James Camerons 1997 Titanic: Its Overall Effects

steve b

i write this with the knowledge that some people are upset with James Camerons titanic. and i for one would like to stand in its defense. i say this, because, in 1995 was the last time i attended a movie i a theater, and to me, with very good reason. i do not like the ususal blood and guts that hollywood tries to force down our throats, or the mindless scripts that seem to accompany most films. it had seemed to me that in previous hollywood attempts at historicaly accurate filmmaking, for whatever reason, they felt the need to make a complete mockey of whatever event was the films subject. when i read the film was being directed by the likes of the same person that directed Terminator", i expected no less inthis film, and decided to bypass it at the theater..its a decision i will always regret. in was staying with friends one weekend last year, when titanic popped up on cable tv. my friends simply couldnt believe i had never seen it, and then because they had control of the remote, there i was watching it from about middle point on..i stopped watching after about 10 minutes when i realised this film was different, and wanted to watch it in its entirety, so i went home, and on the way i picked up my own copy. from the very first scene this film had me in its grips. the truly haunting images of titanic laying at the bottom of the ocean floor was enough by itsself to send chills through ones body. the storyline is set with the introduction of rose (kate winslets beautiful portrayal of her character is something i could talk about for years) and there we are, literally sent back in time to 1912 ireland, the costumes, the reproduction, chillingly real. from that point on, i was visiting 1912. we are given morsels about titanic and a beautiful tour of its engines, a stunning seagulls eye perspective of the grand ship, and a look at some of its inner workings..also along the way, we are introduced to a beautiful timeless love story, something which is severely lacking in todays movies. again, ithink its a credit to kate winslet, because the way she portrays her character, she does it with such great charm and class, and she leaves you thirsting to know more about her, not only what happened to her afterwards, but i find myself more interested in what happened to her prior, her childhood.leo is perfectly cast in his role, and they balance each other..the freeing of her soul on the bow rail is maybe the most beautiful love scene i have ever seen done..and thats because it was done gently, with class. from there w are taken in graphic detail through the ships tragic ending..what hollywood can be was on perfect display, for as the visuals were stunningly accurate..i note that james cameron went to great lengths to try and reflect the ending as accurately as possible for historys sake..and of course you can argue that until eternity, but i think he did a good job of doing that. so we have seen a beautiful love story the ships sinking story has been told..what follows after? what i have seen follow was the education of many generations of people..i saw, and also knowing some people that work in us libraries, young children, running into libraries and the like wanting to find out all they could. this , whether what you feel about titanic,is its most beautiful gift to us..it made people remmeber its story, and it introduced many of new people, many who have not or would not have been, they were were being taught its story, and so we have many new people taking interest in it again..and how bad can that be? 89 years later, and the interest in it is as strong as ever..educating people, making them want to learn, is a beautiful thing..i know for myself, when i was in school almost 20 years ago, we were not taught about it at all on any level. not onl has camerons film managed to do that, i think, in a way,he managed to do what other films havent..he managed to put faces on the people who tragically lost theyre lives that night. i think this is a timeless film, and heres why..can you imagine, maybe someday 50 years from now, on a rainy weekend afternoon, someone putting this film into a VCR with theyre child or grandchild? because then what happens, you will have anther new peron introduced to its story..remembering our history, our heritage, thats never a bad thing..god bless all
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the movie, Steve. I usually avoid movie theaters like the plague and waited 'til Titanic had gotten to dollar-theater level before I went, but I was so glad I did.

I wanted to add to your input that I think some of the best acting in the movie was done by the nonfictional characters -- Ewan Stewart as First Officer Murdoch and Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews, for example. I think the sequences in which the ship collides with the iceberg include some of the best acting. The tone in Fleet's voice when he says "Iceberg, right ahead!" contains just the right tone of panic, IMO.

On the other hand, the Jack/Rose characters did nothing for me. That's just my opinion, of course -- they obviously appealed to a lot of others. I do think it would have been nice if they could have had a chaste romance -- but I guess I am just hopelessly old-fashioned.


Hallo there, Steve and Kathy -

I keenly anticipated the release of the movie from the time I heard that it was being made - I'm sure some of us remember the disappointment when we were told that it had been delayed from the originally planned Summer release (and the rumours that Harrison Ford had taken a personal role in delaying its release). It was already making news long before its release - I still remember a conversation with someone close to me who took inordinate glee in reading an article aloud to me that the movie would be a phenomenal flop and would bleed money from the Murdoch empire. I (as usual) rose to the bait and demanded that the movie be given a fair viewing and be spared the pre-judgements that it was destined to be another Waterworld - the person in question snorted 'Look, it's going to have to be the biggest movie of all time just to recoup what they spent in making it...' (the words 'in your face' were uttered in his general direction for the first six months of 1998).

I saw it at the cinema more times than I care to confess now. It is still one of my favourite movies. That being said, I believe it has both its strengths and weaknesses. For the sheer power of having evoked the ship as she was, filming her so we had the sensation of a real, working piece of machinery rather than a collection of stage sets, it can't be beaten. That is an extraordinary accomplishment.

I believe Cameron's power in this movie lies mainly in his ability to tell a story visually - the strongest scenes are those with no or minimial dialogue. The dialogue is, I believe, a weakness. I was more willing to accept Jack and Rose as Cameron originally described them - archetypal characters (as specific characters I found them shallow and the plot pertaining to them very trite). The fictional romance is the componant that wears less well with each viewing - I'm happy to watch Titanic going to sea any number of times, but couldn't stand even one more viewing of 'You're gonna die if you don't break free'.

Some characters were well drawn - Andrews for one. Murdoch, while I don't believe he resembled the real man too terribly much, had one advantage over his previous movie incarnations - he wasn't a dour man (good God, he even cracked a smile!). Lightoller and Moody were complete misses as far as I was concerned - neither in character or in that lesser qualification, appearance, did they bear much resemblence to the men they were portraying. This is not to cast any aspersions on the abilities of Phillips or Fletcher, who played the roles as they were written with great competence (as did Ioan Gruffudd, playing a sensitive, new-age, thoroughly Welsh Harold Lowe). Gracie was another character who fared poorly.

I believe Cameron might have fared somewhat better at the hands of some of his critics in the Titanic community if he hadn't declared so confidently that if Jack and Rose weren't in a scene, it was 'real'. Who here would set themselves up as that sort of an arbitrator? :)


Another point to make:

For many of us, the star of Cameron's Titanic wasn't Jack and Rose and their love story - but the ship itself. And the real-life characters that go along with it. (though, as Inger said, some of these characters didn't fare too well in terms of reality)

That's what gets us all (well, me specifically) going back to it.
I agree with you Bill. Someone said to me after they saw the movie that it was all about the love story. I think it was all about Titanic, hence the title, and the love story was just a sideline. I also feel the entertainment industry felt the same way which is why no actors got oscars.
The one person who was poorly portrayed that stands out to me is Archibald Gracie. The actor who played was very heavy set and blustery, but you don't get that impression from pics of Colonel Gracie. I agree with Inger too that the man who played Lightoller did nothing to convey the person I read about here and in books.
Just my 2 cents. Karen
Bill -- I agree about the ship being the true star. There are certain sequences (e.g., Titanic steaming away from the coast of Ireland) of which I could never tire.

I agree with you, too, Karen, about the portrayal of Col. Gracie -- that was a disappointment. Plus, in the movie he has an English accent, but Gracie was American. I wonder why Cameron made that decision.

Inger, I would be curious to hear more about what you thought of the portrayal of Lowe -- his character seemed (to me, and of course I'm not an expert) quite far from the depictions of Lowe I have read in nonfiction books. Was your reaction positive, negative, etc.?
im going to have to disagree with you good people on this point..i believe the storyline of rose and jack was beautifully written, and i guess one had to walk in theyre shoes t understand it..but they were a very good representation of the seperation of social classes of titanics day. you all may find it impausible, not having a chance of happening in real life, but what i think is the underlying message here, was there were more people in jack and roses seperate life predicaments befire they had met. remember that titanic was full of people risking everything they had in coming to america in search of a fresh start, a new beggining. and there were also many just like rose.let us not forget women did not have much of a say in theyre own fates, especially were the upper class of the day was concerned. i think what cameron simply wanted to portray was that there was the exception, where someone did manage to break free. i have no problem with jack and rose in the storyline, and they should be as much remembered as titanic in this film
Sorry, Steve, I'm afraid I disagree :) - I found that Jack and Rose (and their class compatriots) were a very reductive depiction of the complexities of class and class issues - all shades and areas of gray were reduced to simplistic stereotypes, and in order to present his version of 1912 society Cameron completely ignored the middle class, which we could have reasonably expected to be represented through the Second Class aboard Titanic. This is one reason why I said I could appreciate Jack and Rose as archetypal characters - if they were simple symbols, I could accept them on those terms. As specific characters, flesh and blood reality, I saw no shading. In the end I felt nothing for these characters - but the portrayal of the ship made the movie worthwhile for me.

Kathy - I admire and respect Ioan Gruffudd and his work, but I felt his Lowe was rather a departure from the original man :) Lowe had a much harder, tougher edge than I thought we saw in the movie (and not just because his habitual use of strong language, a distinguishing feature remembered by many who knew him, was conspicuously absent). He seemed, in contrast to Lightoller, rather tentative and even hesitant in his sensitivity - Lightoller bellows as he bodily picks up a woman and thumps her down in a lifeboat, Lowe can hardly bear to part an embracing couple. His firing during the lowering of the lifeboat has a near edge of panic to it, in contrast to accounts that have him calmly rising and firing with cool deliberation along the side of the ship.

During the scene where he returns, his emotions are very much evident to the audience - he appears almost on the point of breaking down. This, of course, serves a dramatic purpose (his words 'we waited too long' articulate the depth of tragedy in the moment, and give a voice to the emotions of the audience), but by that point I believe Lowe had well and truly dampened down any grief he felt and was focussed on proactive activity.

Harold Lowe's son thought that Ioan Gruffudd did a good job in the role as scripted and that the movie largely did justice to his father, but that the movie depiction overall did not resemble the man he knew.

Oh - and Lowe didn't have a Welsh accent :) This amused members of the family tremendously when they first saw the film.

All the best,

Steve, I thought the story of Jack and Rose was great, however I don't think they were the stars of the movie, the Titanic was the star. I watch the scene where Rose shakes Jacks' hand to 'wake' him and let him know there's a boat, and think how horrible it must have been to lose the man you love in that way. Their story makes that part more real for me. Karen
well i will stand my ground here and stand in defense of jack and roses place in the movie. i think your looking for the perfect representation of all classes of the age, and is that really possible? i will still say that jack and rose represented their classes well, more jack than maybe rose..rose was looking for a way to break herself of it, while jack hung true to his background, and even seemed to wallow its simplicity..again, i think your looking for perfect. for me, the way that love story was presented, go and find a movie that does a better job..i will take this over 99% of todays garbage, the mindless scripts, the bang-bang shoot until youve knocked off 98% of your cast..theres some flaws sure, but i wonder how everyone would have handled it, if they were put in charge of putting this film together. i may sound awful for saying this, but lord help me i believe it to be true...a story based solely on titanics depature, crashing into the berg, and sinking by itsself would have never produced the wonder it did..and, like it or not, camerons film is resposible for the rebirth of interest in the story..and that cant be a bad thing now, can it?
Steve -

You're perfectly entitled to believe that Jack and Rose share equal merit with the ship itself, and also to your belief that this was a fair depiction of class issues.

I don't think it's an either/or thing, however. We don't have to believe that the movie was either perfect or that it was a complete disaster - there are elements I can take and elements I can leave. Jack and Rose are the elements I'd leave.

There are many films that look at class issues and tensions - generally not with such broad strokes as Cameron's mass-digestible flick, but with a more specific, shaded focus. 'The Molly Macguires' comes to mind (borrowing from a somewhat earlier period), 'Solomon and Gaenor' which deals with relgious and social issues in Wales during this period, any number of Merchant Ivory productions based on Edith Wharton books which look at the more complex currents in the upper and middle strata of society. As someone of Irish heritage and from an Irish immigrant background, I found Cameron's reduction of the Irish immigrants to jolly noble good folks (as opposed to their sneering wealthy overlords) more amusing than insightful.

However, Cameron was not interested in presenting a complex statement about class relations in 1912 - he was making an action-adventure/romance/historical flick that appealed to a wide number of people (a 'chocolate covered hamburger, as he called it). It managed a certain cross-genre appeal.

I think there are any number of movies with better presented love stories - from "The Age of Innocence" to the aforementioned "Solomon and Gaenor" - both of them dealing with the old, old theme of 'starcross'd lovers'.

You are correct that the addition of the 'Jack and Rose' story might have given this movie a populist edge but, without wishing to sound elitist, box-office success is not always a measure of merit (some of the biggest grossing movies of all time include 'Independence Day' and 'Jurassic Park'). As far as I'm concerned, the best function Jack and Rose serve is as a plot device allowing us to see different sections of the ship :)

I agree that it is a good thing that the movie lead to an increase of interest in the ship (although not really a 'rebirth' as such, for interest in the ship has never gone away), but this doesn't preclude being critical of parts of the film, and of the inclusion of characters such as Jack and Rose. It might have been a fiscally wise decision, but from a very personal perspective I would much rather have done without them. The story has enough interest for me without them - indeed, they seem to me a rather irritating distraction (with a few exceptions - moments that are entirely visual, such as Rose being lowered in a lifeboat).

It is your entitlement, however, to enjoy this film and interpret it in any way you wish. If you feel that the Jack and Rose story worked, and that it enhanced the movie, that is entirely your prerogative. There is no one who can appoint themselves an arbitrator on what is a matter of taste - my opinion on this matter has no more inherent value than yours :)


First off, I liked Cameron's 'Titanic.' The detail of the ship was fantastic and the errors...well, those served to focus my research. I didn't mind the love story because I knew that without it, there would have been no movie.

Kate Winslet was beautiful. I wonder, though, if audiences today would have found her as beautiful (and therefore easy to sympathise with) if her appearance had been more appropriate for the period; e.g., none of the excessive makeup and bright lipstick we expect of our modern beauties.

Have you seen the picture of Katie Gilnagh taken after her arrival in New York? Now, there's a babe...I would have gladly given her my cap.

Just idle thoughts.

In my next book I'm going to disclose the real reason why Titanic sank. Beyond any doubt, it was because Jack and Rose opened every damned door they could find to let in the water.

-- David G. Brown
Thanks for my laugh of the day David. I never thought of that!
Parks---i give cameron all the credit in the world for giving people the roles he did..look how much critisism he has taken for casting leo in his role. which i think cameron deserves more credit for. supposing he would have went with popular views and cast somebody like per say tom cruise in the role of jack. that would have made it totally undeserving of kind of belief. but yes i can very much see a young man like leo exsisting in the day. my harshest critisism comes for those who have the gall to chastize kate winslet about her weight. again, here is way cameron deserves by not casting a supermodel for the role. kate winslet was briliant in her role, and portrayed the class and character beautifully..there were so many suble things in her performance that go unnoticed. like her way of making the simplest facial expression work, or her gentle singing, or...oops im droning on here, sorry folks. but i will disagree with the gentlemen who does not believe camerons film sparked a rebirth of interest in the story..it did, it probably got the attention of at least 2 generations that may not have been learning about it properly in history. if at all