Titanic: The Last Great Hollywood Epic

I doubt that there are very many of you who have yet to see the cultural phenomenon that is James Cameron’s Titanic. Recently celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, the film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry for being considered historically, culturally and aesthetically significant.

The story is told from the perspective of an elderly Rose Dawson (Gloria Stuart) recalling her memories on the luxurious ocean liner, of which she was a first-class passenger, Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet). The audience is transported back to 1912 where aboard Titanic, she meets the third-class passenger Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Although Rose is betrothed to be married to the snobbish Cal (Billy Zane), she falls in love with Jack on the transatlantic voyage. However, they are forced to race against time when the ill-fated ship clashes with an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Although different people may have different opinions on Titanic, no one can deny the effect the film has had on our pop culture landscape. Who hasn’t heard someone quote “You jump, I jump” or “I’m the king of the world”? Taking more than $2.1billion against a $200million budget, Titanic went on to become the highest grossing film of all time until it was overtaken by James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic: Avatar. Many critics predicted that the film would flop considering how the release date kept being pushed back, amid speculation 20th Century Fox was cutting funding for Titanic. When the film finally premiered, critics generally gave favourable reviews, but it was because of audiences that Titanic got propelled to blockbuster success. By February, the film would go on to match All About Eve’s record for most Oscar nominations with 14 and continues to hold the record for most Oscar wins with 11 including Best Picture, tying with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

I still remember the first time I watched Titanic on an old DVD, and even though it was played on a small TV, my eyes glazed over at the epic grandeur of the production. Although Titanic is usually viewed as a romantic-drama because of the melodramatic elements that exist, this is also a period piece that gracefully exudes the elegance and class of 1910s society. Deborah Lynn Scott’s Oscar winning costumes do not go unnoticed, nor does Peter Lamont and Michael D. Ford’s production design. The careful attention to detail is not only delightful to the eye but is a standing testament to the engineers and builders who created RMS Titanic.

It would be a lie for me to say that Titanic isn’t my favourite film. James Cameron masterfully brings together all my favourite loves: the epic genre, costume drama and Celine Dion. I have never been bored watching Titanic during any of its 195 mins and as this year draws to a close, I urge sceptics to give this a re-watch this summer as I wholeheartedly believe that James Cameron created a modern masterpiece in 1997.

by Carlos Tseng

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