Titanic…the ship of dreams, the terrible tragedy, the James Cameron epic, the movie that won 11 Oscars, and the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. What else is there to say about this film that has not already been said? It’s epic in scope, scale, and quality and even today, with the exception of Cameron’s own Avatar, there hasn’t been a movie quite like it. The sheer size of it all, the VFX, the practical effects, the extras, the music, the sweeping shots — for its era, this was a blockbuster event.
Why did Titanic work so well? Did it really deserve 11 Oscars and 2.2 Billion dollars worldwide? Yes. Yes, it did. Titanic is still just as good back then as it is today. Oddly enough, on a purely visual level, the VFX hold up better than most movies do after a year. This is mainly due to the fact that most of the VFX shots were completed using forced scale, practical effects, and sparring use of CG only when necessary. The music by James Horner still moves me to tears and Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances are still as good as you remember.
DiCaprio and Winslet’s Jack and Rose remain an iconic movie couple more than 20 years later, and their chemistry is what makes this movie. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought these two have known each other their whole lives, as they play their roles so convincingly and with such ease. Even the more intimate scenes feel convincing because they really are just that good together. This makes it all the more painful when re-watching the film…. as I keep forgetting that what happens in the end.
Despite being a stupidly long movie, Titanic never once feels like it drags on or slows down. Everything about it is exactly where it needs to be. The first half offers a slow burn in order to build up the character’s needs and wants across various class divides. The second half is a fight for survival with death and despair engulfing everything. The transitions between present and past sequences is also pretty flawless and never once feel ham-fisted.
And then there’s the music, which has already elicited a collective groan from some of you reading this review. There’s a reason why this movie’s soundtrack became one of the highest selling albums and soundtracks of all time: it’s perfect. Even Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’— which has been memed and parodied to death — is something that I will listen to when I’m sad. It’s that good. Still, revisiting this movie is a somber affair when you remember that Titanic’s musical composer, James Horner, died back in 2015. His scores are amongst some of the best I have ever heard and I wish he was still here to continue his work. And while we are on the subject, rest in peace Bill Paxton- you too were one of the best elements of this movie.
Unfortunately, with as much praise as I can scream, Titanic has not aged as well compared to other films. It’s still excellent, don’t get me wrong, but with how big this movie became as a pop culture sensation, it’s kind of hard to take some scenes as seriously, given how often they’ve been parodied or beamed into our brains. Case in point: the “king of the world” scene now feels over the top, or at the very least impossible to watch without rolling your eyes. Other iconic lines like, “With the ship as big as this, are you sure that it will not sink?,” “It was the most erotic moment of my life” and “Gentlemen, it’s been an honor playing with you tonight”- we all know them, and they sound incredibly corny. But worse of all, the whole Mythbusters-level psychoanalysis of Jack and Rose on the floating door is frustrating now that we know they both could have easily fit. Jack didn’t need to die and he was just being selfless for the sake of being selfless.
Ironically, Titanic’s drawbacks are a result of how popular and played out it become, to the point that it’s hard to take seriously sometimes. Has this affected how I viewed this movie? Yes. But I’ve learned to cast aside those feelings and try to look at this as objectively as possible. That’s why I’m splitting my verdicts into two just to be as precise as possible.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars
After growing up with it: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Titanic is a damn fine movie that still holds up, for the most part, and anybody who hasn’t seen it should. All that being said, it’s a hard movie to re-watch, not just because of the length, but because looking past some of these moments without thinking of how played out they’ve become can be difficult. Maybe it’s me, and maybe you’ll have an easier time looking past them. But for me, it’s really tough.