I’ve got a sinking feeling there’s a Titanic trend going on
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
April 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The historic disaster has been replicated dozens of times for film and television, most famously in the 1997 James Cameron epic Titanic. Titanic will be re-released into theatres on April 6, in 3-D, in commemoration of the event. Additionally, two television series’ based on the Titanic will also attempt to recreate the horrific event for our viewing pleasure: Titanic, which premiered on Global on March 21, and Titanic: Blood and Steel, which will be airing some time in April.
Both Blood and Steel and Titanic are miniseries’ with budgets akin to some of HBO’s best. However, despite being only weeks away from its premiere, very little is known about Blood and Steel outside of members of its cast (David Jacobi, Neve Campbell, Chris Noth) and 12-episode length. Titanic on the other hand, having already launched, has been receiving lukewarm reviews.
Titanic is a four-part Canadian-Hungarian-UK co-production set fittingly to end the week of the centenary. The series’ initial claim to fame was that it was written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Downton Abbey). However, critics have been much less enthusiastic to his take on the ship’s sinking. With a “main cast” of nearly 100 actors, Titanic takes the unique approach of following a different set of characters’ perspectives each episode, always ending on the crash. This style of story telling has led to most of the mixed responses; the main criticism being that Titanic focuses far too much on the class distinctions of those aboard the ship.
[quote style=”boxed”]Regardless of the end result, the weight of the Cameron film is going to make overall response to any modern take on the Titanic hostile to some degree; it’s simply impossible not to compare.[/quote]
Focusing on a set cast of characters is essential for the audience to get immersed in the story, but to put a legitimate fraction of the ship’s passengers in the spotlight just turns the end result into an inaccurate anthology that alienates everyone in the end. Thus is the reason setting a fictional romance aboard the Titanic has become the accepted norm of retelling the story, such as with the characters of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in the Cameron film. Despite its innovations, Cameron’s Titanic, much like Avatar (2010), has since been regarded of being—to put it lightly—somewhat overhyped upon its initial release. Still, it’s doubtful that anyone will ever come as close as Cameron did to balancing the immense tragedy of the wreck with the emotional end to Jack and Rose’s love affair.
Regardless of the end result, the weight of the Cameron film is going to make overall response to any modern take on the Titanic hostile to some degree; it’s simply impossible not to compare. Not to say that no one should ever try their hand at adapting the story because of Cameron, but if they’re going to take on such a project, they better have a good story to tell. An anthology set aboard the Titanic isn’t a bad idea by any means; it’s just as shame that the end result presents caricatures rather than actual characters.
Titanic may be its own disaster, but there’s still some hope for Blood and Steel. Although less insensitive name change wouldn’t have gone amiss, but at least it doesn’t share its title with the theatre production premiering this year entitled Iceberg—Right Ahead!