I’m pretty convinced that James Cameron only opted to do Titanic so he could do those beginning and closing scenes where Bill Paxton is exploring the sunken ship with drones and such. It’s like the big screen equivalent of choosing to staff a Birthright trip to Israel just so you can visit the country for free. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, and you probably would have had more fun if you just paid out of pocket to do this, but hey, you get to go for free!
And then somewhere in-between Cameron came up with the story for Titanic, or essentially, 90 minutes of explaining who some of these characters are and why we should care when the ship ultimately starts sinking. That plot is the romance of Rose, an East Egg type whose been immersed in napkin folding and chilled salad fork culture her whole life, and Jack, a starving artist type who greets each day with a hello and always says hell yeah to the possibility of adventure. They come from different sides of the port, but when their eyes meet, they know its true love.
It’s a pretty typical love story and Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet pull it off pretty well. Their chemistry is very evident and it makes sense their characters would fall for one another. But that romance is really secondary to the second half of the film where the iceberg crash finally happens! Now this is truly Cameron’s time to shine, with his immaculate attention to detail and special effects wizardry on full display here. We get a sense of the heightened fright and terror on every inch of the ship, how slowly but surely the boat is sinking and collapsing, and most impressively, just how quickly that water is rising up. It’s a strange experience, knowing a certain event is going to unfold onscreen but not sure how we’ll technically get there. Luckily, Cameron knows which directorial turns to make.
Titanic is an epic, a movie so large in scope and impact that even if it wasn’t that “good,” it’s still a massive feat and accomplishment in its own right, just the fact that it was able to be pulled off. The Jack and Rose stuff is more cheeseball than I remembered but their performances are quite exemplary in the end. I’m always fascinated with Titanic though because it spent 15 weeks at the number one spot at the box office. Fifteen weeks! Yeah yeah, Gone with the Wind sold more tickets and The Force Awakens made more money, but for more than an entire season of a year, there was no movie people wanted to see more than Titanic. That week after week, moviegoers had the choice of seeing a new movie and said “eh fuck Tomorrow Never Dies, let’s watch Titanic again.” And that it was profitable enough to keep in theaters for nearly an entire year.
It was the ultimate “word of mouth” movie, a film released in the days before the internet, where you got your movie recommendations from either paper critics or your pals at the office or bowling league. Titanic is the first true viral video, the first “have you seen this?” thing before the internet age really took off. Instead of watching on YouTube and sharing on Facebook, we watched at the movies and shared with any real people in our nearby
But I’ve always wondered why? I mean it’s good, but it isn’t the best movie ever and its immediate rewatch value isn’t that high. But look at the individual components of this movie and who it appeals to and it makes sense. You can have different experiences watching Titanic depending on who you’re watching it with. If you’re a cinema aficionado, you can go with your movie-lover friends to appreciate James Cameron’s new special effects extravaganza. If you’re a teenage girl, you can go to crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a chick flick that both appeals to girls in groups or young couples on a first date. If you love disaster movies and mayhem, you just sit for the first 90 minutes until shit starts getting real in the second half. There are multiple ways and different groups of people to watch this movie with, which always brought people back to Titanic. I remember my older brother saw it in theaters three times: Once with his guy friends from school so they could laugh at the people drowning on the boat, once with a new girlfriend so he could get some loverly time in with the chick flick parts, and once with my parents, because they just like good movies. And the funny thing is, he didn’t even like it that much! As for me, I wasn’t 17 yet and couldn’t see Titanic because it was an R-rated movie. Damn you, topless Kate Winslett!
But it really is an epic film, a film so large in scope and size that there hadn’t been anything like it for decades, and nothing like it for a few more years until the new superhero movie and CGI wave took off. There’s also an incentive to see this movie: you already know that the boat sinks, but you want to see how the boat will sink. Even if you hate it, if you think it’s just melodramatic and overwrought, you still have to appreciate it for what it accomplished on a technical and box office scale. It’s an unsinkable movie.