- James Cameron’s seventh feature film– and last film before Avatar in 2009– a 194 minute romance historical epic
- also works as a disaster film like the popular subgenre during the 1970’s from Towering Inferno to The Poseidon Adventure
- mock it if you will- but I don’t think there’s much arguing with the beauty of Celine Deion vocalizing the justifiably iconic James Horner score
- Magnificent match transitions both coming in and out of flashbacks
- A dozen transcendent-level establishing shots of ships– immaculate computer simulated crane shots
- Like Avatar, Cameron takes clichés like the star-crossed rich girl/poor boy lovers and class struggle and reinvents them and makes them iconic. These are clichés for a reason—its storytelling that’s deep down in us– architypes. On the flip side, nobody could accuse this of being a meditation on the class struggle or confuse this with what the Dardenne brothers are doing on the subject in the same time period
- The mayhem in the last hour is such a pop art achievement— all of the computer graphics work and the work in the massive water tank are impressive– the lights bouncing off the water in particular are magnificent – but there is more time just spent mulling around the narrative and focusing on the acting than I remember
- Two great actors of their generation (if not the greatest)- Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet- they were not made great because of this film and ensuring popularity- this was a stepping stone for them– they were each great before and after (and here)
- Kathy Bates, David Warner and Billy Zane are all excellent as well in support and perfectly cast
- it had to be the clout coming from Terminator 2 that let Cameron keep the storyline that includes Bill Paxton (a Cameron regular) contemporary storyline– Cameron was fascinated with the discovery of the Titanic. There is just a good 20 minutes or so of exposition before the film takes flight really with the two brilliant sequences- the first establishing shot of the ship, and the shot of introducing Winslet under the hat
- It’s not quite as good as Gone With the Wind– it isn’t as well written and I’ll take some of the shots and sequences in GWTW over this but it’s not a terrible comparison—both superbly produced. Both won a ton of Oscars (11 here, 8 for Gone With The Wind). were among the biggest box office films of all time, and include personal dramas with a historical backdrop– the artistically rendered backdrops and sunsets (both fabricated backgrounds (one with computers)). Both films have size, scale (tons of extras), opulence and spectacle in the set design.
- hits the iceberg about halfway through the running time for symmetry
- much like the class struggle- there is an opportunity here to say more about man’s hubris– that Cameron just doesn’t have an interest in
- “I’m the kind of the world” scene is very well shot indeed– again this is a tough film to look past the parody that would ensue in the coming years and decades– but it really has no bearing on the value of the film
- Again, not a flawless film by a long shot- the “something Picasso, he won’t amount to a thing” writing is terrible as is Leo’s line “you’re amazing astounding girl, Rose” line (sounds like my writing- haha). Brutal—
- Lots of transparent foreshadowing “you’ll never get to the likes of her”
- Strobe lighting while the ship is sinking with the lighting going out is absolutely gorgeous- taking from the scenes in Aliens
- I would love to hear a harsh critic of the film and see what they have to say about the set pieces and visual filmmaking. They’re ignoring it.
- Epic film-making at its best. Wonderful use of extras and overhead shots with hundreds seen drowning.
- the final shot– a tracking shot opening the doors in first person point-of-view– strong
- Must-See- top five of the year quality– if leaning to either side maybe a bit towards a HR
I don’t know, I may be on the wrong side here, but I feel Titanic is so exhaustingly talked about. I am one of the harsh critics of the film, but not in the sense that I relentlessly hate on it. You are very right for pointing out that many people just ignore the visual aspects of the film – beautifully shot, great long takes of the ship, all the technicalities with the crowds, the Titanic flooding and sinking. I respect your pointing them all out and I think you’re right for it. It is a very well made film and it has certain features of epic filmmaking. But there’s always a but. And in the case of Titanic it really has to do with the writing. There is good reason why it is such a meticulously parodied movie – some of the dialogue is needlessly laughable (as you’ve pointed out yourself) and the plot devices (and I mean nearly all of them) are just too obvious. It becomes really hard to properly appreciate all of the film’s technical brilliance when it appears -to me- so mediocre in terms of writing.
Also, I tend to notice a certain absence of style. Titanic is well shot and by all means a well crafted picture, but there is no dedication to an aesthetic, and other than all its volume, it doesn’t have much artistic merit in that department. It may seem like an unfair comparison (and it is, tbh), but take your average transformers movie for instance – they can potentially feature the same large scale filmmaking that is so characteristic to epics, but there is no art in there. Not to say that Titanic is of as low artistic quality as a transformers movie (in Titanic we relish the shots, enjoy them and their purpose is fulfilled). All I’m saying is that we enjoy the size of the filmmaking for its own sake. To make myself clearer, you made a comparison with Gone With the Wind. Aside from the fact that Gone With the Wind is infinitely superior in terms of writing, there is also a certain artistic quality in the way it approaches its long shots and use of technicolour, that I also find better than in Titanic.
I guess my point is that we can excuse mediocre writing as a flaw, if we can see the art (I guess Baz Luhrman is a good example of this – still, I’m not with those who appreciate the Great Gatsby a lot). And vice versa, we can excuse the absence of a striking artistic approach in the presence of great writing (a modern example of a film that resonates so well, solely relying on its writing is the Hours). Titanic lacks both for me, and as a well made epic, it only registers as a high quality blockbuster in my book. I wouldn’t rewatch it. I just don’t think it’s interesting enough. Objectively, yes it probably belongs to the top 10 films of 1997, but I can’t overlook all of the things I’ve mentioned above. That said, I don’t hate on it because “there was enough room on the door” (the fact that Jack dies is a large part of the film’s iconic status) or out of a toxic reaction to its popularity. I genuinely think it is too flawed for its own good. Avatar was probably better, and honestly I’m not head over hills for that one either. I think the English Patient is MUCH better in SO many ways, and it has received a fairly similar treatment by pop culture. But anyways. I do like your more objective approach, I think it’s fair to the movie. And ditto for Celine Dion and the soundtrack, it’s one of the most original and artistically wholesome aspects of the movie.
*to be fair, the Hours also earns a few points for the acting and a great deal of lots of points for the score by Philip Glass, which honestly just ranks as one of the top 10 of the 21st century. That said, its structure as kind of an ensemble is very well executed. What I meant by mentioning it above is that there isn’t a very characteristic or idiosyncratic approach by the director, or in terms of visual style and cinematography, which is usually a very important factor.