Full Freakin Price with Popcorn – NO DRINK!
I know full well that by now, you have probably been inundated by folks creaming over this movie. They are correct to do so. It has everything you could possibly want in a movie, squeezed into a bladder-bursting 3hrs and 20 minutes. There is talk of “it’s a real classic” and “Jim Cameron had better get the Oscar this year” – perhaps, perhaps…it would be unfair to the many great movies that have come out this year to dismiss them in the face of this expensive monstrosity, but BY GOD this is one fabulous movie. In fact, I was often so absorbed in just taking it all in, that I missed gobs of key dialogue.
You may know that it cost $200 million plus. You may not realize how much of that money was NOT spent on computer effects. In fact, the ONLY disappointment I felt watching this film was with the computer generated effects. Some long, lovely, sweeping shots of the boat deck as it sails are positively Myst-like. It’s a shame, too. Every CGI house in the world is listed in the credits it seems, and one of them did the cold-air breath on all the actors. *That* looks fabulous.
NOW. The real effects (i.e. the things they did with 3 dimensional real world objects) are absolutely mind boggling. Hair raising. Heart-stopping. Gorgeous reproductions of Titanic debris as it was when it was new. Most footage of sea-crusty Titanic debris underwater is REAL. Cameron developed the submarine crawlers and probes that took better actual live footage of the wreck than has ever been taken before. Titanic does have the best art department in the world and they will work for the rest of their lives with this on their resume, but the wreckage and the undersea footage is THE REAL FREAKIN TITANIC.
A wonderful shot, taken by the probe, pilots us through a ruined corridor, familiar from watching the action of the film, past a fireplace and a doorway we recognize from the Movie part, and then it seamlessly fades into how it looked back then. Stunning. Wonderful. As we drift through the silent, multi-ton/psi world that is the Titanic’s home, a faint faint echo of the music of the Titanic wafts through the soundtrack. I was literally breathless.
THEN we have this great story with a smart, independent rich girl (Kate Winslet, perfect) who fears wasting away in her shallow life (Billy Zane, wicked and handsome) falling in love with a sweet boy from steerage (Leonardo DiCaprio, bringing nothing new but nothing unwelcome)- oh, yes, and then the ship sinks. We are completely involved with their story, and their plot line is strong enough to be its own film; then, because we are so With them, when the ship is going down, we are totally emotionally caught up in the terror and the surreal fear. Oh and if you are a kook like me, you will have eyes all a-bug at the incredible spectacle of a REAL GIGANTIC 90% scale version of the Titanic sinking in real water with hundreds of real people screaming and clinging and slipping and OH my god the humanity!
On TOP of this we have a lyrical performance by Gloria Stuart, as the grownup Kate Winslet, and Gloria made me cry in the first 30 minutes of the movie. She is simply divine on camera. By the end, and I am NOT making this up, a large grown man 2 rows back was SOBBING UNCONTROLLABLY. Oh and then we have a half-developed plot about uncovering a lost diamond and some incredible hats and gowns and music and equipment and wonderful sound design and WOW. At points, my jaded, multiplex self would prepare to snort at anything maudlin, and then Cameron would just slip in and NOT manipulate me and not patronize me and it was wonderful.
Towards the end (am I giving anything away by saying the ship goes down and..er…some people die?), a nameless pair of extras, an old couple, await their death in their stateroom, and thinking about it now makes me cry. We never saw them before (or since!) but it was a beautiful moment. The characters are well drawn overall (not so much in the present day framing story) and the disaster, the fear, the BOOM of the whole thing was just so vivid. Showing a computer reproduction of the disaster in the present day segment helped us comprehend the terrible truth of the 1912 segments.
Industry types: Russell Carter, director of photography. Hire him. Deborah Scott – costumes. Hire her. Writer/director/producer/editor – James Cameron. This is a symphony. Cameron is known for being a tyrant on the set and pushing the budget envelope way past all semblance of reality, and the results are all up here. Two studios had to finance this to make it happen, and I don’t think Fox or Paramount are going to regret it. So flee the theatre before Celine Dion (UGH!) ruins the mood but be sure to clap for the art department and the stunt people (crew list roughly equivalent to the population of Rhode Island). It’s truly marvelous. Do NOT get a drink before you go in there, but the time flies by.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 12/23/1997
Time in minutes 194
Director James Cameron