Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)

A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind, but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

With a budget of over 200 millions of dollars, this epic romance disaster movie is one of the most iconic film of the 1990’s for being the first movie to achieve the billion dollar mark at the box-office, to tie with Ben-Hur for eleven wins at the Oscars, and bringing the stupid catch phrase I’m the king of the world! in everyone’s mouth.

But other than the most common facts known from producer/director James Cameron’s huge technical achievement we will be analyzing the movie for what it is : a movie.

With an overture shot on location of the actual Titanic, Cameron wants us as contemporaries to believe this romanced story of class disputes on the eve of the 20th Century. Why on the eve in 1914? Well, in History class we told our students that every century is born why an important event. In the case of the 20th Century, it was the First World War that brought a change for everyone and mark the birth of the 20th Century.

With Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, in the film that launched his career for good and wet many panties for years we have on the other end of the couple the rich Rose (Kate Winslet). Their love story is the center plot of the movie and they each represent a class of poor, him, and rich socialite, her. Rose’s husband, Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) is one of the wealthiest men on board and represents evil capitalism and the heir of a rich family. A prick. With characters brushed with bold strokes we kind of already know from start where this film is going. The poor good guy wants the girl, but the bad rich dude has her and she wants the poor guy. Perfect simple love triangle.

The fact that the story is secondary and so not slyly handled is partially forgivable when the stunning visual rendition of the Titanic is shown. Director James Cameron is so in love with this liner that he seems to have made this 194 minutes film as a love making session of him with the lady Titanic. Being, probably the person who visited the boat the most repetitively on Earth, he is dedicated to her.

The actual wreckage is pretty spectacular and one must applaud Cameron’s handling of these scenes and the realism they represent. Knowing that it was one of the most difficult shooting doesn’t make the film a superior œuvre, but it shows how this film is an achievement. It is impressive and even almost twenty years after it was release dit is still as the aforementioned Ben-Hur’s famous race scene iconic and inimitable.

However, I have never been a fan of James Cameron’s films and as I must recognize the technical wizardry of Titanic’s  visuals, special effects, and mise en scène, I cannot pass over the fact that it was a poorly written script and an overly too long film. More than three hours of this is too much for me and one must forget the budget and the special effects to actually think about the cinematic value and spectacle of Titanic. Impressive but also very shallow.

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