Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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"Titanic" is a competently produced and directed film about one of the most romantic and mystic disasters of the twentieth century. I've always argued that I hope no one ever makes a picture about Titanic, because one day I will. But now I won't have to, because James Cameron beat me to the punch.
Cameron sets the movie up by placing it in the present on an exploration vessel that is visiting the wreckage. The explorers are searching for buried treasure, the "Hope Diamond" that is probably worth a ton of money. But it's through their search that the audience meets an elderly lady who says she was on Titanic, who says she knows about the coveted diamond. So she's brought along and specifically, it's through her that we learn about Titanic's story.
Staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, director James Cameron takes us on a journey into the past, showing us the Titanic in all its glory through these two young eyes.
DiCaprio is a third class passenger, who wins his ticket in a card game. Winslet is the beautiful first class damsel in distress, who is unfortunately doomed to marry a spoilt idiot. But love prevails and these two meet and have fun. Of course it's a tragic love story, as we all know what will happen in the end.
But the romance feels sloppy, almost as if it's just running through the motions. It lacks the powerhouse feelings that one gets when they watch a true romance story, such as "The Bridges of Madison County," or "Greese." But overall it's played fairly well. The important point is that Cameron is trying to create enough reality between their situation and the emotions of the audience, so that when the disaster strikes, we're emotional babies. In some ways it sounds manipulative, but it works here to a degree.
Another credit to Cameron was his smart computer recreation of the sinking we see at the beginning of the film on board the exploration vessel. That way near the end of the film when the disaster strikes, we know exactly how the ship is going to sink. And we also know where the characters shouldn't be running during the escape.
But for me, it wasn't really through the relationship that I felt like I was sinking with the ship. It was through a few other minor characters that I was able to gain a strong connection to the ship. And to be honest I would have liked to have seen more of them. Specifically, I'd like to have seen more of Titanic's Captain, eventually left alone on his bridge as the waters explode through the windows. And the designer / architect of the Titanic, sailing on her maiden voyage, trapped bravely in the dinning room as his ship sinks. Seeing the expressions of disappointment on these men's faces, that was what moved me.
The effects of the sinking are wonderful. Watching it break in two and fall back down into the water was breath-taking moment. I really felt like I was sinking with the ship. It truly was "epic," to say the least.
But my only other wish (with the first one being a better romance and more secondary characters), would have been to see more of the ship. A few nights earlier, I had watched an A&E documentary, and the Titanic was much larger than we saw in the movie. Did you know it had two large swimming pools, and a slew of other areas that would have been wonderful to see on the big screen? Sadly though, I saw more of the Titanic on the A&E Special than in the movie. But that doesn't mean the movie isn't worth watching, because it is.
A lot of people I had talked to before it was released had their doubts about Titanic. One person said, "how can you make a movie about that?" And my reply was, "well, they made Schindler's List, didn't they?" I knew Titanic would do well, but not as well as it has.
But, deep down, I wish it was more. I wish the romance was more, I wish it moved me more, because I wanted to be moved to absolute tears. But I wasn't, and I guess for Cameron, this was as good as it could get. So maybe someday I will make my version after all.
(Originally reviewed on December 30, 1997)
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older