Titanic (1997) revisited


On this day 20 years ago, James Cameron’s blockbuster of blockbusters premiered in Sydney. A tribute to the most famous sunken ship ever, the picture went on to be the highest grossing film of all time, holding the title until Avatar surpassed it in 2009. While it is equal parts drama and disaster movie, Titanic is at its core a love story. The production explored themes of forbidden love, of class struggles, and of course, hope in the face of chaos. 

Making ripples 

I remember mentioning the movie to my former seat mate in high school. Once I brought up Titanic, she immediately thought of the ‘hand scene’. I laughed, more because it was far from my mind. The movie left us with a few iconic moments, including the scene where jack holds Rose, arms outstretched, on the bow of the ship. Years later, it seems surreal to remember the players from twenty years back. To have Leo and Kate together when they were young, working with James Cameron…it’s hard for the sheer star power not to overwhelm us. Where were you twenty years ago? We would all struggle to remember, but we won’t overlook Titanic and it’s ripples, wherever you were. 

‘Simplicity is beauty’

Personally, what I liked about Titanic was the simplicity. Unadorned dialogue, little riddles, if any; straightforward themes, and an easy to follow plot. Add to that the stellar portrayals of the central characters, and you’ve got a winning formula. While neither Kate nor Leo would win Oscars in their roles, it put them on the map. The two would later have about a dozen more nominations between them, before both received shining moments under the sun. With Kate’s win in The Reader, and Leo’s victory in The Revenant, the actors’ early work in Titanic certainly paved the way for them. 

Cameron for President 

Some viewers would pout at the movie’s running time, which clocks in at about 3 hours. However, when you’re watching something as captivating, the hours pass by quicker than you’d think. Set in April 1912, the ill fated liner sunk upon colliding with an iceberg on its maiden journey. Crashing in the middle of the sea, hundreds perished, including the aforementioned Jack. It takes a unique mind to create a world out of the lost, and Cameron delivers. It is only fitting that Cameron himself would supplant Cameron, with Avatar likewise being his brainchild. While some period movies are dull, Titanic moves with the elegance and grace that only the best do. So influential was Titanic that, during its run, my classmates could talk of nothing other than Jack and Rose. 

Much more

On its twentieth anniversary, the film’s imprint remains strong. Leo and Kate are still big stars, and James’s legacy endures through newer releases such as Avatar. We can learn a lot from Titanic, whether friendship or agency, belongingness or transparency. Some of us go to the movies for entertainment. Having watched this film at various points of my life, I can tell you that it offers much more than that.

****(out of four stars)

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