Titanic is among a few Best Picture winners that aren’t only celebrated movies but a true phenomenon – surely everybody old enough in 1997 still remembers how big this movie became and how it tied Ben-Hur as the most honored movie by the Academy ever. I still remember that I saw this in cinema once (surely very unusual since almost everybody I know saw it multiple times) and it was the first time ever that, while watching a movie, I started to analyze it a bit, something I had never done before – up to this point in my life, I only watched a movie without thinking too much but I still remember how I was the only one not laughing at Billy Zane’s character’s remarks about Picasso since I thought it was such a cheap trick by Carmon to make him look stupid since the audience already knows he is wrong. This is surely not a revolutionary observation but, as I said, for me it was a pretty big deal and it was also the first time I actually complained about a screenplay in my life – too limited, too much silly dialogue, too simple. But: despite all the problems of the movie, I still loved it – it seems that even most movie critics back then had the same reaction. After that, I went through the phases probably a lot of viewers went through, too: the first time I saw Titanic again after that I still enjoyed it. Then, years later, I wanted to watch it again – and found it unbearable. The plot became even worse for me and I turned off the TV after 10 minutes because I thought everything about it was just horrible. Well, now I watched it again for my ranking and found that, by now, I have turned back – I don’t love it as much as I used to when I was younger but I also don’t hate it anymore as I did when it was ‘cool’ to hate it. By now, I think that Titanic is a terrific spectacle that has obvious flaws but these flaws somehow work perfectly fine in the context of the film
So, why does Titanic work so well even so it shouldn’t? The screenplay is borderline-bad, the actors are mostly only adequate – but under the direction of James Carmon, it all becomes strangely fascinating. He may not know the limitations of his writing but he knows how to present it on the screen to the greatest effect. Of course, the main reason for Titanic’s success is the atmosphere – the amazing art direction, the costumes, the cinematography, the score, even Celine Dion’s voice at the end somehow just feels right at this moment (but I can’t stand that song at any other moment). And the sequence of the sinking is still one of the most thrilling and shocking action scenes ever filmed.
Titanic is not perfect – but it perfectly gives the illusion of being very close to it. It’s an unforgettable roller-coaster ride of emotions during which James Carmon very well knows how to involve the audience as much as possible. That way the story of Jack and Rose and the story of the Titanic become truly unforgettable – maybe also because of the noticeable flaws but mostly because of the overwhelming spectacle and its touching heart.