An Analysis and Review of 'Titanic' (1997)

Yet another James Cameron work has come back into theatres recently. This year marks the 25th anniversary of his 1997 Romantic/Historical Epic “Titanic” and oh, titanic it is. This 194-minute colossal motion picture is, no doubt, the cornerstone of '90s big-budget cinema. As a matter of fact, this film was so big-budget, due primarily to its production costs spiraling out of control, that it seemed the entire world couldn’t stop talking about this film. Just ask your parents about it.

This film was predicted to be a giant flop but became the biggest sweetheart hit (a perfect date choice if you and your significant other are willing to sit for three-plus hours), and the highest grossing movie ever made at the time of its release (inflation not considered). Such a picture, one would figure, is stainless. In many ways, it is.

In terms of the film’s effects, it delivers one of the most jaw-dropping spectacles one could imagine during its last hour, especially considering the technological options of the time. The final sequence, thankfully, is not a long melodramatic kicking-crying never-ending event, but a coordinated and heavily researched unsurpassable recreation of a heartbreaking incident in human history, executed with taste, bearing in mind that some of the survivors of the actual ordeal were still alive at the time of release.

Of course, effects only take a film so far. And for "Titanic," this holds significantly more weight due to the fact that audiences already know what is going to happen. The iceberg that truly starts the action of the picture doesn’t appear until nearly two hours in, so we must be subjected to a good story to build up to caring about what happens to the people on board. In this regard, the film is debatable.

Everyone knows the story of “Titanic”: Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a poor-in-cash but rich-in-life vagabond, falls in love at first sight with Rose DeWitt (Kate Winslet), a young lady to-be-married so congested with high society that she wishes to end herself, and it isn’t until she meets Jack that she realizes she loves life. It’s a simple premise, but one that everyone and their mother seems to like. However, the biggest issue I see with “Titanic” is the general message of the film, as the actions of Jack and Rose seem to have people so blinded with rose colored glasses that they don't see that what they perceive as affection and courage is actually poor decision making made completely of ill-rationale and emotion.

Rose is, throughout the film, a liability that Jack takes on constantly. From the moment that they interact on the first night on the stern of the ship, this cycle begins of Rose endangering herself, causing him to have to save her, and not once afterwards does he realize that his luck is eventually going to run dry and that this girl he met just a few nights ago will get him killed or in serious trouble.

When the ship is sinking and she is placed on a lifeboat by Jack and her irascible fiancé Cal (Billy Zane), it would be perfectly rational for her to stay on the boat, allowing Jack to figure out by himself a way off, where they could reunite some few hours later — it isn’t that Jack ever needed her help during their escape sequence, anyways — but she decides to jump back on the sinking ship, essentially sealing Jack’s fate at the end of the picture.

Another scene which should have had Jack in the mindset to question the validity of the love that he has with this woman is when he was framed by Cal to have stolen the Heart of the Ocean necklace. Jack proclaims his innocence while being arrested, but Rose doesn’t believe him. Why doesn’t she? Jack could not have faked falling in love with Rose for the sake of pocketing the diamond necklace, as he did not know about the necklace until after they had already begun their romantic affair. Taking into account that he strolled with her back to her cabin, the supposed scene of the crime, you would think that she would realize that Cal is clearly framing Jack in a terribly planned way.

Logic SHOULD have it that Rose defended Jack, a man she had up to that point danced, kissed, made love with, allowed to draw her nude, and promised to live the rest of her life with when they reach New York. This plot hole is only exacerbated further when she pens a letter to her violent and highly capable fiancé to find the naked drawing of her, but is surprised to see him retaliate by taking Jack to be killed by drowning? It doesn’t make any sense, and unfortunately, that seemingly slight error throws off this entire film in more than one way.

Of course, that isn’t to say that the story is irredeemable. The point of “Titanic” should not be seen as one centered around Rose, but rather around Jack. Jack is the important one because he is the one that sacrificed his life, practically the only thing which he owned, in exchange to give Rose a chance at another life, one which she would not throw away or treat as worthless. I do not feel inclined to banter on about how “the door wasn’t big enough” and that Jack could have fit on it too or whatnot. Sure, I can see that the prop department should have seen the blatant mistake and corrected it by making it smaller, but they didn’t and so it blots the picture. Still, Jack should not have been spared death, as his martyrdom represents what it means to give up everything for someone that you love, while also representing the deaths of all the people who died on that freezing April night in the middle of the Atlantic.

The film is a good romance, all-in-all, however slighted by its own script. Given Valentine’s Day approaching, one should definitely see the movie if they have never before, especially with romantic intentions. "Titanic" will not disappoint and has something for everyone, and to that, it is commendable.