top of page

“Titanic” Turns 25; Why is it Still so Iconic?


It's been 25 years since "Titanic" first hit the big screen, and since then, many generations have watched the movie and marveled at its cinematic splendor. The film instantly amounted to colossal success when it was first released, as people clamored into the movie theaters to watch it. However, 25 years later, people still talk about it - and discussions about whether or not Jack could have fit onto that floating door are still a common topic during dinner times. By now there is not one person who does not know of the movie. Over the years, the film has made itself into a household name, and now, on its twenty-fifth anniversary, it is as famous as the actual ship it was created to portray. In honor of the movie being back in the cinema, let’s look back at what has made the movie so iconic, and more so, made it stand the test of time.


There are numerous reasons why “Titanic” was, and still is, such a big hit. The James Cameron film brought home 11 awards at the 1998 Oscar ceremony, including Best Picture. And as the staggering number of wins suggests, this movie has much more to offer than just an excellent reputation. In fact, when “Titanic” was in production, the press was certain the movie was going to flop. Along with its $110 million dollar budget (which nearly doubled at the end of production), “Titanic” also had an unhappy cast that usually spoke up about the tiering filming sessions and the rigorous directing from James Cameron. By the time the movie was to be released, which also took much longer than expected, people were questioning whether or not it would ever be able to make a profit. However, as soon as the movie was released to audiences, it captured people’s hearts, and soon enough it brought home $2.226 billion dollars from the box office.


The cast was enough to captivate audiences, with rising stars like Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson) and Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater), as well as other well-known actors, such as Bill Paxton (Brock Lovett). At the time of the movie, Leonardo was already a rising name in Hollywood, as anyone could see that the young star had much to offer. In many ways, his performance as Jack Dawson left audiences mesmerized, and to this day people are shocked that the leading man didn't win an Oscar for his role (nor was he even nominated). People might also be surprised to hear that Leo almost didn't star in "Titanic." The actor had initially found the movie script wasn't his cup of tea, and according to James Cameron, he had to really "twist Leo's arm" to get him involved in the movie.


There can be nothing said about acting in the film without diving into Kate Winslet's spectacular acting. The actress, who was 22 years old when the movie was released, earned an Oscar nomination for her spectacular performance. The young actor sustained bruises, chipped her elbow, and hypothermia during the physically and mentally grueling shoot. Because Winslet was so attuned to her character's inner life and environment, she also spontaneously created some of the best scenes in "Titanic." Furthermore, making a movie that bases itself on the eyes of a tragic love story (cue Romeo and Juliet) required one very specific ingredient - chemistry. If the main actors did not have chemistry, the love story would surely sink (pun intended). However, to the luck of us all, Kate and Leo demonstrated spectacular chemistry during the production of the film. The young actors, who were only one year apart in age, bonded during the hardships of filming "Titanic," so much so that they are still friends to this day.


Apart from the spectacular acting and chemistry that set this film apart, so much needs to be said about the script. James Cameron took on a gigantic risk when he decided to make a movie about the famous Titanic disaster. Because of this risk, he knew that the way in which he told the story needed to be captivating. The real Titanic had more than 1,500 deaths, and the stories of what happened during its final hours are countless. To properly convey the despair and sadness of the story, James Cameron knew he had to create a script that would connect the audience to the story that he wished to tell. His brilliant idea - as told in a documentary about the making of the movie - was that he should take Romeo and Juliet and put them on the infamous ship. By showing the story through the eyes of a forbidden love affair, Cameron was able to connect audiences with the realities of what happened that night.




The cinematography of the movie is also something that sets it apart from many other films in Hollywood - especially when one considers that it was released in 1997. The scenes were all shot with wide angles, which was done to convey the grandeur of the ship to audiences. This also allowed many background characters to stand out, which made the story all the more realistic. To accurately reproduce the authenticity of the ship itself, James Cameron had two-thirds of the Titanic rebuilt virtually to size, with half of it on a huge hydraulic lift. The entire set had to be submerged into the sea and reset after each shoot because it was one of the largest animatronics ever made for a movie.


Moreover, there was much attention to detail in the soundtrack, from the songs that were created to accompany the movie to those that were actual historical portrayals of what happened on the ship. From the grand choral piece "Southampton," which depicts the ship in all its majesty sailing into the open seas, to the heartbreaking piano chords as it sinks, James Horner produced music that is on par with the illustrious works of John Williams, Howard Shore, and Hans Zimmer. The haunting "Hymn to the Sea" played as the ship sinks, the delightful and vivacious traditional Irish jigs and reels performing below decks in steerage class, and of course "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion all contribute to the rich symphonic score. It is easy to see why the score is a classic work of film. Not to mention the historical accuracy of the songs played, for example, the devastating song played by the Titanic band as the ship sinks, "Nearer my God to Thee," was the last song that passengers remember the famous band playing as the ship sunk into the Atlantic.


Speaking of historical accuracy, the entire movie was exceptionally well-researched to ensure that many prominent stories and historical figures were well-represented. There are some facts that anyone who watched the movie can point out. The mere fact that the ship was labeled "unsinkable," since many watertight doors were lining the insides of the ship created a safety net that many people believed unbreakable. There is a sort of irony that an "unsinkable ship" with a system that allowed four watertight compartments to fill and still keep it afloat, would sink on its maiden voyage - and to make matters worse, instead of the expected four compartments that would fill, the luck of the Titanic was highlighted when five of the sturdy watertight compartments were filled. As aforementioned, one of the most chilling historical accuracies is that of the band. The band did indeed perform till the very end of the Titanic, according to the general view. Wallace Henry Hartley, the violinist, made this move to maintain as much peace as possible among the audience. The band's eight members all perished on the ship.


The movie has a moment when an old couple chooses not to fight for their life while the water flows beneath them while they are lying in bed together. The couple in question, Ida and Isidor Straus were real. "We have lived together for many years," Ida reportedly told her husband. "Whenever you go, I follow." This couple, which were the owners of the famous Macy's department store, is only one example of the multitude of characters from the movie that are based on real-life people. Other characters, such as Molly Brown, Mr. Andrews, Bruce Ismay, John Jacob Astor, and Mr. Guggenheim, as well as the officers of the ship, were all real people involved in the disaster. Many of the conversations that occurred in the movie, as well as other plots that would take much too long to mention, were all researched and implemented in the movie. So next time you watch the movie, you can ask yourself "did this really happen?"


Overall, the movie has done an excellent job of standing the test of time, and it is still a marvel to movie watchers everywhere. The acting, storytelling, set and cinematography, and historical accuracy all bring different effects to this timeless story. I believe it goes without saying that "Titanic" paid great tribute to the truly devastating disaster that has intrigued many people over the years. If you haven't watched it yet, I suggest a movie session immediately.


Comments


bottom of page