Combustible Celluloid
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With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bill Paxton, Suzy Amis, Bernard Hill, David Warner, Jonathan Hyde
Written by: James Cameron
Directed by: James Cameron
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language
Running Time: 194
Date: 11/01/1997

Titanic (1997)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sinking and Swimming

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

James Cameron's three-hour and 15-minute epic is a brilliantly designed, but emotionally shallow romance set during the infamous sinking of the luxury liner in 1912.

In the present day, divers explore the ruins while an old lady, Rose (Gloria Stuart) flashes back to her time on the ship as a beautiful young woman, (Kate Winslet) romantically torn between the ragged and spirited Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) or the leering, cackling Cal (Billy Zane).

Cameron has a stunning command of the huge space and the technical aspects of the sinking; we always know exactly what's going on. And while DiCaprio and Winslet's supreme chemistry often overcomes the clumsy dialogue, Zane and co-star Kathy Bates (as the unsinkable Molly Brown) give embarrassing, hammy performances.

James Horner contributed the icky score and there was no escape from Celine Dion's horrid "My Heart Will Go On" theme song.

It's a mixed bag, but it won 11 Oscars out of 14 nominations and, despite its monstrous $200 million budget, grossed something like $600 million and beat Gone with the Wind as the most popular film of all time. (Although, according to Box Office Mojo, if you adjust for inflation, Gone with the Wind is still number 1, and Titanic comes in at number 5.)

Now it's fifteen years later, and are people still excited about it? Many opined that the bulk of the film's fan base were 15 year-old girls who had come to swoon at DiCaprio's visage. Those girls are now 30... would they see the film again today? Does the movie's high visibility make it more or less appealing? It's hard to say.

Certainly the movie now seems a great deal deeper than Cameron's subsequent hit Avatar, but at the same time, it's still less interesting and less profound than either The Terminator or Aliens.

In 2012, Paramount released a spectacular new Blu-ray package with four discs: one Blu-ray containing the movie, one Blu-ray disc of extras, and two DVDs with the movie split across them. Technically, it's of the absolute highest quality.

Extras include three commentary tracks, one with Cameron, one with members of the cast and crew, and one with two historians. These were all previously recorded for the 2005 DVD. There are two high-def feature-length documentaries, about an hour of deleted scenes, and several other mini-featurettes, recycled from previous DVDs, plus lots more.
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