Seeing some doomed love affair aboard a sinking, eponymous ship scrabbled together far more money and notoriety than it should have. Titanic is a love story with tragedy at its end, its sole desire to tell a tale that, possibly, maybe, could have probably happened. There was bound to be at least one affair aboard this doomed voyage that mother nature sunk, although the details of it and the legacy of such a catastrophe are not all that suitable for Hollywood romantic dramas. Utilising this real-world event as cannon fodder for an expression of love dying in the cold and uncaring waters of the world, Titanic and director James Cameron bite off more than they can chew.
There is no denying the scope offered by Cameron here. He was always an innovator, and regardless of how enjoyable it was, there was still the notion that his efforts were heartfelt and personally justified. His problem, though, is that he fails to bring much interest to the topic he terrorises. He would have the same problem a decade later with Avatar, another film about people turning blue, although Avatar provided them with pods, whereas Titanic just pumps them full of water. Really, the disaster takes a backseat. There is meant to be a heartfelt theme within Titanic, one that is buoyed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. There is beauty and love in the face of death, and that is the tragedy that will, inevitably, befall the well-to-do woman and the floppy-haired vagrant.
Neither are paired with much charm. DiCaprio and Winslet, unsurprisingly, deliver solid performances, but their efforts fall on deaf ears. To the credit of Cameron, the early scenes of exploration and discovery, while generic, is necessary. While the wonders of technology show a distraught, elderly survivor how and why exactly the Titanic split in two, there is an unnerving fastidiousness to these moments. We are given no time at all to deliberate or discuss these moments. Rose (Gloria Stuart) is thrust through reimagining’s, live footage of the Titanic itself and thrown into the phase of nostalgia that makes up the bulk of the film. There is no time at all to reflect on these moments. Instead, Cameron hopes the opening and closing bulk with these characters will provide a fitting bow to wrap up DiCaprio and Winslet’s romantic draws. It does not.
Feeling rather generic and, despite its crushingly strong set pieces and disastrous qualities, rather uneventful, Titanic is a striking reflection on the real voyage. A cast and crew with big dreams and bigger responsibilities look away for a moment, and when they turn back to see their course, they find nothing but disaster. Titanic strikes up few notes of real compassion or entertainment, and much of that is mired by the inevitability of its big event. Ambitious, but a real dud when contemplating the effectiveness of the performances, the inevitability of the heartbreak, and how it doesn’t feel ultimately too convincing. Flashes of competency with interesting editing and a marvellous performance from Stuart make up much of what is right with Titanic, it’s just a shame its pacing and writing sinks that competency.