Is it time for us to re-evaluate the highest grossing film of all time? It might be worth a shot. It’s been eleven years since James Cameron’s Titanic was released and became a national phenomenon. It made most of its money from people going back to see it, seven or eight times. This is back in the ’90s, you understand, when people could afford to go see a movie seven or eight times and also pay the phone bill.
Tasha Robinson, from The Onion’s AV Club, thinks so, although she apparently never saw the movie during its original run. She actually never saw it until recently, which means that she is neither swayed by romantic nostalgia, nor biased by lingering feelings of resentment towards the stupid girls who went back to see it fifty-seven times in a row every weekend. I do know for a fact that the only reason people hated Leo DiCaprio (at least until The Departed and Blood Diamonds came out) was this movie, and the ubiquitousness of his floppy hair and enigmaticly chiseled Sicilain features. He was everywhere. The dude was like the Nike swish logo for a while.
Here’s what Ms. Robinson thinks:
For me, the whole Jack-Rose-Cal plot read like the ur-chick-lit novel. It’s just about the most basic possible expression of a romantic female fantasy. (Also like a remake of 1994’s Reality Bites, but with fewer rooftop Schoolhouse Rock sing-alongs and more mass death.) If only every woman in the world was periodically forced to choose between two fantastically beautiful men—one rich and civilized yet stuffy, and one poor but free and capable. Then we wouldn’t have to keep seeing that plotline over and over again, because everyone would be so bored from dealing with it in real life that it wouldn’t be the stuff of clichéd dreams.
However, she also says stuff like this – about her favorite part of the film, just after the iceberg hits:
playMovie(“http://videos.theonion.com/avclub_video/2008/11/titanic/32.flv”,””,’355′,’265′,false,null,false,”video_player_89762″); //: hx1.35 //file, img, width, height, fs, extra, fsbutton
From there, the movie goes into a heightened surrealism that says a lot of entertaining things about how people approach catastrophe, with confusion and denial and outright bureaucratic lies. The scenes where the upper-crust passengers refuse to stand out on the cold deck, or get into the scary lifeboats, and stand around in the salon listening to music and ordering drinks and bitching, were some of my favorites in the film. And once things really start to fall apart and the ship is obviously sinking and Titanic becomes a flat-out disaster film, it’s as well-made as 11-year-old special-effects extravaganzas get.
I’m with her. It was spectacularly made and beautifully structured, directed and designed flawlessly and full of memorable moments (i.e. the woman telling her kids the story of Tir-Na-Nog before they all drown, “you’re just as likely to have angels fly out of your arse as get next to the likes o’ her”, the loogie scene, the young dudes kicking around chunks of ice like soccer balls, and any time Victor Garber is on screen as Mr. Andrews), but the love story was kind of dumb. Sweet, yes, charming, definitely, and undoubtably necessary to the film, but kind of dumb nonetheless.
But here’s what’s really interesting: It’s the most successful film of all time, and everyone hates it. Why? Feel free to comment.
You know what? I’m gonna re-watch it sometime and live-blog the experience. We’re gonna settle this once and for all.