"Titanic" Review
© 1997 Fontaine L.

I've come to realize fully that like literary criticism, movie criticism cannot be based solely on a film itself - one must examine the circumstances under which it was conceived, produced, and released. One must understand what was going on in the background. Not that I always have a good understanding of all that information. But recently I had the privilege to witness a James Cameron interview on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He seemed like a nice man, but what shocked me the most was that he didn't receive a penny for this movie he made. The Huge Movie That Could. The movie that some sneered at because it cost too much. In deed, Hollywood has a tendency to waste money on godawful films. But "Titanic" was money well spent - and box office records prove that it was very well spent indeed. But Cameron didn't know all that when he started to make this movie three years ago. He didn't know if this movie would succeed or fail. But he had a vision, a dream, and he followed through with it, even when the studios threatened to pull their support. That alone gives me personal encouragement and makes me admire this film even more.

I'm not saying a film's merit can be based on the filmmaker's ambition - but there isn't a lot to complain about the movie anyway. Anything that could have been said has been said already in newspapers, reviews, magazines, and discussions worldwide, so I will not repeat that. Anyone who has seen the movie can and will agree, that "Titanic" is epic moviemaking at its best, and Hollywood proving that extravagance is necessary to make a masterpiece sometimes. And because everyone can see for themselves the magic and wonder of "Titanic," I won't do it the disservice of trying to put it into words. It was a dream come true from the beginning, right when the sunken ruins of the Titanic emerged in full living color in the memories of one Rose Dawson (played ingeniously by Kate Winslet).

Now comes the hard part. Disagreeing. As much as I rave about the movie's proportions, its visions, its imagery, I won't say it's perfect, like many others do. I like it, yes - as I've said it's a dream come true. But I have a few tiny qualms: Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet didn't click. They just didn't. When two people don't have chemistry, they just don't. Perhaps I should have known when Kate said working with Leo was like working with her brother. They don't create electricity like Mulder and Scully do, and perhaps that's why the romance story didn't nearly move me as much as the story of the "little people" aboard the Titanic. I was only truly moved when at the end, Rose returned to Jack's embrace. Another dream come true, when the lights fade and all else is forgotten. Rose returned to Jack, 85 years after the Titanic sunk. This illustrates the immortality of love and human emotion, a majesty of its own when compared to the most famous sinking ship in history.

I'm still debating with myself whether knowing the ending reduced the movie's effect on me. Of course I knew all along what would happen (you'd be really dumb if you didn't) when I went to see the movie, and maybe that caused me to care about the characters more, to look at them with a sense of doom and, perhaps, near the end, wish that they wouldn't die. But the fate of the ship alone reduces the movie's exitement. The last half hour was nothing but lots of water, lots of people screaming and dying. Do not mistake my words. All of this was done powerfully by James Cameron, but that makes the whole process rather tedious.

All said, "Titanic" is a movie of human emotions rather than about the disaster of the century - and "Titanic" succeeds because, in truth, disaster is about the human beings who were involved in it: the love, the pain, the stories untold (and trust me, I'd love to hear all the stories aside from the Rose/Jack story). "Titanic" amplifies these elements and breathes new life into the story of a sinking ship.

Rating: A- (First viewing, 12/30/97)