When Titanic came out, I was thirteen. I quickly became obsessed, to the point where my family still makes fun of me for it. It’s a little embarrassing now, but not really. I loved that movie with all of my being. And you know what? I saw it today in 3D and I still love it. It’s an amazing film. People who don’t get it like to make fun of it, like to point to the love story as the thing that taints it, but the way I see it, the love story is what makes Titanic more than just a documentary with a huge special effects budget. I think the reason it captured my imagination as a youngster, as a fledgling writer, is that it’s almost a perfect narrative. It plays the viewer like a violin, zooming in and out both cinematographically and emotionally, bouncing from Jack and Rose’s personal journey to the chaos on the ship as it sank, following a huge cast of characters from the ship’s launch, a moment of unfathomable glory, through panic and loss to death or life with no hope of redemption. It shows people at their best and people at their worst, and hits every beat with the strength it needs, no more and no less. You need the love story. You need a narrative thread that is powerful and thrilling and relatable and pure to give the viewer a touchstone throughout what is an exhaustive experience. Actually, what makes Titanic so incredible is the way James Cameron gives you a host of characters who are living their own personal stories, ones you only manage to get glimpses of. I’m sure many people have wondered about the little girl Jack dances with at the steerage party, Cora—why she was on Titanic in the first place, and what happened to her when the boat sank. You can easily imagine that there is a story behind her few appearances in the movie, and she’s not the only one, giving Titanic a real depth that you don’t see in a lot of adventure movies—because, of course, that’s what Titanic is.
When I saw Avatar, all I could think throughout the film was how both James Cameron, the director, and James Horner, the composer, who hadn’t worked together since Titanic, had already had their moment with their previous collaboration. The music wasn’t as stirring, the story wasn’t as compelling, and despite the breathtaking visuals of Avatar, it just wasn’t as freaking amazing as Titanic was. Cameron will go on to make many, many great movies; Horner will go on to compose many, many great scores. But none of them will hold a candle to Titanic. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime creation, and it’s damn near perfect.
You know what keeps bothering me, though? How many times Jack and Rose say each other’s names to each other. That’s not real. That’s just bad editing.
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