AFI #83: Titanic

I have to admit that when I began this strange journey there were a couple of films that I didn’t want to see again and Titanic was right near the top of the list. I remember seeing it when it came out and thinking it was a silly love story and then the hype around it made it seem even more unbearable. Titanic is the second-highest grossing movie of all time, behind Avatar (nice work Mr. Cameron). But what really made me hate the film was that damn Celine Dion song!

Well, the memory does play some funny tricks on us. I think all this time I have been selling this film short. Watching it with my son yesterday I really enjoyed it, and even the 11-year-old special effects were pretty awesome. Plus, I kind of forgot all about the cool imagery of the underwater Titanic shot by Cameron and the amazing reproduction of the ship itself. I think I read somewhere that Cameron paid so much attention to detail that even the ship’s china was a realistic replica of what was on the actual Titanic.

The other thing I really liked about the film was the performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, my favorite actor. He made Jack Dawson into a compelling character with a youthful spirit that was both exciting to watch and I think true to the time period. The film also was the first major film for Kate Winslet (following Heavenly Creatures and Sense & Sensibility) and she was simply stunning in the film. I think she’s a great actress, but I don’t find her attractive anymore because every time I see her she seems to be smoking and that’s a huge turnoff!

The real star of the film though is the ship, both the scale model and the actual Titanic. The wreckage shots at the beginning of the film are real, shot by Cameron and a crew from the Russian ship Akademik Mstislav Keldysh. It’s incredible to see those shots and then when Cameron fades into his reproduction it’s as if you are literally travelling back in time. The scale model was built off the coast of Rosarito, Mexico where Cameron shot the external and disaster scenes. The massive scale of the shots of the ship breaking in half and sinking are awe-inspiring.

Yes, the love story is hokey. And (Spoiler alert) when that old lady throws the diamond overboard at the end I wanted to scream! But the special effects and period work makes it all worthwhile.

Next Up: Sunrise (a silent film from 1927)

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