I only ever saw this movie back when I was a kid. I remember being bored to tears by it, but then again, it’s also not a movie that’s intended to be watched by children. So I thought that maybe it was time to actually give it a chance and see if the admiration for this movie by so many people meant I had to reconsider my previously held views. Yes, I know plenty of people despise the movie, but with all my research about people’s opinions on it, I found that a majority of critics and regular movie-goers alike still think this movie is at least good, if not great.
And I have to say that I somewhat changed my mind about it, but not for the reasons you might think. Back when I was kid, I just labelled the movie as boring and left it at that. I didn’t need to concern my mind with things I deem boring so further evaluation of the movie never crossed my mind. But now that I have seen it again as an adult, I can actually reflect upon what I’ve seen and come to valid conclusions for my feelings towards this movie.
First and foremost, yes, it’s an incredibly boring movie. There are many reasons for that. For one, it takes ages until it actually goes somewhere. We have 20 minutes of prologue in the present and then another 10 minutes until the actual story begins. So much of this movie is set up without actually progressing the story. And even after it begins, it’s paced like a glacier. A competent filmmaker/editor would’ve cut down the movie to maybe half its current length. Scenes go on forever and I could at least forgive that if the dialogue would offer us some actual character development, but here’s where we hit the second roadblock of this movie.
None of the figures in the movie are actual characters. They’re at most very basic archetypes who have a few heavily pronounced character traits and nothing else going for them. You can basically sum up every single one of these characters besides Rose with one to three words. This means that basically every conversation we see is there to reinforce these few traits and tries to lead you to believe that actual drama is happening here, but none of the characters ever change. This, coupled with the extremely heavy-handed use of class warfare as a thinly veiled attempt at making Romeo & Juliet on a boat means that I don’t really care about the fates of any of the characters.
And this is a goddamn disaster movie. The only thing that should keep me engaged is either the fate of the characters or the action scenes. And on that front the movie also doesn’t fare any better. What exactly is so exhilarating about seeing a ship take an hour to break apart and sink? And all this time is filled with footage of people being loaded into lifeboats and contrived reasons for Jack and Rose to run all over the ship. First that inane rescue, then the trek back down the ship because the antagonist has nothing better to do than to start shooting at them, and then another upward climb to escape the water once again. It’s like a textbook case of what not to do if you’re trying to engage an audience with what’s happening on screen, because so little actually makes any sense and is repeated verbatim at times.
It’s also chockfull of scenes that are only in there to serve as a setup for a punchline that comes later in the movie. That scene where Jack teaches Rose how to spit? Referenced again when Rose spits in her fiancé’s face. Showing that the fiancé’s henchman has a gun? Used to set up the scene later on where the fiancé takes the gun to shoot at Jack. I could go on, but I think you understand.
Add to that that many of the scenes are just cringeworthy. The jokes they make about Pablo Picasso or Sigmund Freud are only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg (see, I can make shitty jokes too). “I’m the king of the world”, the aforementioned spitting lesson, the dinner scene and the dancing scene are all prime candidates for vicarious embarrassment.
I think the only scene that really stands out of this whole thing to many people is the “Paint me like one of your French girls” scene, so I’ll be the one who spoils that for you: The character of Rose is 17 in the movie. Have fun jerking off to an underage character. Yeah, I know Winslet was of age at the time, but am I really the only one who thinks it’s kind of fucked up to go out of your way and tell the audience that she’s a minor and yet still have her presented nude for your enjoyment? I mean ok, the movie has tons more messed up things in it that overshadow this little fact. Or am I really the only one who feels that James Cameron has a really weird fetish for human suffering and to just rub it into people’s faces. The ways he kills of people in this movie are downright comical at times, for example Jack’s friend getting crushed by a funnel, or that dude who hits the ship’s rotor on the way down and spins around. Stuff like this made me laugh out loud and it shouldn’t, because this is should be a goddamn horror show.
In the end, I’m still completely unable to comprehend what people like about this movie. The romance is stale and stilted, the characters are all one-dimensional, the framing device is entirely superfluous and the pacing is abysmal. And this movie was the highest-grossing movie until Dances with Smurfs came along. James Cameron truly is the master of aiming into the “meh”-zone and stick the landing to ensure the highest profitability for his product. And it is a product, not a work of art. It takes no risks and pushes no envelopes.