by Terri Bey
It has been 25 years since the much-awaited film "Titanic " debuted on December 19, 1997. The film, directed by James Cameron (Terminator 2), follows a romance between an engaged First Class girl, Rose Dewitt-Bukator (Kate Winslet), and a poor Third Class vagabond, Jack Dawson (Leonardo Di Caprio) which takes place aboard the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. The story is told in flashback by 101-year-old Rose Dewitt-Bukator to a group of selfish and greedy divers, led by Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) who want to know where her "Heart of the Ocean" necklace is located, as they found a naked photo of her with the necklace on in a safe they brought up. The viewer of this Romeo-Juliet-like story follows the lovers throughout the entire voyage, including the sinking, and events during the sinking and their escaping Dewitt-Bukator's evil fiance,' Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) and his guard, Spicer Lovejoy (David Warner).
I watched this film today with members of the Titanic Social Club and members of the Titanic Book Club. It was an enjoyable time, but when I was watching the film, I wanted to see how well "Titanic" "held up." Now, what does the term, "held up" or "hold up" mean, concerning films? The term generally means whether the film has aged well or not. It really depends on what you are looking for. I am also going to discuss what I think should have been left in and added.
I saw this film in the theater when it came out. I think I saw it twice. The film was grand, and I found that James Cameron brought the ship to life. Right to the end, I thought I was on the RMS Titanic. I just loved the film right away. I knew immediately it would win many Oscars and Best Picture and I was right. It won 11 Academy Awards and Best Picture and Director for Cameron.
While I don't consider myself to be a historian, far from it, I admit that I did some nitpicking. While this was not the only Titanic Movie to do this, I said to myself, "Where was the S.S. Californian? The S.S. Californian was the Leyland Liner that saw the rockets and didn't come to the Titanic's aid. Cameron's explanation was that he wanted audiences to see how isolated the ship was. I get what he was saying. I do think the Californian scenes that were shot, but not used, should have been included.
Some of the criticisms I had 25 years ago, that I still have now, despite loving the film are as follows: I would have liked to have seen less of the Jack and Rose stuff. Some of it, like the escape from Jack's being handcuffed and going through that water and the part where they encounter that man and the boy, all could have been cut out, so some of the real stuff could have been included. The real story of the Titanic and her demise is way more compelling. There was a great scene that was cut out that showed White Star Line President Bruce Ismay boarding the Carpathia and walking between rows of passengers. There was the scene with the Straus couple that I believe was cut out. I mean. Cameron cut out one of the most famous incidents on the ship for Jack and Rose. For me, less Jack and Rose and more Titanic. I overall love the film, though.
After 25 years, this film has aged very well. It still holds up, even though the dialogue is still a little cheesy, but much of it is from the NY Inquiries, as "A Night to Remember" (1958) also took much of its dialogue from those Inquiries. Cameron definitely got much of his script from the 1958 classic. As a viewer, I still get the emotional feelings from James Horner's incredible score, and from hearing the legendary Celine Dion sing "My Heart Will Go On, " (music by James Horner, and lyrics by Will Jennings) during the end credits. I get goosebumps from seeing the Titanic move gracefully in the water, even knowing her fate. She was so beautiful. The model ship that was made for the film still looks like the Titanic. I still get the same sadness and grief when the ship strikes the big and right at the end, when she and those poor 1496 souls die.
Overall, James Cameron's "Titanic" is still a masterpiece of a Titanic film and a masterpiece of a film in its own right. The cinematography is incredible, especially in the scene where Jack sings to Rose, "Come Josephine in my Flying Machine" on the prow of the liner, with the sunset in the background, the sunset that would be the RMS TItanic's last. The realism of the accident, sinking, and the final plunge is still realistic and emotional for the viewer.
It has been 25 years since "Titanic" was first released, but this film still looks like it was released yesterday. Congratulations on 25 years. Here's to another 25!