Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Worst Films: #3: Titanic (1997)

We’re finally in the top three, and Ponty is in peak vitriolic form with this one.  I can’t imagine how badly his second and first picks will be burnt after seeing this thorough roasting.

I was in middle school when 1997’s Titanic released into theaters.  It was all the girls talked about for months, including how many times they went to go see this film (a tad disconcerting, considering these were twelve-year olds).  I never saw it, and have only seen snippets and chunks on television since then (to my knowledge, I’ve never watched the entire film, at least not in a single sitting).

This film was so huge—such a phenomenon—that I still remember my older brother proclaiming he would not go see it, just so he could say he hadn’t.  He wasn’t always the wisest seventeen-year old, but he apparently had some foresight about this one (he’s a tenured professor now).

I won’t say more.  Ponty rips into this film like that iceberg into the doomed ship.  I’m not sure which is more devastating:

There’s an episode of Supernatural (Season 6, episode 17) where a renegade angel, Balthazer, goes back in time to unsink the Titanic. His reason? To save the world from that horrible movie and equally terrible song. Here’s his explanation as to where Celine Dion should have stayed:

Oh, if only I had that power. Not only would I be able to save thousands of people from the icy depths but future generations would be spared that film, and especially, that song. There was a story about an Aussie woman who went to see this garbage over 100 times. Not wanting to be overly cruel, I’m glad she found a cure for her insomnia. If I was going to be particularly mean, I’d say I hope that song got stuck in her membrane for years.

I can forgive James Cameron a lot. After all, he gave us classics like Aliens, Terminator, T2, and True Lies. Unfortunately, every director, writer, and star will blot their copybook once in a while and this is Cameron’s.

I watched this movie twice. Why twice, you ask, for a movie you absolutely despised? Well, I went to see it at the cinema but around the time DiCaprio and Winslet started to notice each other, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the ship was going down. When it appeared on the television, I watched it again so I could plug the gaps, so to speak, and wished that I hadn’t. When you wake up in the morning worse for wear and get odd looks from the work colleagues you were out with the previous night, the last question you want to ask or want answered is, ‘what happened last night?’ Some things are better left.

Anyway, the story of the Titanic is legend. The unsinkable ship that sank. No film maker worth their salt was ever going to do a film that showed a ship sailing into the distance, sinking, the end. They’d need to pad it out with a story to keep the audience interested. A Night to Remember (1958) did just that, without the drip of over sentimentality and cheesiness of the Cameron flick. It didn’t need the Canadian warbler to give it some class but relied on the film to tell its own story. The one saving grace I’ll give the remake is that when the ship went down, it looked good on screen but that doesn’t negate for me what is a really shit film.

For those who are lucky and haven’t seen it, here is the synopsis.

Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) is on a research ship searching the wreck of the Titanic. He and his team find a safe that contains a drawing of a woman wearing an expensive millstone called the Heart of the Ocean and so, he finds the doddery old bat who just happened to survive the shipwreck. She regales him (and us, unfortunately) with a story about how she found her great love on the ship. And so, we’re transported back to 1912, where an arrogant rapscallion, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) wins a 3rd class ticket to the ship and rushes to get on board. In my version, the little scrote trips and breaks his neck on the dock and we’re spared the next few hours but my version isn’t the reality so on we go.

Also on board is doddery old bat in youth, Rose (Kate Winslet), who is accompanied by her mother, Ruth (Frances Fisher) and fiancée, the wealthy and arrogant Cal (Billy Zane). Rose is deeply unhappy with this arrangement and tries to top herself (yeah!) before Jack coaxes her off the railing (boooo!) and they start a friendship which turns into some inappropriate lower/upper class booty call. He teaches her that the best things in life are free (that song really resonates, doesn’t it?) – arms outstretched at the head of the boat, he makes her feel like she’s flying and she feels happier than she has in a long time. In my version, the boat stutters and both are swept off (DiCaprio has already suffered this fate during his daft king of the world moment) but once again, that’s not the reality so on we go.

Anyway, Cal and Ruth aren’t happy with this relationship and Rose temporarily avoids Jack but she realises – shock horror – that she might have feelings for him and they find each other again. Jack draws a naked Rose, wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace, and then they get it on in a car parked in storage, with every love making cliché on show – steamy, hand sliding down the window, all that guff. And then the boat hits an iceberg. And it starts to sink. And Jack finds himself holding onto a block of wood which could fit a family of five and which his ‘great love’ won’t let him on. ‘I’ll never let go, Jack,’ mutters a freezing and selfish Rose. And then she lets go and he dies.

Back on shore, she hides from Cal and then we’re back in the present. Brock abandoning his search after hearing Rose’s story and doddery Rose throwing the Heart of the Ocean into the, er, ocean. The end.

My main annoyance with this film is how fricking cheesy it is. That song, the looks, the clichés. I should never have returned to it, after missing that large and uninspiring chunk, but it’s like passing a huge car wreck. You drive past it and don’t look because it’s just morbid but then you find yourself wondering what happened. With romance films, which is pretty much what this is, you know where you are but they can be done well, like in When Harry Met Sally… (1989) or they end up like pretty much every Richard Curtis film. This is one of those films.

You have Kathy Bates trying to do posh which is like Kathy Burke as Waynetta Slob (American readers, you’ll have to look that up) trying to do posh. It’s like that period in the 80s where filmmakers tried, and failed, to hold Glenn Close up as a sex symbol. It just doesn’t work.

And that scene, at the end, where Rose is lying on that block of wood. It was easily big enough for both of them and he’s supposed to be the love of her life so surely, you’d make some room and say pop on, laddy, but no. He’s her bit of rough and despite all the tears, she can’t be arsed to move and let him on. Pfft. I also wondered how her husband – yes, she gets married with kids and grandkids – would feel about her retelling the story of how she met the love of her life. A bit disrespectful but hey ho, this is Hollywood and no one ever wonders about that crap, apart from me, it seems.

I hate this movie. I admit, I’m not a fan of romance/tragedies that make the romance the epicentre of the film and crank it up to eleven cheese. Thankfully, with this review, I’ll never have to go back to it in any form again. Or that effing song.


23 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Worst Films: #3: Titanic (1997)

  1. I always enjoy your introductions Tyler. 🙂

    Number 2 will be torn limb from limb. It’s fortunate that number one is the worst tripe in history and has found its way onto countless worst film lists because had it not been for that, my next instalment would be smack bang at number one.

    As you know, big budget films, for me, have no reason to be crap. They had every resource available and should have been able to put something out worth watching. There’s no excuse for that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Amen re: the big budget films. When you have all of those resources and all of that talent available, and you still make a stinker, it’s far less forgivable than some amateurs with a camcorder. The amateurs at least have room to grow and develop, and can be forgiven for some shoddiness.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Let me beginning by applauding ours Portly for his introduction to the movie review. Great fun reading it.

    Let my second paragraph begin with an apology to 39 – I’m terribly sorry, dear friend; I hate this movie SO MUCH that I couldn’t even bring myself to read most of the review. Years upon years ago, I saw A Night to Remember that just knocked me to the ground emotionally; I think it may be closest we’ll ever get to what that night was like. Fast forward the movie being reviewed; all I had to do was see the tv commercials for its opening to know there was no way in hell I was going to watch that piece of Hollywood feces. I have never once felt remorse for my decision.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Cameron version can scarcely hold a candle to one of the all-time greats, the unforgettable Dawn French as Jack and Jennifer Saunders at her scatty best.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sigh … I don’t care how carefully I edit what I write, I will, of course, miss the glaring third word of the very first paragraph!!! You know it’s supposed to be ‘begin’. Eye roll. Head shake.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. French and Saunders are a British comedy duo who’ve been doing shows for years. Though not lately. Dawn French got a bit Woke and Jennifer Saunders, to my knowledge, didn’t. Their early stuff was fun but it’s like that with a lot of things – early stuff good and then they start to wane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, no! My brother passed last January – he’d read all the books and was really looking forward to seeing the series, The Wheel of Time. At least, that was the original idea, a weekly series. Glad he won’t have to be disappointed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The thing is, it’s not really ‘woke’, it’s about magical power and whose magic is stronger, broader, further reaching, etc. and so it’s more of a power struggle between the kinds and strengths of the female magic and male magic. At least, that’s my take on it from just reading the first book.

        Liked by 1 person

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