A Masterpiece or a Disasterpiece? – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

A Masterpiece or a Disasterpiece?

Titanic is an iconic film that has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. From its talented cast to its memorable soundtrack, including lines like “I’m the king of the world!”, the movie has garnered a passionate fan base that continues to return to it time and time again. Its success propelled it to become the highest-grossing film of all time upon its release, and it remains the fourth highest-grossing film globally. Titanic broke numerous records, setting a new standard for Hollywood epics and romances.

As of June 27, 2023, this article has been updated with additional content by Yosra Ben Lagha for new and old Titanic lovers alike. Despite its success, Titanic has also faced criticism, as is often the case with popular movies. Some view Titanic as a masterpiece, while others consider it a cinematic disaster. But why is this the case? Let’s explore why the film has resonated with audiences, its criticisms, and its lasting legacy.

Technically speaking, Titanic is a disaster piece, as it is based on the tragic sinking of the Titanic. However, the film won over the hearts of those at the Academy, earning numerous awards at the 1998 Oscars. Despite this, the film remains divisive 25 years later. Titanic provided a unique perspective of the shipwreck, offering never-before-seen footage of the submerged ship and providing insight into its sheer size, scale, and beauty. The attention to detail in the set design and the replication of the ship itself is truly epic.

The film’s impressive budget allowed it to feature two of Hollywood’s rising stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, fresh off critically acclaimed adaptations of Shakespearean works. Winslet played Rose DeWitt Bukater, a 17-year-old aristocrat set to marry Cal (Billy Zane), another wealthy passenger on the doomed ship. DiCaprio played Jack Dawson, a third-class passenger who falls in love with Rose. The pair’s impermissible romance forms the heart of the film.

While it is undeniable that Titanic struck a chord with audiences, the film’s script has faced criticism for its historical inaccuracies, melodrama, and sentimentalism. Some argue that the film’s perspective on class differences in society is predictable and flimsy. However, the themes of love and class continue to resonate with audiences, making Titanic a timeless classic.

Twenty-five years after its release, Titanic still captivates audiences. Its recent re-release over Valentine’s Day weekend in 2023 grossed $15 million, a testament to its enduring popularity. While some may criticize its script, one cannot deny its box office success, numerous awards, and cultural impact. Titanic remains a classic for a generation born after its release, inspiring a fascination with the ship’s history and the mysteries that lie beneath the sea. The Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On” remains an iconic pop ballad and a high-water mark for all movie tie-in songs. Titanic endures as a lasting legacy in Hollywood history.

Titanic is one of the most iconic movies of all time. From the cast to the soundtrack, the lines like “I’m the king of the world!” this is a movie that has generated a passionate audience who return to it time and time again. That audience boosted it to the highest-grossing film of all time and now sits as the fourth highest-grossing film at the worldwide box office. It broke countless records upon its release and set a new gold standard for Hollywood epics and romances.

Updated June 27, 2023: If you are a new Titanic lover or an old visitor of this iconic movie, you’ll be glad to know that this article has been updated with additional content by Yosra Ben Lagha.


Yet since its release, the movie has also been the subject of a great deal of criticism. The more popular the movie, the more critical people can be of it. A movie that was at one point the highest-grossing film of all time certainly has had people trying to bring it down a few. While some would call Titanic a masterpiece, others would call it a cinematic disaster. Is that fair? Here is why Titanic clicked with audiences, why some people have issues with it, and what the movie’s legacy has been.

Masterpiece or Disasterpiece?

Paramount Pictures

Technically, due to the fact that it’s based on the very premise of a disaster, Titanic is essentially a disaster piece. However, Titanic romped home at the 1998 Oscars, cleaning up award after award, winning over the hearts of those at the Academy. Yet despite the Oscar adulation, it was by no means an emphatic, unifying critical triumph, and 25 years on, it remains as divisive as ever.

Like the passenger liner, Cameron’s movie ventured into uncharted waters; it provided a very literal “in-depth” insight into the wreckage and offered engrossing, unprecedented access to never-seen-before footage of the submerged shipwreck. The view of the maiden voyager through the silver screen gifts the audience comprehension of the sheer size, scale, and beauty of the RMS Titanic and the craft that must have gone into making it. It does this through the real-life videos at the beginning of the film, the immaculately intricate detail of the set design, and the supremely attentive replication of the ship itself, which all combine epically.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet Made Titanic Huge

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic
Paramount Pictures

With the budget the biggest of its kind, it came as no surprise that Titanic procured the services of two of the film industry’s hottest new assets, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, both fresh off critically acclaimed Shakespeare adaptations with Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. Winslet stars as a 17-year-old aristocrat, Rose DeWitt Bukater, the movie’s symbol of wealth and class, due to be married to Cal (Billy Zane, another socialite on board the doomed ship) in order to salvage her and her widowed mother’s upper-class social status.

Related: Titanic: A Closer Look at How James Cameron Filmed the Historic Blockbuster

DiCaprio, with his boyish good looks and on-screen charisma, portrays artist Jack Dawson, a member of the Titanic’s third class, away from the chandeliers, 9-course dining, and royal suites, he occupies the four-man dormitories of the lower decks, having won his ticket in the chance game of poker. The pair become acquainted through a questionable series of events, and together they form an impermissible, unrequited romantic bond.

Titanic Script Gets Knocked A Few Points.

Rose reunites with Jack at the end
Paramount Pictures

Titanic is one of the most iconic films of all time, and it clearly struck a chord with audiences. From the lavish spectacle to its tale as old as time romance, the movie endures. Yet similar to James Cameron’s follow-up film, Avatarwhat does get often criticized about Titanic is its script. Aside from multiple historical inaccuracies, it’s difficult to escape the cheesiness of romance movies, the overzealous declarations of love, and the grandiose hackneyed clichés that audiences have seen play out multiple times.

Arguably, Titanic is a film driven by melodrama, sentiment, and this tragic inevitability that festers throughout the (almost) three-hour runtime of the ship’s and its passenger’s demise. This is clearly intentional and a stylistic choice by the filmmaker, but one that can turn off audiences. It has also been said that the film’s social awareness of the disparity between the upper and lower class is symbolic of the capitalist, western society in which we live, but that the perspective it offers, like the script, has a certain air of predictability and flimsiness.

The Themes Still Resonate

Titanic ship sinking in James Cameron movie
Paramount Pictures

The overarching theme is definitely love. While it’s a worn-out theme that occupied the central stage in millions of movies, Titanic became the symbol of romance in movies because of how beautifully it portrayed the transgressive love affair between two strangers from very different backgrounds who defied the prejudices of society to be together. You can say what you will about love, but it still represents the one thing that keeps surviving generation after generation.

Related: 9 Movies Like Titanic If You Want to Watch an Epic Story

Something else this movie tackles that is equally multigenerational is the theme of class. Titanic dives into the class differences, interactions, and hostility toward each other. Rose’s relationship with her abusive fiancé Cal Hockley shows how little regard the upper class has for love. Rose’s family obliging her to marry someone she doesn’t love is a symbol of the refusal of interclass marriages. The fact that the third class perishes first when the ship starts sinking is another example of the inequality of privileges. Because of its themes that refuse to die, Titanic remains a masterpiece because of how relatable it still is to the audience.

Titanic 25 Years Later

Titanic 25th
Paramount Pictures

It is hard to believe Titanic is now a 25-year-old film. Despite being a quarter of a century old, the film still clearly resonates with audiences. The re-release of the film in theaters over the Valentine’s Day weekend of 2023 proved to be a big hit and grossed $15 million over its limited run at a time when movies are struggling at the box office. In fact, it is hard to call Titanic the film a disaster at any reasonable level. For all intents and purposes, with a budget that ballooned and focused on a romance at its center, it should have bombed at the box office.

Yet it went on to become one of the biggest movies of all time, one that still holds multiple records to this day. Titanic is a classic for a generation that was born after it was released in theaters. It inspired an entire generation to explore the history of the ship and to become fascinated with what is under the sea. The Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On” remains a classic pop ballad that is still beloved today and is a high mark that all movie tie-in songs wish to achieve. One might try to knock Titanic down for a script that seems cheesy, but one cannot argue with its box office earnings, awards, and cultural omnipresence.

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