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Romantic Thriller / English / 1997

Been a few years and I'm still on the fence with this one. Reassessment time!

You know it's coming so let's do it:

Rats, Dogs, Dolphins, Squid, Horses, Elephants, Caviar, Meat, Goldfish, and Fur. There's a record-breaker for you, makes me wanna break a record over someone's head.

You know, I'm really sick of seeing this **** stain the movies I watch and it repels me from seeing them in theaters, but you know what? I'm getting ahead of myself. There are other issues with this movie.

Let's get down to brass tacks, we all know what the Titanic is and we all know that James Cameron's Titanic took the concept and glommed a romance story onto it creating one of the most extraordinarily profitable movies ever made.

Ever since it's been popular to hate it and everything from it's cheesy lines ("I'm the king of the world"!) to it's arguably overdramatic music ("near... far... whereEVER YOU ARE...") have been mocked and parodied.

*taps fingers*

It's always been REALLY HARD to admit publicly that I like this movie.



Okay a BIG part of it.

A lot of people took offense to the premise of the movie being that it rode on the heels of a tragic disaster, but I honestly feel that those criticisms are largely unwarranted given care and attention the movie actually gives it.

The movie doesn't shy away in the least by portraying the event as a horrific tragedy and we touch upon several of the myriad problems that were blamed for the Titanic's sinking, all tying back into human stupidity which simultaneously feeds into the themes of classism, decadence, and imposed marriage which surrounds our characters and were prevalent social issues at the time. Irish-themed music and characters also serve to lend validity to the scenario.

The concept of Double Standards could also be considered a theme the movie explores, but I believe it falters here with generally cringe-inducing moments like the "spit like a man" scene. Rose is certainly a rebellious character, but it's never exercised in a manner that demonstrates a sexual disparity. The best that could be put forth in this regard is the "women and children first" rule which is more of a plotbeat than anything the movie seriously concerns itself with.

Speaking of Rose, let's tackle the romantic plot of this movie once and for all.

The romance was always the part of this movie I couldn't get into.

Not that the two actors don't have chemistry or that they're relationship is nonsensical, but it's the contrivance as old as time that sinks this ship: They JUST MET.

The first half of the movie could be considered the romance arc where by the end, both Rose and Jack are in love with each other. The problem here is that this romance literally kicks off over the course of only a couple days.

If they had known each other longer it wouldn't feel so, "AGH! Stupid idiot horny teenagers these days!", but at the 1 hour, 14 minute mark, Jack is already confessing his love to Rose and I cannot help but totally disengage at that point because IT FEELS SO FORCED AND STUPID AND CLICHE AND I can hardly get upset at this anymore.

When I used to think of examples of bad romance movies, I'd point to Titanic, but now that **** like Twilight exists, how could I POSSIBLY denigrate it further? Titanic is a masterpiece by comparison, but you know what? I STILL have standards. I STILL want my love interests to be realistic and I STILL say that if you've spent less time having any sort of meaningful interactions than the actual runtime of the movie, you've ****ed up. TIME LAPSE or something! PLEASE! Or establish that they knew each other before boarding the ship, SOMETHING before you jump into the kissing and sex!

Oh, Wall-E, whenever will they learn that it doesn't take words and social
conventions to make me want to see the characters spend time together?

At least the plot makes total sense besides even if Rose immediately puts me off as a protagonist because she's suicidal.

Anyway, Titanic doesn't exist purely for me to empathize with the lovebirds, it exists for me to empathize with them as survivors too.

Lines like, "I'm too involved now, I can't turn back without knowing that you'll be alright" do a fantastic job of serving a dual purpose by emphasizing Jack and Rose's relationship not just in a romantic sense, but in plot sense (if that makes any sense).

I really have to credit Titanic with how layered it is, it's does a fantastic job of juggling Jack and Rose's developing relationship right along with setting up the iceberg collision, the counter-classism, and world-building.

World-building is clearly a massive, MASSIVE part of this movie because it clearly doesn't just portray a social environment or a time period, it's out to present the Titanic as a once impressive and memorable place in and of itself. This grope in the dark is strongly emphasized by the fact that the whole movie is framed as a flashback from modern day where we see the contrast between the Titanic in it's heyday and the Titanic as it exists today, a rotted and overgrown husk that once represented something.

The second half of the movie is easily where the movie shines best because it goes full-on disaster movie, but not in a 2012 sense, this is a slow-burn and I cannot praise it enough.

After the iceberg collision, things seem to rock gently back into rhythm as if the movie was just unpleasantly interrupted, but the audience is privy to everything that goes on from the upper decks to the lower decks to the boiler room and a creeping sense of doom pervades the ship where people on the lowest levels attempt to escape being trapped in a watery prison while those in first class are brutally contrasted with how normal everything is. Ignorance is bliss.

As the movie goes on the ticking clock is rolling down I also have to give a lot of praise to the couple big-picture shots which drive home what might otherwise have been imperceptible before. We know the ship is going down slowly, but we don't know how screwed we are yet, that's when we zoom out to show that the bow of the ship is just barely keeping above the water. That's a big OH **** moment.

A little later down the line when a panic as very definitely broken out we see the ship shoot out flares to signal other nearby ships and that's when we get an extremely landscape shot that shows... there's nothing. They're just a little light in the middle of nothing. There's no one to save them. That's when you lean back in your seat and struggle to process it.

Is that CGI? That's gotta be CGI. ...Right?

'Cause you're invested! You're immersed! You're already getting claustrophobia and aquaphobia because the water's coming in too fast and there's nowhere to go! You're goin' in and it's just a question of whether you'll make into open water or die on one of the countless rooms where the pressure won't let you escape!

The whole movie just drags you in like riptide with shots such as when Rose is hanging on for her life at the back of the ship and looks over into the face of a total stranger who appears scared out of her mind. You don't know her, but it's a reminder that's there's more than one story going on right now. And it's somewhat humbling.

It's all extremely well done and it merely compounds with one of my biggest compliments I can give the movie: it's pacing.

This movie is 3 HOURS LONG, but I cannot deny that it's intensely absorbing all throughout (save that one moment, but you know...). I was never bored and that's really telling to me. So many movies struggle to keep an even pace and ratchet up the tension at regular intervals that I'm blown away that a movie this long manages to accomplish it in spades.

When musicians finally stop playing, you just KNOW that's when you've reach the big finale. It's do or die time and it's been an intense rush getting here.

I have to lend definite credit to the cast too, particularly Billy Zane who despite overacting somewhat is just too enjoyably fun to hate as a villain. He just a scumbag I wanna punch him in the face, but at the same time... no, that might be an idea I'll live to regret.

EEEGH... what else is there...?

Well, does it say anything about me that despite having issues with the romance, it still gets me to tear up at the end? Yeah. This is one of those few movies. It gets me. Right around the flashback to Rose walking through a Titanic restored to life and seeing all the people smiling and happy.

It gets me.

But enough. I know a lot of people like to poke holes in the movie, but things like, "Jack didn't have to drown" just feel like "Frodo could've walked" all over again. It's an experience, and it's one I've experienced many times and will undoubtedly wish to experience again.

Which is why I'm buckling down and once again to going to play hardball. Just like Hard Boiled, I'm giving it a 4/5. Had it ironed out it's few glaring issues I'd be able to enjoy the movie virtually unhindered, but as it stands, save a future re-cut, I'm calling it [Pretty Good].

That's a [Pretty Good] that's earned itself a spot in my personal collection though, so that's as close to a 5/5 as you can get without getting there.

Final Verdict:
[Pretty Good]