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Festivale online magazine, Jan 1998, movie reviews


An FX Movie to Remember

Titanic film review

At dinner in the lavish dining room of the Titanic, Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) suggests to the designers of the ship that they look to Freud for an explanation of man’s obsession with building big. Ironic, when you consider that this movie itself is the epitome of big.

Titanic is a special effects spectacular wrapped around a fairly lightweight love story. Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a penniless wanderer travelling steerage, and Rose, unhappy fiancee to Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) in first class, find love across the class divide. You’ve seen it before: boy meets girl, boy tries to get girl, other people try to stop boy getting girl. If it was a fat glossy romance book it would bear a slogan saying “They Come from Different Worlds... and Theirs is a Forbidden Love!”

Kate Winslett, click for enlarged image DiCaprio seems destined for romantic lead roles, at least for the present. I did at one point wonder how many more close-ups of his eyes we were going to receive, as I was becoming as familiar with them as his iridologist. Still, he does a good job with some uninspiring material. Winslet is lovely as the young, confused Rose and Billy Zane turns on his usual oily charm as the villain of the piece, ably backed up by the hulking David Warner as his bodyguard and right-hand man.

But this is not a movie one comes to see for the story, which is simply a device to allow us to visit the various parts of the great ship before its demise. It’s an unashamed special effects movie and the effects are spectacular. From sweeping aerial shots of the bow slicing through the waves to the massive engines and the glories of the first-class dining room, Titanic is breathtaking in its accuracy to detail. The inevitable collision with the ice and the ship’s slow descent into the Atlantic are stunning and grip the audience with their realism. The scale and pointlessness of the loss of life hit you with all the force of a true story. It’s a movie aided by the recent discovery of the Titanic’s remnants on the ocean floor, which enabled scientists to pinpoint exactly how the ship went down... and of course by the amazing computer technology which this film makes liberal use of to effect a seamless mix of the real and unreal.
Between the lightweight story and the magnificent effects, I couldn’t help thinking: ”Why not make a documentary rather than a love story?” A factual account, with dramatised scenes and the same stunning effects would have been just as striking and freed us from following two characters who did not actually exist on this otherwise very real ship. But Hollywood must have its romance, and it’s unobjectionable enough in this case.

I wouldn’t even think about waiting for Titanic to go to video. This is a movie that was designed for the big screen, and that’s where it should be seen.

Leonard DiCaprio, click for enlarged image

Click here to buy films from one of the online stores in Festivale's on-line shopping mall Tim Richards
See also: our info page for David Gerrold's review, and reader reviews
and our feature, Titanic: a powerful voice from a watery grave.
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