“Titanic,” which re-entered theaters to celebrate its 25th anniversary on February 10, was released about two months after I was born. For this reason, of course, I have no recollection of the audience’s reaction to the film’s premiere, but I vividly remember watching it many years later, around the age of 10.
This inaugural viewing was with my cousin, who also showed me my first R-rated movie (“The Hangover”) and introduced me to many other milestones in my coming-of-age experience, including my first sighting of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. My cousin is now married and DiCaprio is now famous for breaking up with people as they approach my current age. But at the time, we were just two teenage girls, and 21-year-old DiCaprio was a blonde-haired dude jumping around the boat of dreams.
I went to see “Titanic” in theaters for the first time this week and bought a ticket for the 4DX screening, not knowing what to expect. Ultimately, 4DX involves seats shaking back and forth, throwing bursts of lightly chemically scented mist, and occasionally slapping you (mildly) in the back. I thought maybe I should leave during the Marvel commercials, which involved way too many sudden drops for my liking, but once “Titanic” started, the seats quieted down.
I hadn’t remembered that the film began with submarines visiting the wreck of the Titanic, covered in sea foam, which looked even more haunting now on the giant screen, its colors renovated and its caverns made even deeper by a hint of 3D. The teenagers behind me chuckled at the actual footage of the ship departing Belfast in 1912 as horns blared. I found myself smiling too. There East something campy about the movie, I thought, which spawned an early meme at the same time it became a cultural touchstone and, according to Entertainment Weekly, helped kickstart hate culture. I assumed the teenagers were there to make fun of it.
But then Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio appeared on screen, and everyone stopped laughing. Say what you will about the film – which certainly contains moments of banal dialogue and overperformance and is as cliche as its critics have always complained – but its two leads are superbly played. Their chemistry sizzles on screen from the first eye contact. I quickly found myself thinking how sad it is that the couple’s well-documented friendship never blossomed into something more.
DiCaprio is deeply charming from the get-go, and I was taken back to the girl I’d been when I first watched “Titanic,” so thoroughly infatuated with his tousled hair and Parisian artistic sensibility. However, he no longer had the same effect on me as before. I wondered if it was because I couldn’t ignore DiCaprio today — the real DiCaprio, not the naive, charming Jack — and the lists I’d worked on for this website about his past and fleeting romances. There’s a line in the movie where Rose points to a man who is dating a woman decades his junior, calling it a terrible scandal, and I couldn’t help but think that seemed rather prescient.
But it’s not just DiCaprio. I am also different. Just before seeing the movie, I had just had dinner with a friend where we both agreed that we were now interested in pursuing completely boring relationships. We had both done our time with people who seemed – like Jack – enchanting from the start, even if they were a little dangerous, and it hadn’t gone as planned. Now we said we were looking for someone with a stable job and a stable personality.
I wondered for a second if Jack was actually a maniacal pixie dream boy, only there to save Rose from herself, and if the pair would ever have made it through. Did she idealize him and his poverty as a romantic way out of his unhappy life? Would they start fighting over money and realize they barely knew each other soon after landing?
As the film progressed, however, I realized there was something pure and sweet about Jack and Rose’s love. They both seem wise beyond their years, and Jack even tells Rose he can’t save her – only She can do that. They both know that money isn’t everything, and they both appreciate treating people with kindness. They are also both clearly willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
GOOD, almost everything that’s necessary. Of course, Rose doesn’t even really try to see if Jack can hold onto the large ornate door she’s floating over as Jack freezes after the ship’s infamous disappearance. In December 2022, Cameron revealed that he actually tested if they could both have fit on that now iconic door. He claimed the forensic analysis had disproved the naysayers and revealed that one of them had to die – although it certainly seems like there’s plenty of room for the way the scene is shot.
Watching the long conclusion of the film, I realized that I had forgotten how much death and destruction there is at the end. The 4DX seats added to the dramatic effect, pulling you back and forth as the ship breaks in two. Something else I forgot: the film is really a pretty scathing commentary on the class that does everything “The White Lotus” does on the same subject and more. Ultimately, he strongly condemns the rich – who, in this case, let the poor drown – as well as the systemic neglect that resulted in their deaths.
It’s a fairly progressive story, though overall there are a few moments of dialogue that wouldn’t quite meet today’s ethical standards. I found myself thinking about Cameron’s latest film, “Avatar: The Way of the Water” – which, in addition to garnering quite a bit of criticism, also focuses on the beauty and power of the ocean and also puts warns against excessive industrialization. Ultimately, the tragedy of Titanic happened because its creators tried to do something too big to fail without considering the real lives they were putting at risk. (Rose even drives the point home for the first half hour by mentioning Sigmund Freud’s theories about men’s obsession with size).
In “Avatar”, humans try to destroy Pandora for their own gain without worrying about the consequences for the people who already live there. Ironically, by creating films about the danger of oversized success, Cameron is responsible for some of the highest-grossing blockbusters of all time. Whatever you think of the director, it’s hard to deny that he knows how to make a lot of money by allowing people to disappear into things — like romance and natural beauty — that money can’t buy.
Watching, however, I discovered that instead of dwelling on Cameron’s filmography, I was thinking back to when I first saw “Titanic.” I was at my grandparents in Maine, watching on a VCR on a TV so grainy the pixels were bulging, listening to the sound of the ocean just outside. My cousin, the viewing companion, married her high school sweetheart in Maine this summer. She debuted her wedding dress for my grandparents in the same room we watched the movie so long ago.
A few months later, my grandfather became very ill and briefly lost much of his memory and ability to speak. Through it all, he always asked for my grandmother and held her hand. Jack and Rose’s relationship has listened to theirs, turning 60 this year, and while it hasn’t all been easy, they often remember the first time they saw each other, when he walked in and swept her away. seen working on a first computer that took up an entire room.
The time is coming for all of us, as the scene where Jack looks at the clock in the condemned dining room reminds us. Ships sink, seas rise, but some things can last, especially memories, as Rose’s story shows us, and first loves. Although my ideas about love have changed since I first saw the movie, I thought maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t be so jaded.