In defense of James Cameron's Titanic movie

A question to those who delight in tearing apart James Cameron's Titanic movie- How should it have been done differently?
I think James Cameron was brilliant in being able to market his film to a VERY wide audience by touching on many different genres- The movie was an action film, a romance, a suspense film, a teenage adventure film, a tragedy, a historic drama, etc, etc.....
If it were made as a dry documentary, it would have only appealed to the small niche of hard core Titanic buffs, and would have been a flop......
Sure, Jack and Rose were fiction, but who cares- i enjoyed the film, and see it as being a VERY important film as it helped spawn a whole new generation of Titanic buffs. Every other person I met at the Titanic exhibits were interested in Titanic BECAUSE of the James Cameron 'Titanic' film..

I enjoyed the film- the detail given to the accuracy of the sets was stellar, the interest and contributions James Cameron has give to the exploration of the wreck cannot be overstated.

'A Night To Remember' stands as my favorite Titanic film- but should I question it's authenticity because the wrong funnel fell, the configuration of the Boat Deck was wrong, some of the rooms had technical innaccuracies, etc ? Of course not...

Likewise, i really wish people would tear apart Cameron Titanic film could tell me how the film could have been done differently, yet still be as successful...

Both films were very important, yet neither were made as documentaries, so some changes, composite characters, etc are inevitable...
Take any film based on a real event, be it 'Titanic', 'Schindlers List', 'Flags of our fathers', etc, there have been some changes- but the overall importance of those respective films still stands..

That being said, 'Titanic' was a VERY accurate film, and sits proudly in my Titanic collection with 'a Night To Remember'.
The purists among us would want a film which is, in every respect, faithful to the real history as opposed to the anachronistic 1990's love story that was produced.

So what's the catch?

Such a film wouldn't bring in billions of dollars at the box office whereas the love story not only could, but did. We may not much care for it, but Hollywood is first and foremost, a business. They're obligation is not to history but to their stockholders so that's the way they play it.
Yes the film could have been done more successfully as a doomed romance on the high seas if only the Titanic's crew had not been depicted as utterly incompetent. There was no reason to show the Murdoch suicide story (we'll never know if that really happened for sure) or accepting bribes from Cal in exchange for a guaranteed seat in the lifeboat. Lightoller also got his lumps as he threatens to shoot passengers down like dogs. That was uncalled for and totally unfair to the men who gave it their all when push came to shove.
I just want a film in which history is treated with a modicum of dignity.

>Their obligation is not to history but to their stockholders so that's the way they play it.

That's the party line, but to be honest, it is a bunch of crap mouthed by mediocrities when they are called by their correct name. Historical films have been made, continue to be made, that are "accessible" without pandering to the lowest common denominator, which is EXACTLY what Titanic did. Chained to a pipe? Molly Brown has perfectly fitted tux in her luggage? Fact is, I have no trouble at all with the Jack and Rose characters~ it is just that they surfaced in a film that gave them ZERO chance to be anything other than pulp aimed at mallrats. I have BIG trouble with using suicidal imagery as a romantic device (play the over the rail scene with a gun stuck in her mouth and you'll see just how weird a sequence it is, and why it taints Jack from then on in) and an equal amount of trouble with the trite 'class warfare' plot devices that were hoary 20 years before the film was released.

I am, in response to another thread, busy compiling from all of the press material pertaining to Titanic, 1997-1999 ( I have a huge collection) the dozens of lengthy quotes given by Cameron and his minions regarding the importance of history, accuracy, integrity, that led me to believe upon first entering the film that it would be Merchant Ivory meets Big FX and some action film technique. One particular pre-release quote about Murdoch is particularly chilling when viewed in light of the actual portrayal. That, my friends, is my BIG PROBLEM with the film...after a press buildup that highlighted accuracy and intergrity, what I got was a film in which a character ends up chained to a pipe, an officer accepts a bribe, and history is reduced to set decoration.

>Likewise, i really wish people would tear apart Cameron Titanic film could tell me how the film could have been done differently, yet still be as successful...

Remove the pipe sequence.

Place Rose inside the rail.

Have Jack know Rose from before the voyage- less predatory that way.

Remove clumsy class warfare drivel, or, if one MUST include it, depict the warfare that existed WITHIN each class as well.

Dark is a wonderful tool for film makers. Real fear could have been generated during the final scenes on board the ship were the characters not theatrically lit against a dark background.

Remove all computer graphics and animation from before sinking sequences (It all looked cheap) and reduce its use considerably during said.

Ruth bankrupt a stupid, B movie, plot device.

Cal less sympathetic.

Rose less mouthy. She wasn't charming.

Eliminate the two segments in which Rose gets out of a lifeboat.

Cut the sleazy death-as-entertainment moments- ie "Propeller man" was/is disrespectful to real people.

The hour grows late, but you get the drift.
'Titanic' wasn't perfect- no film is- but I found it to be in the top 2 of greatest Titanic films ever made- ('A Night To Remember is the best, in my opinion) In my eyes it succeeds in having sparked 'Titanic fever' in scores of people....The spot on accurate sets deserve praise.. I suppose it was a delicate balancing act to make the film appealing to as wide a spectrum of people as possible-Perhaps too much focus was placed on jack & Rose, and the real characters were more or less peripheral characters-There needed to be main characters- and jack & Rose fit the bill, even if they were fictional. That didn't bother me one bit..If james Cameron depicted one of Titanic officers as the main character- the film would have appealed only to a small audience....
I can see how some might not be too keen on the scene where a Titanic victim lands and is deflected of a propellor. I suspect with that James Cameron tried to convey that people were dying even before the ship went under- it was a bit morbid how in the theatre, many people laughed at that scene.....

Much hullabaloo was made about the scene where Cal 'bribed' Murdoch- Seems to me Murdoch looked at Cal with disgust when the money was shoved in his pocket, then later threw the money back in Cal's face...I'd hardly call that accepting a bribe...

I wish the scene depicting Titanic breaking up had been more accurate-Had the breakup occoured as depicted in the film, every person who survived would be certain the breakup occoured- But in reality, even people close to the ship were unaware the breakup took place- I suspect the breakup was depicted 'over the top' to symbolize the cataclysmic end of the dream that was Titanic. With the stern crashing down onto the struggling masses, and the funnels toppling like temple pillars, I was reminded of the collapse of some ancient civilization, and all its inhabitants...

I can understand how the suicide of any titanic officer would be very controversial- There seems enough evidence to suggest an officr killed himself- but which one? The suicide was a dramatic moment, and in my opinion, certainly warrented inclusion in the film.....
Capt. Smith was last seen swimming in the water, not standing in the wheel house holding the ships wheel- even still, that bit of justifiable artistic licence was very powerful, and hammered the message that Titanic's captain went down with the ship.
(And that scene was clearly a nod to a near identical 'Capt. Smith death scene' in 'a Night to Remember') Would you rather see him swimming away, shouting 'Be British?
Rather than pick the film apart- what do you see as its strengths? The stunning sets was one, the special effects were stellar, plus the success in conveying a growing sense of urgency, a momentum in the danger, and an 'air of chaos' and an abandonment of social niceties that often results during any disaster. (A scene that best conveys that for me in 'A Night to Remember was when a chap was swigging from a bottle of brandy in the 1st class Smoking room- "You said you were going to drink the whole bottle'- Such behavior would never be tolerated under normal circumstances)

Granted, some of the plot and character aspects of the fictional characters might not be perfect, but remember there was a need to make the film to appeal to as wide an audience as possible- and in that regards, James Cameron's 'Titanic' was the greatest success in cinematic history....


Tarn Stephanos
Everyone on this website tends to forget that James Cameron's Titanic is meant for a non-Titanic movie going audience who will accept the basic story of the sinking at face value. That's why it did so well--the story of Jack and Rose was meant to draw in the teenage girls to the movies. Somehow I don't think they're going to much in depth research to find out what really happened. It's a shame that such a successful movie also played fast and loose with the facts about the real historical people who were on that ship.
Tarn asks “how could it have been done differently”. Well, for one thing they could have removed the thread of political correctness that permeated the film. As I have said before, I believe that the film-makers needed sufficient numbers of “bad guys” and incompetents to bolster the story and, in today’s climate, this clearly going to be bad news for anyone who was white, British, Protestant, or in any way WASPish. Imagine the furore there would have been if Cal had been portrayed as a Jew, or Murdoch had been an Irish Catholic (instead of a Scottish Protestant), or Lightoller had been from an ethnic minority (“I will shoot you like dogs”). I rest my case.
Oh no, if Cal had been Jewish (don't we already have enough problems?) the ADL would have denounced the stereotype of the rich, money grubbing Jew in no uncertain terms.
The point of my thread was to suggest the film was fine as it- being one of the most successfull films ever made is proof of that- But had the film been approached differently-could it have been as successful?
Had it just been a carbon copy of 'A Night To Remember', it would have only appealed to Titanic buffs, and would have been a flop- I still maintain James cameron was brilliant for making his movie appealing to so many people, by touching on so many genres...

Stanley, i'm not sure how the movie was 'politically correct'- Could you cite some specific examples?
Overall, I don't have a problem with the fictious story of doomed Romeo and Juliet style romance on the high seas. My primary objection is to how the real people of the Titanic were treated. I honestly think Titanic's officers deserved better that what they got from the Cameron flick. The only officer who does come out fairly well is Fifth Officer Lowe, a Welshman.

Let me take a swipe at Political Correctness--James Cameron is a Canadian and maybe he felt some deep seated colonial resentment at the British. So he decided to stick it to the British seamen by making them look really bad.
Sharon, you are engaging in sheer speculation by suggesting James Cameron was attacking the British..I saw no evidence of any anti-British sentiment in the film...
I suspect some people think everyone on Titanic was as proactively heroic as the depiction of officer Lightoller (as depicted in 'A Night To Remember')- I suspect the reality was somewhat different- Put 1500 people in a situation where death is in front of them, you will find cowards rise as heroes, and heroes fall to their knees..

Charles Lightoller came off as a company yes man in the Titanic inquiries that followed, and he was far from being perfect...
i will admit the one fellow who always gets lambasted was Bruce Ismay- I don't believe he sneaked into a lifeboat- that's yellow journalism from 1912- There was an open seat, and officer Wilde told him to get in the boat....But the 'Ismay was a coward' myth has simply been ingrained into Titanic lore, its a myth that's impossible to dispell...
Tarn, I thought my examples of political correctness were fairly obvious. It is of course entirely correct to say that the film industry is about entertainment and profit, rather than historical accuracy (although there is no reason why a successful film should be historically inaccurate). In the case of Camerons’s Titanic, we have an archetypal commercial film, which is essentially a fictional story set aboard an actual ship. Nobody is going to argue with that, but what really annoys people is the way on which the reputation of the officers was deliberately traduced by the film-makers. I believe that if Messrs Smith, Murdoch and Lightoller had belonged to a religious or racial minority the film would probably not have been released.

Looking at this issue in its wider context, the north-west Europeans (and their relatives beyond the seas in the English-speaking countries) are seen as the predominant racial/religious group, and the unwritten “rules” of political correctness dictate the bad guys in any present-day film must be from this group. That is why the unfortunate Germans have been the stock villains of Anglophone war films for the past 60 years. Hollywood is comfortable with this, but conveniently “forgets” that fascism was an Italian invention before it infected the Germans. Thus, in a film such as Captain Correliis’ Mandolin, the Italians are, by some perverted mental process, turned into the good guys.
We should all remember that the film was not made just for Titanic buffs like us to watch but for everyone in the entire world to watch. The main goal with the film, as with any film, was to attract as many viewers as possible to make as much money as possible for the people involved in making it. No film company in their right mind would put that kind of money and time into a film that would only reach a miniscule segment of the population.

The first time I saw the film i had very little knowledge of the real Titanic and i thought it was great. I started researching the real ship after seeing the film and after almost 10 years of reading every book I could get my hands on I have a slightly different opinion. I still think the film is great, however I tend to nitpick it more because I can spot the inaccuracies in the film and that makes it more difficult to enjoy it as much as the first time. I fully understand why anyone who was interested in Titanic before the film came out would not enjoy it as much