Okay, so this movie is almost 25 years old, but it's always fun to rewatch, either as background noise, or because I have nothing else to do. Usually it's a combination of both as I draw.
To this day, the fascination around the famous shipwreck has captured the attention of many, spawning several movies, a mini series, and the most expensive Lego set to date released this year.
When this initially came out in 1997, I couldn't see what all the hype was about. I was in junior high, almost in high school, and everyone was OBSESSED with it. And me, I thought, okay this is 3 hours of two people in love on a sinking ship. Did I really need to sit through all of that?
As an adult, my perspective has changed. Part of this is due to my love for disaster movies, and Titanic sits firmly in my disaster movie rotation. Why? It's one of the worst maritime disasters in history, killing over 1500 people. And I always have questions, starting with: How could this happen?
I think despite the romance, James Cameron captures the history well. Everything special is in the little details and the effects (which stand strong to this day).
So here is a list of my thoughts and musings during an uncounted rewatch:
Please note that there are MASSIVE spoilers. The movie is only 24 years old, but in case you haven't seen it and suddenly have an itch to watch it, there ya go.
Opening Sepia-toned Scene -- This is SO powerful, combined with Celine Dion's vocals of the theme song. None of these people had any idea what was in store; this was the grandest and largest Transatlantic oceanliner in the world, and was thought to be unsinkable (though Titanic wasn't called unsinkable until after the event).
BILL PAXTON! I love this dude. He's iconic for a few reasons, but he's done so many James Cameron movies, and he's recognizable from Titanic, Twister, the Abyss, and Apollo 13, to name a few. Bill, you are still missed.
Ignoring the doofy guy controlling the robot, I always love seeing the footage of Titanic. It's more than a wreck, and the little personal items half-buried in the sand are a nice touch. Not only did people sail on this ship, but they had lives, and this is proof of existence -- a gravesite and tribute to the passengers on this ill-fated maiden voyage.
How did older Rose get the number for the satellite phone to reach Bill Paxton's character? Did we have 411 in the 90s? It's not like cell phones were widespread, and they were the size of a brick.
What's with all the luggage?! And why so many pictures of herself? It's not like she's staying for a month, and she couldn't add in some photos of her children and grandchildren?
I'm just going to let this image speak for itself.
Am I the only person who still doesn't understand the Leonardo DiCaprio obsession? He's a brilliant actor, but young Leo was a sexual icon back in the day. No offense, Leo, but no thanks.
Kathy Bates is another iconic actress. In the 70s, she was told she wasn't pretty enough to be successful in Hollywood. Guess she sure showed them. That woman is awesome. And while I'm on the topic, I'll say the Unsinkable Molly Brown was an amazing woman. She not only commandeered the lifeboat she was in, but spent her life using her fortune to help the victims and their families affected by the Titanic disaster. #badasswoman #girlpower #strongfemale
So we have this entire scene with Dolphins and people admiring the grandeur of the ship. I know Cameron is building up the hype around how amazing Titanic was, but this is a part I always skip while focusing on my drawings. I don't really care about Jack's iconic "I'm the king of the world!" line. #Imthekingoftheworld Fun Fact: This was improvised by Leo.
Ah, the scene where Rose runs to the stern and gets ready to jump. I have a few thoughts on this. I feel like Rose was unfairly villainized because mental health didn't have a huge focus and spotlight until recently. Women didn't really have a lot of rights back then, Rose was being forced into an arranged marriage because of family debt, and her fiance was an abusive piece of shit. Feeling trapped and isolated is enough to make anyone want to jump. With that said, yeah, she's kind of irritating in how she treats Jack, but she's 17, and her erratic behavior should be forgiven, based on her age and situation. I think people are a little too quick to judge without considering the circumstances behind the reasons. Apparently, thinking requires too much effort these days. We have to admire Jack's effort to take the time to talk her down instead of casting judgment. Even in modern times, many people would probably let her jump instead of intervening.
The first-class passengers were quite something. They still are, but it's worse in this time period because so many of them were misanthropes. They based the value of life and worth on money instead of humanity, and no matter how much we as a current society say we're woke, there is still a gap between the wealthy elite and the impoverished. Third-class passengers were locked behind grilles so the first-class passengers could board limited lifeboats -- boats that weren't even filled to half capacity during much of the chaos. What makes one life more valuable than another? Why did our humanity leave us? I will note that there were also first-class passengers who did their best to help others board the boats and find women and children to help. But the majority refused to go back out of fear of being swamped. And in the case of Lifeboat 1, there were only 12. Twelve f*cking people, and they were all the wealthy elite. They had LOADS of room for more passengers, but refused to go back and rescue people. And not only that, several of the occupants were more concerned with their lost belongings than the people in the water. Only one person suggested going back, and was shot down by everyone else aboard. Lovely.
Alright, so we're back to Cal and Rose where he presents her with the Heart of the Ocean. This is incredibly ostentatious and extravagant, and it's an excuse to show off Cal's wealth as he tells Rose he will give her anything she wants if she would only open her heart to him. Um, dude, you're a 30 year old man trying to marry a 17 year old girl. Does anyone know what they want at 17? And yes, this was 1912, and women were still practically animals when it came to rights, but Rose rightly feels overwhelmed by it all. Cal basically wants her to love him for his money instead of seeing her for the person she is -- a living, breathing human being with feelings and emotions. #Asshole. *More thoughts to come later on the #HeartoftheOcean
Day 2: Rose and Jack stroll around the ship, and then Rose insults him for... reasons? The dialogue is a tad weak here, but Jack is always on point in calling her out. His views are well before their time.
Bruce Ismay is a bit controversial, and I'll share more on him later. It is speculated he encouraged Captain Smith to sail faster, but the captain also did everything according to his decades of experience at sea. So does all the blame have to rest on Ismay's shoulders?
Blue Danube plays during Jack's entrance to the Grand Staircase, and for a moment, I'm pulled back into Squid Game. The contrast in tone is striking and disturbing. Cameron did an excellent job with the visuals and aesthetics, recreating everything after receiving blueprints from the original shipbuilder that had previously been thought to be lost. Wood used on the Titanic would have been Teak, Oak, or Pine. More on this later.
How many dresses does Rose own?! Yes, yes, she's rich, but good golly, they all change clothes more than underwear. Let's see, you have morning wear, afternoon wear, evening wear, and then your night wear.
Rose correctly identifies John Jacob Astor IV as the richest man aboard Titanic. He went down as a true gentleman after placing his wife on a lifeboat. After his body was recovered, the belongings on his person consisted of a gold watch, cuff links, gold with diamond, a diamond ring with three stones, £225 in English notes, $2440 in notes, £5 in gold, 7s. in silver, 5 ten franc pieces, gold pencil, and a pocketbook. Source: Encyclopedia Titanica
Eh, I don't really care about the dinner. It's all talk of the rich questioning Jack about his life and Rose's mother Ruth being a bitch. She is such a miserable excuse for a human being, almost as bad as Cal. It doesn't cost anything to be kind. Look at Molly Brown. #enoughsaid
Ah, the steerage party. THIS is a real celebration. The people might be poor, but they sure seem to have a better grasp on what consists of fun (and hey, not to knock the wealthy lifestyle, but for me personally, it's too constricting and too focused on money). People dance, drink, and play games. Rose busts out some fancy ballet moves on her toes, but aside from her clothes and proper upbringing, she has the spirit of the third class passengers. Moral of the story: be yourself and don't be afraid to let loose. You never know how long you have to live, so you might as well enjoy life. Also, I love this scene. My social anxiety probably wouldn't allow me to enjoy myself for long, but I would have loved a party like this when I was younger.
Cal is a dick. The sad part: abuse still runs rampant in marriages and partnerships to this day. #wedeservebetter
Have I mentioned yet that Rose's mother is a bitch? Oh, wait, I have. She places more value on status and money than she does in her daughter. Ruth only thinks of how Rose can benefit her. Way to go, Ruth. #badmotheroftheyear
Church scene: There was supposed to be a lifeboat drill that Sunday, but the Captain chose to forgo it so he could attend Sunday Services. Oops.
And then the conversation on deck regarding icebergs and available lifeboats. Titanic had reports of ice in the area. The boats could only accomodate half of the people on board, and Titanic wasn't even at full capacity when it set sail. The ship could accommodate 3547 people (varies by source), and the lifeboats aboard could hold only 1178. On its maiden voyage, there were approximately 2224 passengers aboard, and an estimated 1500 died. Yikes.
An hour and a half in, we finally get to the iconic flying scene with Rose and Jack. I'm noting this because I remember in 1998 (or was it 1999) when the VHS tape came out (yes, I'm old enough to remember those), and this is where you had to switch to the next tape to see the rest of the movie. Holy guacamole, tech is so much more convenient these days.
Yay, the drawing! Fun facts: Cameron drew the risque picture of Rose, but in reality, Kate Winslet wore a swimsuit. Also, Cameron is left-handed and had to use special effects to depict it as Jack sketching Rose. Well done, Mr. Cameron, well done. 'Twas a beautiful sketch. Oh, and that bit with Rose naked? It was censored in several countries. You don't see a whole lot except buttcheeks and maybe the stray nipple, but I've seen worse on TV. *HBO and Cinemax (or Skinemax), I'm looking at you.*
Okay, conversation with Officer Lightoller and Captain Smith: "It's like a mill pond." The water was so calm that night, it would have been impossible to see the icebergs because there was no water breaking at the base. And there were no binoculars for the crow pit because they were locked away, and some officer on the mainland didn't give them the key. The Californian did warn the Titanic about icebergs in the area, but the officer manning the comms told them to shut up. The comms officer aboard the Californian then turned off the radio for the night, and the message never made it to the bridge of the Titanic. I'd say oops here, but this isn't oops. This is hubris and arrogance at its finest and an abandonment of common sense.
The 1912 Coupe de Ville motor car was actually aboard when the Titanic sank. Strangely, the vehicle was never recovered.
Stray thought, but every time I see David Warner as Spicer Lovejoy, I see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 scientist. It's an odd mashup when the two mesh together in my mind.
The scene where Titanic hits the iceberg is scarily accurate. There are accounts that put together the larger picture, and after the sinking, another Russian ship passed by the next day where a man snapped a photograph of an iceberg with red paint at the base. At the time, they hadn't heard of Titanic's sinking.
I have to ask why there was NO communication after the iceberg struck. I get not wanting to induce a panic, but at first, NO ONE took it seriously. After all, the Titanic was unsinkable. But even when the danger was realized, people weren't in a hurry to board the boats. Before this disaster, most ships managed to stay afloat until they reached the mainland or received help. #OopsIdiditAgain
I could write an entire essay on Mr. Thomas Andrews. The man was a kind man who genuinely cared about the safety and survival of those on board. Despite conflicting sources, he is said in each recount to have helped passengers to the very end, including tossing chairs into the water to serve as floatation devices. And Victor Garber -- omg he was amazing, and he was perfect for the role. If anyone embodied the spirit and accuracy of a historical figure it was him. Garber is one of my favorite actors and deserves all the love.
Most of the officers had no idea how to properly launch a lifeboat. Remember the lifeboat drill? It was cancelled. And the davits for the collapsable boats were somewhere underwater. Whoops.
Carpathia is 4 hours out. Welp... Not their fault. At least they responded. The Californian crew denied seeing the flares in the inquiry and had burnable scratch logs, but most accounts determine they did see the flares and chose to ignore it when they didn't realize what it was. Controversial as this is though, The Californian, had they responded, would have had to navigate around ice. And even then, their ship couldn't have safely accommodated all of the survivors, and many might have drowned by the time of arrival anyway. More can be found here and here.
I'm going to keep this brief. Locking up the third-class passengers was a fucked up thing to do.
Spicer Lovejoy leaving Jack to die while he took the key was also jacked up. There's a special place in Hell for people like this.
Murdoch launched half the lifeboats on the Starboard side in way less time it took Lightoller to launch just one on the Port side. The man was a #beast.
Ruth, you're a horrible person. I feel a weird sense of rage I usually reserve for Professor Umbridge every time she comes on screen. I kind of don't blame Rose for running off. And can I say how awesome she is for hocking that lougie in Cal's face? #welldeserved
Rose goes to Jack and tries to find help. As Rose leaves, Jack says, "I'll just wait here!" Where the hell are you gonna go, handcuffed to the pipes?
The part with the crewman dragging Rose down the corridor gives me mixed emotions. On one hand, he was trying to help. But on the other, he totally spoke over and ignored her. I feel like this all the time around certain people when they speak over me as if I don't exist. #invisible #invisiblewoman
Rose couldn't aim worth a damn with the axe. Then she closes her eyes while she swings for real. No, Rose, I do not trust you not to cut off an appendage.
Trivia: Murdoch and Lightoller took Captain Smith's command for 'women and children' in different contexts. Murdoch took it to mean women and children first. Lightoller interpreted it as women and children only. Communication is a thing, folks.
"That's White Starline Property! You'll have to pay for that!" How? The ship is sinking. Do you plan to take pictures of the damage when the ship is at the bottom of the ocean?
Good on you, Mr. Andrews for rebuking Lightoller! It's a shame your logic was overruled to carry more lifeboats.
I still don't get why they wouldn't let the people in steerage go onto the deck. The men still wouldn't have been able to board a boat first, so they at least deserved a chance to fend for themselves. One of the best parts of this movie is where the third-class passengers storm the barricades. The accuracy is a chilling example of what people are willing to do to survive and how shitty others in power can be.
*Sighs* There was never indication Murdoch behaved in a manner unbefitting of an officer. I doubt he took bribes, and it was a bit unfair to depict him as killing a man before committing suicide. It should be noted that Cameron issued an apology to the family after the movie's release.
The band, Titanic's true heros; They played music the entire duration of the sinking to keep passengers calm. And most accounts agree Wallace played Nearer, My God to Thee. He once told a former colleague it was one of two songs he would play if a ship ever sank. The musicians played to the very end, and not once did any of the men attempt to save themselves. This is another topic I could write an essay on, but I'll save my other thoughts for later.
Rose gets on the lifeboat. Now, this is probably going to have mixed reactions. Some might call it romantic because Rose can't be parted from the love of her live (that she only met 2 days prior). Me? Probably not a smart move. Sure, she'll be with Jack, but the odds of finding another boat and surviving are slim to none. So does she really win? No. And that was a space someone else could have used.
By this point, there is still another hour left in the movie...
The part where Cal flies into a jealous rage always puts me into a fit of giggles. He's more concerned about shooting at Jack and Rose, and only afterward does he realize 1, he's waist deep in water, and 2, oh yeah, he put the diamond in the coat. Way to go, dumbass.
Easily one of the best scenes; everything goes to shit when they find the little boy and water starts flooding the corridors. This is where the action really picks up, and we now follow Jack and Rose as they're stuck behind another set of gates and work their way up to the top deck.
Sorry, Cal. Money won't save your rich ass. A child dressed in rags who was lost in the confusion? Sure, we'll take it. Yay for saving the kid, but boo for his cowardice.
Oh, Tommy, it wrenches me every time I see you shot in the chest. Was this really necessary? Especially with Murdoch's suicide moments later.
Mr. Andrews, why do your scenes have to be so damn poignant? Even though no one knows exactly where he was when the ship sank, the scene is so fucking powerful. His body was never recovered.
Mr. Guganheim and his valet actually did say the words, "We are dressed in our best and prepared to go down as gentlemen." Take notes, Cal.
Captain Smith. Hm... I can't say I know the history behind his accounts except for his experience as a maritime officer. He seemed to just kind of let things fall apart as the second and third officers ran everything. I kind of feel like this was a lost opportunity.
The musicians. I LOVE this scene where they play Nearer, My God to Thee. The scene is poignant and beautiful as Captain Smith looks out at the sinking from the bridge, Mr. Andrews touches the clock, and OMG THE OLD PEOPLE! The couple depicted is Isidor and Ida Straus, among the wealthiest people on board. Mrs. Straus refused a lifeboat, saying to her husband, "Wherever you go, I go." When offered a lifeboat alongside his wife, Mr. Straus (co-owner of Macy's Department Store) declined, stating he would not take a seat aboard a lifeboat when there were other young men in need of saving. They were last seen arm in arm on deck. This scene is heartbreaking as they lie in bed as water rushes beneath them, and if there was ever a full-length love story I want to see, it's theirs. Then there is the Irish mother telling her children a bedtime story, the same mother and children who were locked below in third class. The Monet painting is underwater as music continues. And now water rushes over the bow of the ship, and THIS is when the panic begins to set in as officers and passengers try to cut the lifeboats loose. Passengers all over the ship are half-running, half-swimming to escape the rising water, and I know this isn't funny (but kind of is -- it's really not) where Guganheimer and his valet sit in their chairs and have an "Oh shit, what was I thinking to go down as a gentleman" look on their faces. All of this while the music plays and comes to a slow and soft end. Where is my damn tissue?
While we are on the topic of the musicians, Wallace famously says, "Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight." I had to pause here because a few months ago, while sitting in the car with my son, we were discussing the RMS Titanic. Now, my son has never actually watched the movie all the way through (I kind of don't blame him; this movie is LONG, and he's waiting to watch with his girlfriend), but he perfectly quoted THIS LINE, despite having seen it in passing ONCE ELEVEN YEARS AGO. I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, much less a movie line I heard while walking through a room over a decade ago. #brilliantmindatwork
Another scene I had to pause: This is where the tone changes from sombre to panicked as the glass to the bridge shatters and water floods in. The lifeboat Cal is in nearly capsizes, and he somehow hauls his skinny ass on top while others fall into the water. And while we're at it, how did the child he previously saved magically end up on the boat again later? Speaking of capsized boats, this is how Officer Lightoller survived the freezing water. He climbed atop Collapsible Lifeboat B. Were it not for his knowledge on how to balance, many more people would have died. As it is, their time aboard was miserable. Everyone is now racing to the stern of the ship, trying to enter the water at the last possible moment. The acting as people are inside the main stairwell, trying to get to safety is brilliant and chilling. People are sucked inside as windows shatter (broken from the inside by the movie crew), and the funnel collapses. Fabrizio, you deserved better, my man, but still better than your alternate ending. The skylight collapses under the water, and everything from plates to doors are caught in the flooding as the ship rises up out of the water.
This scene goes on for awhile, so I'm going to note some important people here. Father Thomas Byles was a second-class passenger on-board, and he prayed throughout the sinking while hearing confessions and giving absolutions. A man of faith to the very end. This is a personal favorite of mine, but let's talk about the baker! Charles Joughin was the chief baker aboard the Titanic. He'd been asleep when the ship hit the iceberg, and this dude had the staff bake and deliver warm bread to those in the lifeboats. Then he made his way to the stern of the ship, perching himself over the railing as the ship tilted itself upright. He was the last passenger to enter the water. Why is this noteworthy? The dude really did have quite a bit of alcohol in him, and he never felt the water. It was his alcoholism that saved his life because his body likely never processed the shock it was in. It is worth noting you should NOT drink while out on a ship. Even if you don't feel the cold, alcohol still thins the blood. Not to mention, you're not exactly in much of a state to swim around. Despite all this, I have to give the man props. It's not like he had much to lose when he took that last swig of whiskey, and it's one of the strangest, albeit coolest, survival stories in history.
The body floating in the water in the still light grand staircase room is creepy, but effective.
Nice to know the first-class passengers left behind their maids as Miss Trudy plunges to the bottom after losing her grip on the stern.
Ruth watches on in contemplation as Ismay turns away in shame from his boat. Now, I know this is already long enough, but I have to comment on this about Ismay. I do feel like History unfairly villainized him. He helped women and children board the lifeboats all the way up to the end. Cameron even acknowledged the fans expected Ismay to be a villain. But why should he have stayed behind if there was no one else near the boats? He didn't sneak on the way the movie depicted. When no one else was available to board the boat, he asked if he could get on, and the officer allowed it. Yet he was eviscerated by the public simply for surviving as a man when so many women and children didn't make it out. This is probably only my opinion, but he deserved a hell of a lot better than the mob mentality he faced when so many other factors contributed to the disaster and deaths. This was not entirely his fault.
The engineers really did keep power on as long as they could. The mail crew tried to save as much mail as possible. Talk about serious dedication to the job.
Ship breaks in half. Good riddance, Lovejoy.
Did you know you can get hypothermia in water that is 60° F (10°C)? The water was much colder, so most died within minutes before they could drown. That's some scary shit. More could have been saved had the boats returned, but you know, people are selfish and gave excuses ranging from passengers flooding them to the ship's suction pulling them under. I'll keep the rest of my opinions regarding this to myself.
And here we are at the infamous door scene; the 25 year question of "Could Jack and Rose have both fit on the door?" Well, in short, the answer lies in physics. Based on the temperature, bouyancy of what is presumed to be an oak door combined with Kate and Leo's weight vs the gravity pushing down into salt water. Had it been a Pine door, they both might have been reasonably comfortable, or at least alive. Oak has a greater density though, and with it partially submerged, they both probably couldn't have safely rested atop the controversial piece of wood. However, I'm going to note that the angle Jack tried to climb on while Rose was still hogging the entire door to herself in the middle didn't provide enough balance. If Rose had treated it like a damn pool floatie and rested on the other side, we could have at least seen for ourselves that Jack truly couldn't get on. He just didn't try enough, and all we saw was an already partially capsized door when his dumb ass tried to haul himself up. If it were a pine door, none of us would be screaming at the TV or yelling at Rose to budge over. Mythbusters did an episode here, and the consensus is they could have both fit and survived. However, there is a nifty little article about physics and the door here for anyone who wants to see the scientific side. My consenses: They could have fit. Cameron: Jack had to die. Well, it sucks to be you, Jack.
This about sums it up.
Okay, for real, this is actually referring to Jack making her promise to never let go of her dream. She is supposed to grow old, live her life, and die warm in her bed. This was just unfortunate timing for that line. 🤣 I am curious though: Why is she singing her little song while not ensuring Jack is awake? You'd think she'd want to check periodically, especially given how quiet he was. We'll just go with it for the movie's sake.
Fifth Officer Lowe was the only officer to go back for survivors. The scene is heartbreaking, especially when they pass a mother holding an infant in her arms.
Old Rose is an awesome narrator.
Ruth looks sad, but I still can't muster up enough sympathy for her after the way she treated Rose. Does that make me a bad person?
Rose is now aboard the Carpathia, and this gives me some crazy mixed feelings. Cal was abusive and a horrible man. Rose definitely deserved better than him. As a woman in that time period though, there is a part of me that wonders what would have happened if Rose had revealed herself. However, I think she did the right thing by walking away. Risky for Rose, but still the right choice. Who knows what other monstrosities Cal would have committed against her.
To wrap up a couple of points, we're going to take a minute to discuss the Heart of the Ocean. The diamond was given to her by Cal, her fiance. So I have to ask myself why it's romantic for Rose to drop it in the ocean as a symbol of her giving her heart to Jack? Is this not weird to anyone else? That's like giving another woman an engagement ring an ex-fiance returned. Just no. On that note though, there's the question about what Rose should have done with the stone. Sure, she didn't want to live off Cal's money, but why toss it into the damn ocean? Bill Paxton's character has been seeking the diamond, Rose knows this, but drops it into the water anyway. Kind of a dick move, if you ask me. I'd have sold the diamond, but I'm more practical than romantic. 🤣
And then you have the part where Rose is in her bed, and Cameron leaves it up to the viewers to decide if she died or if she's dreaming. I choose to think of it as the former, and there on the Titanic, she is reunited with Jack and all of the people who lost their lives. The scene is beautiful and emotional, despite what others say about her not finding her other husband (yeah, the guy Rose never mentioned Jack to). Also, I know the pictures show her doing all the things she achieved in life, but it's still weird to carry pictures of yourself around and not your family.
Okay, I know this commentary was LONG, but it's something I've wanted to do for a few months now when Covid isn't derailing my daily life. My takeaway from all of this is it's a fabulous movie. I'm not keen on the whole head over heels, crazy stupid in love story after knowing someone for only two days, but it is sweet, and it's nice Rose found a way out of the life she was trapped in. But my biggest commendation for the movie is all the backstories for everyone else -- the unsung heroes of the movie.
Also, I can live without hearing My Heart Will Go On. I always stop the movie before it can play.