the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
The Screening Room

Memories of James Cameron's "Titanic" are flooding back to me now. Unbelievable that ten years have passed since the big ship landed in theaters in 1997. The buzz was that it was going to be a major financial disaster. Why would anyone want to watch a three-hour epic about a sinking ship? We already know what happened on that fateful night. What was the point of revisiting it? That's what the feeling was about the pending release of "Titanic."

I saw the film with my wife at the Mann Village in Westwood, CA, on opening weekend. As we walked up to the line already gathering around the theater, I heard two guys saying that the movie was a mess. They had just seen it. They couldn't believe that Cameron finally failed. Being a James Cameron fan at the time, I wanted to sit through the film regardless.

The theater was packed and the audience didn't know what to expect. After three hours, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. My wife leaned over to me, tears in her eyes, and said, "That was awesome." I looked around the theatre. Lots of sniffling and lots of tear wiping. I chuckled. Not a tear was shed from my eyes. That's not because I'm a manly guy or that I necessarily hate a bit of romance in a movie. I just didn't buy the whole Jack & Rose bit. The film became a huge hit and won a ton of Oscars.  

"Titanic" is back on DVD in a new 2-DVD set.

As much as it's funny to make fun of "Titanic" today, there wasn't a hit film like it in years. People kept going back to see it over and over again. The last film that caused people to eat up a film was "E.T." Cameron's ode to the ship and its imaginary couple of Jack & Rose sparked something in audiences. Maybe it was the convoluted love story that worked. Maybe it was the then-spectacular visual effects. Maybe it was Celine. Maybe audiences just plain loved "Titanic." I worked with a woman who saw the film at least ten times when it was in release. She'd get misty eyed talking about the movie. It touched her. 

The film really needs no explanation. A street rat named Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets an upper-class girl named Rose (Kate Winslet) on a voyage on the world's largest ship, Titanic. She's about to get married to a rich snob (Billy Zane). She's unhappy with him and her mother's (Frances Fisher) meddling ways. Rose learns a lot on this voyage. Jack shows her how to spit over the side of the boat. She learns to free herself by not only throwing herself into Jack's arms, but how to pose nude for Jack. Like most young women of the era, she'd rather dump a rich guy for a guy she just met. Does Jack learn anything? Nah. He's a really smart guy. He knows how the ship is going to tip after it has hit the iceberg. James Bond has nothing on Jack.  

The character of Jack is almost too perfect. He's like a hero from a romance novel. Streetwise, yet refined when he needs to be. He was more resourceful than MacGyver, able to escape bad situations with no problem. A total gentleman, yet a great dancer. His late-90s hair was always perfect, even when he was turning into a Jack-cicle. And what a buddy! The moment he sees Rose, he ditches his Italian stereotypical bud, Frabrizio (Danny Nucci).

I'm not sure what bothered me most about Jack, then and now. Was it Leonardo? Perhaps. He's always struck me as too much of an intense actor. I thought he was excellent in a little seen film called "This Boy's Life" (1993), though the film bothered me with the child abuse. But his range of acting reminds of Tom Cruise. Be intense! Smile at the girl and make her fall in love with you. Yell at someone and make your eyes bug out! Repeat. Or maybe it was because women, including my wife, swooned over him. Come on. I'd sacrifice myself into the cold Atlantic for you. I guess in today's modern world, no one likes a gentleman who opens doors or sinks to the bottom of the ocean for you anymore. Well, except if that gentleman is Leonardo.

Rose is another interesting character in "Titanic." Winslet indeed acts well in this role. She's cute eye candy for three hours. Lovely and beautiful, her life is tough. So what if your mom's trying to pawn you off to a wealthy buffoon (played by Billy Zane)? Don't run across Titanic and try to jump ship. Enjoy the ride for a little while, then dump the guy. Rose set the precedent for all those young bimbos on reality shows like "The Hills." Life is so rough and confining when you're rich, or might marry into money. She decides to chuck it all for this total stranger named Jack. My guess is that Jack must've been really good in the car, because Old Rose (Gloria Stuart) still remembers her one night stand with him after all these years! Other questions came up for me during "Titanic." What happens if he dumps you, Rose, after you've reached New York? And what if Jack looked like, oh, Jack Black, would Rose have blindly run away with him? So many questions. The movie is fantasy, I know. I should have, and should, just enjoy the movie for what it is.

Watching the movie again on DVD brought back more memories from the winter of '97. Remember how Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" sounded beautiful at first, then got on your nerves very soon after? It did for me. I couldn't escape that damned song no matter where I went. It was on everywhere. In my car. On the television. On the speaker above my head playing Muzak at work. Dion, who had some moderate hits before this movie, suddenly became a "diva." I was reminded of another movie song that got stuck in my head. There was a silly movie called "You Light Up My Life" which spawned a song of the same name. Now that song is stuck in your head. Sorry about that.    

I'll admit that I saw "Titanic" twice, mainly because I thought that the sinking of Titanic was well executed. Cameron (and crew) staged this portion of the movie with such excellence that I overlooked, at least for a little while, the soap opera that preceded it. The film was also shown in 70mm and I recall the prints at the Mann Village and Mann Chinese (Hollywood) looked spectacular. This was an epic movie and it played well on the widescreen. The sinking of Titanic was worth the price of admission. The mixture of chaos, a loud soundtrack and visual effects made for an entertaining section of the film. The people I felt bad for were the poor passengers who lost their lives on the real Titanic, not Jack. 

As a technical lightshow, "Titanic" shoots and scores
. Today, though, the digital people falling off the aft of the ship into the propeller blades doesn't look fresh. The CGI Titanic was almost completely believable back in '97, but today shows its age. The effects were quite an accomplishment of their time. What stands out for me is the production design. Apparently, Cameron was a stickler for detail and it shows on screen. The sets are lush and filled with life and the ship does feel like it's making its maiden voyage. Too bad the real ship met an untimely end.

My opinions about a ten year-old blockbuster won't sway anyone from watching it for the first time, or for the hundredth time. The movie is entertaining. If anything, if you're in the camp of "Titanic" haters, the picture and sound quality of this new DVD is excellent. You can watch it as a home theater demo DVD. If you're in the camp of "Titanic" lovers, this DVD set will blow your socks off, and make you reach for the tissue box once again.

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: Paramount/20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


Ocean liner big on spectacle, schmaltzy on the love story

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Leo, Kate, Billy and a Big Giant CGI ship


Lots of commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and Celine



Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent

The digital effects don't look as pretty as they once did, but still impressive

The sets are spectacular

Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1 EX


November 20, 2007