Titanic (1997) review

James Cameron's classic combines romance and disaster when the Titanic plunges its passengers into terrifying danger

The Titanic, considered to be an unsinkable ship, is on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in the year 1912. Aboard ship, a rich girl engaged to a man she doesn’t love, Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), meets and falls in love with a poor young artist named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). While they struggle with class and convention, the Titanic strikes an iceberg and starts to sink, throwing Rose and Jack into a fight for their lives and their love…

It didn’t take long for the film to become considered something of a corny cliché. A movie as huge (in every sense of the word) as Titanic is easy for critics to take pot-shots at, as there’s little chance of missing the target. Accused of being soppy, historically inaccurate and badly scripted, the film has been parodied more times than it is possible to count. It was also the butt of hundreds of bad jokes even immediately following its release, and those were just the tip of the iceberg (sorry). Some considered the film distasteful, its graphic depiction of the sinking making a mockery and a spectacle of those who died in a disaster that shook the nation. Still, a film that has made such a ridiculous amount of money, and that has captured and held the interest of so many fans, surely must have done something right.

Titanic has become arguably the most successful, durable and best-loved film in the world because of three essential points: it was based on a real historical event in which real people were involved; it showcased some epic CGI of gargantuan proportions and it told the personal stories of the people on the ship, rather than just the story of the ship itself. All that, and a cracking soundtrack too.

It was really only a matter of time before someone turned the story of the Titanic into a glossy modern blockbuster; the sinking of the famously ‘unsinkable’ ship while it was carrying so many rich and famous people of the day was, and has remained, sensationally fascinating for over a century. Cameron’s spectacular (and highly accurate) on-screen reproductions of the ship, the iceberg and the sinking give the film the irresistible feel of a historical re-enactment, albeit an absurdly grand and luxurious one.

However, what really ties the film together is the cast of characters, both real and imagined, who are thrown together on the ship. Everybody from the Captain to the ship designer, the crow’s nest lookouts to the ballroom musicians, the fine first class ladies to the lowly third class schmucks, is given some screen time. The cast is headed up by the dynamic duo of Rose and Jack – theirs is a romance that some would call dull and formulaic, and others classic and timeless. The rich girl falls for the poor boy, their fleeting affair doomed, and yet rendered immortal, by the imminent catastrophe. As viewers, we must suffer the agony of watching these kids fall in love, with the knowledge that their hopes and dreams are literally about to sink from under them.

While Titanic certainly has some flaws, a few inaccuracies, some hammy lines as well as the odd bit of sub-par acting (Kate Winslet certainly wasn’t on top form, while Leo DiCaprio was yet to hone the skills that have now turned him into a Brando-esque powerhouse), it is impossible to discount the importance and popularity of the film. The Blu-ray editions, coming this September, will arrive in the form of a 2D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and a 3D combo pack, which will include the 2D version of the film (but not the DVD). There will also be a new two disc DVD package released for those of us who haven’t bought in to the magic of Blu-ray just yet.

Apart from the usual audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes, the 2D and 3D Blu-ray packages will also include 30 deleted scenes, various documentaries, trailers, promotional footage, over 2000 stills, the Celine Dion music video for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and even a few of those comedy parodies mentioned above. Titanic may not be the perfect film, but at least it has proved that, however grand and sentimental it may be, it is not above poking a little fun at itself.

Best performance

Kathy Bates as ‘The Unsinkable’ Molly Brown.

Best scene

When Mr Andrews tells the Captain that the ship will sink in a matter of hours.

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