James Cameron directs Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and Billy Zane in this epic period romance disaster movie of the real life tragedy.
1997. The most expensive film ever made. Everyone but Cameron was banking on it flopping. We watched the release date wobble around different seasons and heard rumours of nightmare set altercations nearly every week of lengthy production. On opening day I went to see Titanic twice. I had booked to go with my family, weeks in advance, on the evening but then a group of college mates were going that afternoon and I couldn’t resist getting the jump on the movie. That is the only time I’ve done that. Twice in one day.
While it is fair to say I didn’t absolutely love Titanic, I certainly found lots to embrace. The immediate positives were the sheer scale and painstaking quality of the reconstruction, Kate Winslet’s beauty, Billy Zane pantomime villainy and the full hour long rollercoaster finale that puts our young lovers and ourselves right in the danger zone of every calamity that befalls the ship. I dare you to watch the upending of the hull, where we cling on for dear life as the protagonists rush towards the water, and not believe we are in the visionary hands… god like… of the genius who made The Terminator and The Abyss. Cameron is the Beethoven of the blockbuster form and he can’t help himself but deliver amazing, immersive popcorn overtures.
And as I get older, and Titanic joins a pantheon of nostalgic comfort movies (let’s say T2, Jurassic Park, Speed, Twister, True Lies, Face/Off) from my teens, the relatives merits and flaws even out amongst all of them and I just wanna go home again. Yes, the dialogue between Jack and Rose is basic. Yes, there is something distasteful about focusing on these fictional horny teens rather than real life victims and survivors of the tragedy. Yes, the form of it often feels like a museum tour followed by a theme park ride, awkwardly bolted together, rather than a persuasive narrative. But…
… it is all iconic now. The big hat. KING OF THE WORLD. The spitting. The Irish jig. The “Paint me like one of your French girls.” The sated hand on the steamy car window. Iceberg dead ahead and dead centre in the runtime. The grabbing of the axe. “Any room for a gentleman, gentlemen?” The selfish wardrobe with definite room for two. Necklace waste. Ghost stairwell. Admit it, you want to waste three hours on this with me right now? Don’t you? It is a movie that is so hardwired into our generation’s collective consciousness that watching it is like returning to some kind of mothership.
And I’ll always be tickled when I remember the amusing anecdote of my friend’s scatty parents turning up late to see it. Seeing Bill Paxton and some old lady titting about in the modern day and going back out to complain they’d been sold a ticket to the wrong movie.
Perfect Double Bill: Revolutionary Road (2008)
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We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/