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Basketball Diaries. Winslet had been seen in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures and Kenneth Branagh’s epic version of Hamlet. Director James Cameron no doubt cast them in this film because he knew it would need some very strong shoulders to carry it.

The supporting cast is pretty solid, even if Kathy Bates as Molly Brown is the only one who makes a really strong impression that stays with you after you left the theater. Bill Paxton is also good but his character is a fairly standard Bill Paxton role. It was as if Fred Haise from Apollo 13 had given up flying in space to search for shipwrecks.

If you get right down to it, the whole framing story about the present-day wreck hunters could have been jettisoned completely without harming the film at all. We would have lost a touching performance by Gloria Stuart as the 101-year-old Rose, but overall the three-hour movie would have been better off without the 30 or so minutes that sub-plot tacked onto it.


The recreation of the sinking, the heart of this film, is a special effects tour de force. From the flooding corridors inside the ship to those hanging for dear life from the fantail, Titanic creates a sense of chaotic and kinetic action and palpable terror. The shot of the stern of the ship breaking off and falling toward the people in the water has a real emotional impact when you see it for the first time.

So, based on the pure audacity of tackling such a project, the technical mastery of its execution and the appeal of its two talented leads, Titanic more than overcomes any minor deficiencies in its storytelling.

7 thoughts on “Titanic

  1. Alex

    Ok all due respect, I think titanic sucked and here is why.

    First of all, when you base a story on a recent famous and real event, you have a certain level to attain. That level is hit more than 25% realistic.

    The film was way too long, boring even. It was not realistic, it was racist (the italian sidekick was so horrible in this respect, it was painful), and it was too simple. It was history for teenagers, which means it was fake history.

    If you cant do justice to a real event, Id say dont do anything at all.

    Bathroom Review

  2. Foos

    It was a good “money” movie.

    Historic Event. Check
    Teen Puppy Love. Check
    Tear Jerking ending. Check

    It has the same basis as Pearl Harbor. Which was a good movie but Crappy acting from Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett didn’t let it get any Acting or Best Picture Oscars.

  3. Muse

    It was one of those good movies that came out around christmas, but it is also a cheesefest…because the film just doesn’t age well.

    “I’ll never let go jack, i’ll never let go”. SHE LET GO, then i think she kicked him in the head as she swam past him.

    I heard Matthew McConaughey was supposed to play the role of jack, can you imagine?

    “The ships going down? Well alright, alright alright!”

  4. Anonymous

    i thought Titanic was pretty good, but I do agree that most of it was not true. I do have quite an extensive knowledge of the Titanic and I think Titanic was far from the real thing. Although I may sound like a crazy demented person, I thought the best part of Titanic was when it sank. The rest of the movie had no action.

  5. Annette

    I can say I really enjoyed the Titanic but only because I chose to ignore the annoying parts. Like, for example, the fact that Kate is sharing quarters with her man (I forget) to whom she is not yet married. That was irksome. And that her mom was pimping her out because they were broke. Not happening for me.

    I liked the “below decks” party and the highbrow party that Jack gets to attend. I loved the recreation of the ship and how it showcased the glamour.

    Sure, there were tons of silly parts that have been rightly spoofed: “I’m king of the world!” But if you squinted your eyes just right, and were in the mood to buy what they were selling, then it was a good flick.

  6. DrtySouthDiva

    Ok let me just say, i hated this movie with a passion, and it maybe partly because i just hate chick flicks.

    But it was just so sappy, and lovey dovey it made me want to throw and smack my sister for dragging me to see it.

    By far the best part was the ship sinking, but even then they made it sappy.l The band played on, we have people jumping over the edge of the boat, men are pushing women into the water to get on the life rafts, and the damn band is still playing? Come the fuck on people.

    And i love Billy Zane, but i wanted to shot him myself in this movie. He character was supposed to be too self absorbed with himself and his money to care about Rose, i mean women like that are a dime a dozen and here he is chasing her around that damn boat, and trying to kill the lowlife she fell in love with. Who if he had lived wouldnt have amounted to much anyways. But there would have been love there no doubt.

    Ok im going to stop right there before i get my blood pressure up fuming about this stupid ass movie:)


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