"Titanic" has the highest box office gross of all time:
over one billion dollars. It is also the most expensive
film ever made, at two hundred million dollars. And it
was one of the most successful films ever at the
Academy Awards, winning eleven Oscars. So, what is wrong
with this picture? Plenty.
Has a film ever before received fourteen Academy nominations
without one for the screenplay? While direction, casting
and cinematography are important, the key component of a
film's quality is usually the script. The 'Titanic' script
is burdened with lame and unlikely dialogue between the
romantic leads (e.g. "I'll never let go") and loaded with
While the 'Titanic' story lends itself to class conflict,
this feature is over-emphasized. The 'rich' characters
are either half-embalmed snobs or despicable jerks,
excepting only gregarious hero Molly Brown (Kathy Bates)
and spoiled, passionate love interest Rose (Kate Winslet).
The film begins with a current day Titanic salvage operation.
For dramatic purposes, Rose (Gloria Stuart), now 101 years old,
is brought on board the salvage ship. She tells her
increasingly dubious story to the rapt crew.
Rose is pressured by her mother to wed abusive Cal
(Billy Zane). Her friends are so shallow, and Cal such a
jerk, that Rose is driven to tears and makes a suicide
attempt. With 2200 passengers, you'd think that more than
just Jack would be on deck to save her, and he doesn't look
strong enough to pull her back onboard. Of course, they
soon have a romance, which of course is disapproved of
by Mom and the surprisingly jealous fiance.
The film is late in its second hour before the Titanic
finally gets around to hitting the iceberg. "Titanic"
then begins to lift scenes from the vastly superior
"A Night to Remember" from 1958, mixing them in with
long sequences of Rose and Jack repeatedly rescuing
each other from deepening and near-freezing water.
The film ends with more silliness. Survivor Zane
is unable to find Rose during the long voyage to
America, despite Rose's mother being on board
(conveniently, her character disappears during this
time). Rose doesn't find the blue diamond in her
coat pocket until she reaches New York! There is
also a dream sequence which has Jack and Rose enter
the Titanic's gigantic ballroom to incongruous massive
applause from the well-to-do guests, who were so
maligned for their shallowness in the film's
Since director James Cameron is at his best during
action scenes, "Titanic" can be entertaining at times.
The story is dramatic, and the special effects are
convincing. But given the dubious script, characters
and events, "Titanic" may be the most over-praised
film of our generation.
Copyright © 1997 Brian Koller