83 – Titanic (1997)

Jack DawsonI don’t know about you, but I intend to write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all of this.

 

Seen before?

R: Only the first fifteen minutes a few Christmases ago.

F: Yes – I was 10 when it came out in cinemas and it was rated 12 in the UK. Blame my dad for sneaking us in!

Thoughts?

R: This is the overly contrived story of a doomed holiday romance, which is only partially redeemed by its historical setting and some well-directed, tense action set pieces. Perhaps the main problem with the film is that so much of it is preposterously silly that it’s difficult to feel particularly invested in the drama.

F: I do feel that if Titanic wasn’t a real ship and this was a fictionalised story then I wouldn’t have so many reservations. As it is, I don’t care that much about the fictional lead characters and would like to see more about the people who were really there.

R: You’re absolutely right, the problem here is that so much of the character interaction is light and frothy that it doesn’t do justice to the reality of what happened to the ship. The film spends an inordinate amount of time showing us life aboard the ship before the iceberg is struck, but it’s all so frothy and inconsequential that it doesn’t really add to the horror of what’s happening when the ship starts to go down.

F: That said, the shots of Titanic especially as it starts sinking are impressive.

R: It is certainly a great example of the amazing spectacle of cinema, and I imagine that’s why it’s on this list. It’s certainly not because of the dialogue!

F: It is incredibly cringey at times. I do think that Leo and Kate are both good enough actors that they do bring some realism to the dialogue but even they can’t always save the clunkiness.

R: I don’t mean to disrespect people who like this film, but to me it feels like a movie for thick people. The dialogue is so expository. There’s no moral ambiguity. And the film never gives us space to work things out for ourselves. It made me realise that Hollywood has become much better at this in their big budget pictures over the last 20 years. The thing that makes this feel old-fashioned more than anything else is how it so consistently assumes so little of the audience’s intelligence.

F: There are one or two Titanic facts that need to be included in the film – it was marketed as unsinkable for example and the fact that there weren’t enough lifeboats on board – but I agree this information was shoehorned into the movie. For me though the main issue with this film is its length. I’m happy to sit through epics, but this didn’t really justify being over three hours long.

R: Definitely. If elderly Rose was in the film half as much as she is, there would still be too much of her. The way the macguffin is so casually tossed away – literally and figuratively – at the end of the film is a sign of how contrived that whole element of the story is. If we’re in agreement that the definitive Titanic film is yet to be made, what would you do differently in a 2017 remake?

F: I’d get rid of the whirlwind romance story. There will have been couples/families on that ship who were torn apart when women and children were put on the life boats and the men forced to stay behind. I don’t think the film got across that sense of loss well enough. I also think it needed to increase the level of fear and try to convey just how terrifying it would have been for those people.

R: Sounds good to me. The other important change we need to make is to ditch Celine Dion. I believe there is no question to which panpipes are the answer, and if we’re going for a more realistic vibe and losing the contrived love story, we’ve surely got to take the opportunity to get rid of the corny ballad while we’re at it?

F: Poor Celine! But it is a naff song. Agree it has to go. Do you think another reason Titanic is on this list is because it won all those Oscars?

R: Well yes, although there’s a reason it won all those Oscars, too. It is still visually impressive, even though the CGI looks a little primitive now. And as much as I’ve been sniffy about the writing, clearly it worked for a lot of the audience, because the film did phenomenal box office and was notorious for people going to see it more than once.

F: Yes, I’m struggling to think of a film since Titanic which got those people who never go to the cinema to go and see a film on the big screen, perhaps even multiple times. It’s hard to ignore its cultural impact.

R: But with all the truly excellent films that have come out in the last 20 years I won’t be at all surprised if this quietly disappears from the list the next time it’s updated.

 

Is it worthy of the top 100?

F: No I don’t think so although I can see why it’s included on the list.

R: No. I’d much rather we had Jurassic Park here as the example of a big budget 90s blockbuster where everything goes wrong.

Up next:
82 – Sunrise: A Song Of A Two Humans (1927)
Previously:
84 – Easy Rider (1969)
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