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The UnPopular Opinion: Titanic

04.21.2016

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

I recently had a conversation with someone and commented about how much TITANIC sucks. The person seemed aghast at my blanket statement about the former highest grossing film of all time. Confused that my sentiment was not shared with a fellow movie fan, I began asking a random selection of friends and strangers how they felt about James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster. Suprisingly, very few shared my opinion that TITANIC is an overblown and overrated film that most certainly did not deserve the Oscar for Best Picture. Rewatching the film to see if maybe I misjudged it in the last nineteen years, I found that the movie was actually worse than I had recalled. TITANIC is a spectacle, to be sure, but it also represents a blemish in the acting careers of both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio while also featuring quite a bit of special effects work that does not stand the test of time. Overall, TITANIC is pulp fiction that somehow stole the top honors at the Academy Awards based on sentimentality, hype, and dollar signs.

I remember seeing TITANIC in theaters back in 1997 and being in awe of the enormity of what James Cameron had accomplished. It was massive and startling in it's cinematic scope and dwarfed any disaster epic released to that point. But, unlike most destruction porn films that came before or after, TITANIC was more a romantic drama than an action blockbuster. The fact that it could pull in male and female audiences and satiate every audience appetite helped it achieve such success. It also drove the hype for the film through the roof, something that Cameron was able to mimic with AVATAR. Because so many people were in love with the movie, the stars, and Celine Dion's instant classic ballad, it became popular for many to call TITANIC the greatest film of all time. It also drove those who disliked the film to outright hate it. In hindsight, I find myself feeling much different now than I did seeing the film when it debuted and can say that my true feelings about the movie fall into the category of not liking the film. I respect the achievements that TITANIC reached, but it absolutely is not a good movie.

Titanic, 1997, James Cameron, The UnPopular Opinion, JoBlo, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Romance, Drama, History, Column, Oscars

James Cameron has been a pioneer of big screen entertainment. From THE TERMINATOR to ALIENS, THE ABYSS to TRUE LIES and AVATAR and the ambitious plan for four sequels, Cameron's films have always been more than mere movies and have been experiences. Cameron is the ultimate Hollywood filmmaker but one who always pushes the envelope technologically rather than narratively. Cameron's films rely more on a generic structure and dialogue to further his visual experimentation which leads to stilted, cliche ridden stories that rise above what would sink a less ambitious production. Cameron himself claims those critical of TITANIC, specifically renowned critic Kenneth Turan, mistake archetype for cliche. Essentially, Cameron refuses to acknowledge the weakness of his film by claiming it is intentional. I have to agree with Turan on this one; TITANIC is riddled with cliches and i becomes difficult to look past them upon repeated viewings of the film. That, along with nonsensical character decisions, makes TITANIC an unforgiveably illogical story. While there is a certain level of suspension of disbelief needed for any movie, it is beyond a rational limit in this movie.

The crux of what makes TITANIC unbearably cliche is the fictional protagonists at the center of our story. Jack and Rose are romantic ideals ripped right from classic Hollywood films. One is the ingenue who is disatisfied with her life while the other is the street urchin and thief who represents everything she is lacking. Couple that with the dastardly villain who has every stock characteristic aside from a twirled mustache and you have yourself the core ingredients from every film made before 1950. Throwing these original characters alongside the real crew of the HMS Titanic as well as historical figures like Molly Brown is meant to give us a portal into the fateful journey of the ship but instead feels like weak fan fiction. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have gone on to become two of the most acclaimed actors of their generation, but even they must look back upon TITANIC and groan the way an average person looks at their high school yearbook and questions what they were thinking back then. It is not to say that they were bad actors in 1997, but you can select any film they made immediately before and after TITANIC and the quality of their performance is astonishing.

Titanic, 1997, James Cameron, The UnPopular Opinion, JoBlo, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Romance, Drama, History, Column, Oscars

The key difference between an archetype and a cliche is that the latter is overused. Because a story relies on key archetypes that have been seen many times over does not automatically keep them from being cliches. For example, George Lucas' STAR WARS films rely heavily on archetypes but because they were presented in an original and unique manner, they did not become cliches. Even Cameron's own AVATAR, which is deeply reminiscent of everything from DANCES WITH WOLVES to FERNGULLY, avoids being cliche because of the originality on display through the rest of the movie. TITANIC is rife with characters, actions, and lines seen or heard countless times before and often with more conviction. Just because the final act of the movie is so astoundingly nerve-wracking and exhilirating does not excuse the three hours that came before it from being derivative and cheesy. When a film is made on a scale like this, the audience is owed a bit more than what they got.

While James Horner's score became instantly memorable, it is so reliant on Celine Dion's ballad that it is hard to separate the two. Conrad Buff's editing and Russell Carpenter's cinematography are both eclipsed by James Cameron's direction which, outside of the special effects achievements of the project, fall a bit short of anything truly special. Cameron's Oscar for directing came more as an encompassing trophy for everything he brought to this film rather than the sheer power of the film itself. AVATAR was much more technologically accomplished than TITANIC but it fell short of winning the top honors at the Oscars and for good reason. If anything, the Academy should have awarded TITANIC with special awards for what it managed to do and not claim it was the best film of the year simply due to box office and peer pressure. TITANIC was never more than a good movie with great special effects.

Titanic, 1997, James Cameron, The UnPopular Opinion, JoBlo, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Romance, Drama, History, Column, Oscars

Now, I can respect that for many, TITANIC holds a special place in their heart. Whether you are a hopeless romantic or just a fan of old Hollywood epics, this is a movie that has a very dedicated following. But, just because you love a movie doesn't mean you cannot recognize where it falls short. James Cameron himself should be able to recognize such things rather than try and pin criticism on semantics. There is no doubt that TITANIC will remain a touchstone in Hollywood history, but I highly doubt if it will be as remembered in film history. As a relic of the late 1990s, TITANIC encompasses everything that made that decade what it was. Still, with the rapid evolution of special effects on the big screen, it is hard to look back and not see the shortcomings of the already antiquated CGI. TITANIC feels like a movie for a less discerning audience that doesn't care about weak dialogue, unconvincing relationships, and cliches. This movie is much like the titular ship: big, expensive, and full of promise and yet ultimately it was doomed to sink.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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+0
9:19AM on 04/24/2016
Completely agree
Completely agree
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9:58AM on 04/22/2016
You can think of this as Downton Abbey on a cruise trip. It was very melodramatic even by normal disaster movies' standard. Still, had it not been for James Cameron, I wouldn't give a crap about this movie. He made something out of this melodramatic soap opera on a cruise trip. It was a big spectacle then and still is now. I think the special effects still hold up nicely. As I'm typing this, My Heart Will Go On is automatically in my head.
You can think of this as Downton Abbey on a cruise trip. It was very melodramatic even by normal disaster movies' standard. Still, had it not been for James Cameron, I wouldn't give a crap about this movie. He made something out of this melodramatic soap opera on a cruise trip. It was a big spectacle then and still is now. I think the special effects still hold up nicely. As I'm typing this, My Heart Will Go On is automatically in my head.
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12:07PM on 04/22/2016
Well said.
Well said.
12:12PM on 04/22/2016
Thank you!
Thank you!
8:06AM on 04/22/2016

One of the best movies of all time!!!!

Fact
Fact
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+0
4:37AM on 04/22/2016
I've always found Titanic fairly overrated. It's story feels generic, a big setup for the disaster. While generic drama and characters have their place, it's just not interesting when it's a bunch of people sitting around on a luxury cruise liner being as one note as possible. It doesn't even seem like Cameron tried to make the characters multi-dimensional, knowing full well that their generic personalities would sell. Leo plays the obvious poor, but with a heart of gold protagonist, Kate
I've always found Titanic fairly overrated. It's story feels generic, a big setup for the disaster. While generic drama and characters have their place, it's just not interesting when it's a bunch of people sitting around on a luxury cruise liner being as one note as possible. It doesn't even seem like Cameron tried to make the characters multi-dimensional, knowing full well that their generic personalities would sell. Leo plays the obvious poor, but with a heart of gold protagonist, Kate Winslet is the lovelost well-off who finds her soul mate in the poor kid, and even the villain is a generic, shallow caricature. This could have been interesting if the characters had been made to feel like genuine people with multiple facets of their personality, but they simply evoke ideas we've seen hundreds of times. The ONLY thing this film has going for it is the disaster, which I will admit I did find to be a great spectacle that still holds up today. But it can only be interesting so many times. For the most part, this is an obvious ploy on people and it's pretty boring.
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2:29AM on 04/22/2016
I totally disagree about the VFX not holding up. 3/4s of it was practical effects something thats quite rare in todays film-making.

Yeah the movie is clichéd and stuff but it still has a sense of goofy charm. The funny thing about this article is that everything described here about James Cameron perfectly sums up my feelings towards Michael Bay... wow, now there's an idea for a Face/Off Column.
I totally disagree about the VFX not holding up. 3/4s of it was practical effects something thats quite rare in todays film-making.

Yeah the movie is clichéd and stuff but it still has a sense of goofy charm. The funny thing about this article is that everything described here about James Cameron perfectly sums up my feelings towards Michael Bay... wow, now there's an idea for a Face/Off Column.
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9:46PM on 04/21/2016

I remember seeing TITANIC in 1997 and, at the end, I thought

"Okay, I've seen this movie. I don't need to see it again." That pretty much sums up my feelings about it then and now. The special effects were spectacular for 1997, but the love story was just trite.

Despite the fact that I respect both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as actors, I have no desire to see this film again.
"Okay, I've seen this movie. I don't need to see it again." That pretty much sums up my feelings about it then and now. The special effects were spectacular for 1997, but the love story was just trite.

Despite the fact that I respect both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as actors, I have no desire to see this film again.
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7:50PM on 04/21/2016
When this movie was released I had the exact same opinion. As did all of my friends at school. None of us even saw the movie. We just inherently hated it because every girl in school made us sick of it. We also hated DiCaprio (or DeCrapio as we called him). Every boy in school thought this was the worse movie ever made.

After it was in theaters for like its 5th month my parents drug me to it because my mom wanted to see it. I begged and pleaded to just buy me a ticket to something else, but
When this movie was released I had the exact same opinion. As did all of my friends at school. None of us even saw the movie. We just inherently hated it because every girl in school made us sick of it. We also hated DiCaprio (or DeCrapio as we called him). Every boy in school thought this was the worse movie ever made.

After it was in theaters for like its 5th month my parents drug me to it because my mom wanted to see it. I begged and pleaded to just buy me a ticket to something else, but they wanted it to be a "family outing". Well, I was forced to watch the whole movie from beginning to end. To my surprise I had gotten so involved in the movie that I had tears in my eyes at the end. I loved it, and was ashamed. When I went back to school everyone asked me what I thought of it, and I just ranted about how bad it sucked. To this day several of those friends still viciously hate Titanic, and still have never seen it.
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12:08PM on 04/22/2016
Did you mean to say that your parents dragged you? Or did they actually drugged you? Seems a little extreme just for a movie.
Did you mean to say that your parents dragged you? Or did they actually drugged you? Seems a little extreme just for a movie.
5:44PM on 04/21/2016
I think you are going to find that a lot of people agree with you on this. One of the (if not THE) most overrated films ever.
I think you are going to find that a lot of people agree with you on this. One of the (if not THE) most overrated films ever.
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2:48PM on 04/21/2016
Hard to separate Horner's score from the Celine Dion song? Sorry, but this where the article loses any credibility. Sure, Horner wrote the melody for the song and it is used in part of the score, but there are so many other themes and ideas in the score, and I consider it one of Horner's best.
I think Titanic is a great movie and spectacle and still holds up. Also, it really bugs me when someone complains that the film shouldn't have won best picture, but then doesn't say what film should
Hard to separate Horner's score from the Celine Dion song? Sorry, but this where the article loses any credibility. Sure, Horner wrote the melody for the song and it is used in part of the score, but there are so many other themes and ideas in the score, and I consider it one of Horner's best.
I think Titanic is a great movie and spectacle and still holds up. Also, it really bugs me when someone complains that the film shouldn't have won best picture, but then doesn't say what film should have won. Makes for a weak argument. I'm not sure any of the other nominees have had the lasting impact of Titanic, even if some of those films were quite good.
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7:57PM on 04/21/2016
Great point! If you are going to say a movie didn't deserve Best Picture you should be able to name something superior released the same year.
Great point! If you are going to say a movie didn't deserve Best Picture you should be able to name something superior released the same year.
1:36PM on 04/21/2016
Titanic is a terrible movie. The love plot is cringe worthy and the rest is just a big roller coaster ride. Still, it's better than Avatar...
Titanic is a terrible movie. The love plot is cringe worthy and the rest is just a big roller coaster ride. Still, it's better than Avatar...
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12:52PM on 04/21/2016
I can respect the movie, but it robbed LA Confidential.

Also terrible dialogue like "I see the Iceberg and I see it in your eyes"

Or historical inaccuracies like making Mr. Murdoch shoot a passenger and then comit suicide.

In fact I'm convinced guns were added to this movie just because Cameron thought a sinking ship wasn't exciting enough :-P
I can respect the movie, but it robbed LA Confidential.

Also terrible dialogue like "I see the Iceberg and I see it in your eyes"

Or historical inaccuracies like making Mr. Murdoch shoot a passenger and then comit suicide.

In fact I'm convinced guns were added to this movie just because Cameron thought a sinking ship wasn't exciting enough :-P
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3:43PM on 04/21/2016
Regarding that terrible dialogue, the line is actually. "Mr. Andrews. I saw the iceberg, and I see it in your eyes. Please tell me the truth."
How is that terrible dialogue????

While it is true that Murdoch did not commit suicide or probably shoot anyone. It is historical accurate in the film that the officers on the Titanic did had guns and shots were fired during all the chaos.
Regarding that terrible dialogue, the line is actually. "Mr. Andrews. I saw the iceberg, and I see it in your eyes. Please tell me the truth."
How is that terrible dialogue????

While it is true that Murdoch did not commit suicide or probably shoot anyone. It is historical accurate in the film that the officers on the Titanic did had guns and shots were fired during all the chaos.
9:28PM on 04/21/2016
also, if he is going to complain about historical innacuracies, then he should officially not enjoy ANYTHING REMOTELY BASED on a real event or story.
also, if he is going to complain about historical innacuracies, then he should officially not enjoy ANYTHING REMOTELY BASED on a real event or story.
+1
12:11PM on 04/21/2016

9/10 (spoilers ahead!).

1) I re-watched it on cable recently and I do think the effects have stood the test of time. Actually, there isn't THAT much CGI.
2) The best stories are the original ones, but that doesn't mean an unoriginal story can't work. This is a good example. I was invested in it. I also had no problem with the characterization. I rooted for JACK & ROSE without feeling like I had to just because they were the protagonists and I was moved by their romance. As for CAL... He was over-the-top because he
1) I re-watched it on cable recently and I do think the effects have stood the test of time. Actually, there isn't THAT much CGI.
2) The best stories are the original ones, but that doesn't mean an unoriginal story can't work. This is a good example. I was invested in it. I also had no problem with the characterization. I rooted for JACK & ROSE without feeling like I had to just because they were the protagonists and I was moved by their romance. As for CAL... He was over-the-top because he was a psycho!
3) What do you mean by " James Horner's score became instantly memorable, it is so reliant on Celine Dion's ballad that it is hard to separate the two." Wasn't the song written after the score (or at least the main melody)? Regardless of which one was written first, the music complements the movie well.
4) "Just because you love a movie doesn't mean you cannot recognize where it falls short." I agree. That's why I didn't give it a 10. My biggest issue was that JACK & ROSE escape from the lower part of the ship, go back down and escape again. It felt repetitive.
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11:50AM on 04/21/2016
Ya it needed more CGI planet eating dust clouds.
Ya it needed more CGI planet eating dust clouds.
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11:48AM on 04/21/2016

Hating Titanic and Avatar is not unpopular... ITS TRENDY

I am going to sit back and laugh when Avatar 2 comes out and makes all kinds of billions once again for the greatest director of all time. James Cameron is NOT the best director (he is up there), but he is the greatest for his combination of pushing special effects boundaries, connecting with popular culture at the time, and marketing the shit out of his movies. In my opinion, he's never made a bad movie.
I am going to sit back and laugh when Avatar 2 comes out and makes all kinds of billions once again for the greatest director of all time. James Cameron is NOT the best director (he is up there), but he is the greatest for his combination of pushing special effects boundaries, connecting with popular culture at the time, and marketing the shit out of his movies. In my opinion, he's never made a bad movie.
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1:42PM on 04/21/2016
That's just the power of money, nothing to do with being a great director. They're shooting Transformers 5 as we speak because the last one alone made 1.1 billion dollars... I hope you'll agree that doesn't make Michael Bay a great director.
That's just the power of money, nothing to do with being a great director. They're shooting Transformers 5 as we speak because the last one alone made 1.1 billion dollars... I hope you'll agree that doesn't make Michael Bay a great director.
8:10PM on 04/21/2016
Eh I love James Cameron but I wouldn't go as far as to say he never made a bad film. Let's never forget he made his debut with Piranah II: The Spawning. Also think you might be barking up the wrong tree about those Avatar sequels. I just think it's been too long.
Eh I love James Cameron but I wouldn't go as far as to say he never made a bad film. Let's never forget he made his debut with Piranah II: The Spawning. Also think you might be barking up the wrong tree about those Avatar sequels. I just think it's been too long.
11:38AM on 04/21/2016
"while also featuring quite a bit of special effects work that does not stand the test of time."

If the movie has problems, this is certainly not one of them. The entire sinking sequence — aka practically HALF the movie — is still incredible to this day. (Also, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to Green Band my comment if I liked the movie or if I agreed with the post, so I'm going neutral.)
"while also featuring quite a bit of special effects work that does not stand the test of time."

If the movie has problems, this is certainly not one of them. The entire sinking sequence — aka practically HALF the movie — is still incredible to this day. (Also, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to Green Band my comment if I liked the movie or if I agreed with the post, so I'm going neutral.)
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11:24AM on 04/21/2016

It was shit then and it's shit now.

When I saw that this movie was the subject of the unpopular opinion column, I honestly thought you were going to try to convince us that it's a good move. I assumed that most people thought this movie was crap and signaled James Cameron's downfall. I've always thought this movie was crap. Crap story, crap dialogue, unfinished looking effects...just a bad movie in general that took off because 13 year old girls thought Leo was hot.
When I saw that this movie was the subject of the unpopular opinion column, I honestly thought you were going to try to convince us that it's a good move. I assumed that most people thought this movie was crap and signaled James Cameron's downfall. I've always thought this movie was crap. Crap story, crap dialogue, unfinished looking effects...just a bad movie in general that took off because 13 year old girls thought Leo was hot.
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1:06PM on 04/21/2016
Titanic took off because 13 year old girls thought Leo was hot? Lol where do you come up with this stuff? I was 32 and I kept trying to see it that first weekend and every time I went to the theater it was sold out. Finally I went and stood hours in line and made it in to a showing. People of all ages were not only going and loving Titanic, but many were going more than once to see it in the theater. I loved it for a lot of reasons, but Leo being hot wasn't one of them.
Titanic took off because 13 year old girls thought Leo was hot? Lol where do you come up with this stuff? I was 32 and I kept trying to see it that first weekend and every time I went to the theater it was sold out. Finally I went and stood hours in line and made it in to a showing. People of all ages were not only going and loving Titanic, but many were going more than once to see it in the theater. I loved it for a lot of reasons, but Leo being hot wasn't one of them.
1:46PM on 04/21/2016
@Glinda Yeah but take out the 13 year old girls and you wouldn't have had to stand in line.
@Glinda Yeah but take out the 13 year old girls and you wouldn't have had to stand in line.
2:11PM on 04/21/2016
Were you at my theater 451-1138? ;) If that had been the case then I would not be thinking his post ridiculous. I'm a big enough person to admit if someone is right even if I don't want them to be. People off all ages were going to that movie. I was not standing in line amongst 13 year old girls, or kids in general. My husband enjoyed it as did many people I knew. It was a big topic of conversation when it came out amongst my friends and no, not everybody loved it, but my point here is
Were you at my theater 451-1138? ;) If that had been the case then I would not be thinking his post ridiculous. I'm a big enough person to admit if someone is right even if I don't want them to be. People off all ages were going to that movie. I was not standing in line amongst 13 year old girls, or kids in general. My husband enjoyed it as did many people I knew. It was a big topic of conversation when it came out amongst my friends and no, not everybody loved it, but my point here is that it didn't take off due to crushes on Leo. It took off because a lot of people loved the movie. I have no problems if someone doesn't like a movie I love, but don't make ridiculous generalizations that simply are not true to make your point. For one thing, it invalidates the real issues you may have with the film.
2:28PM on 04/21/2016
All sorts of people went to see Star Wars in 1977, still it's because of the little boys that went to see it over again and again that the movie became such a hit. I was 11 when Titanic came out and believe me, all the girls in my class had pictures of DiCaprio taped inside their locker door and bought the soundtrack because of Celine's song. They do account for A LOT of the success of this film. And just as SW is still popular today because those same little boys grew up and still want some,
All sorts of people went to see Star Wars in 1977, still it's because of the little boys that went to see it over again and again that the movie became such a hit. I was 11 when Titanic came out and believe me, all the girls in my class had pictures of DiCaprio taped inside their locker door and bought the soundtrack because of Celine's song. They do account for A LOT of the success of this film. And just as SW is still popular today because those same little boys grew up and still want some, Titanic continues to live on mainly because of the nostalgia factor (and the fact that it won 11 Oscars). I enjoyed Titanic back then but I still think it's an awful movie...
11:13AM on 04/21/2016
You can dislike the movie cause everyone has a taste and an opinion but the way ou describe your feelings about Titanic makes me feel that's pure trolling in order to create a kind of mini buzz.Sorry.
You can dislike the movie cause everyone has a taste and an opinion but the way ou describe your feelings about Titanic makes me feel that's pure trolling in order to create a kind of mini buzz.Sorry.
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1:51PM on 04/21/2016
What if I hate it because the writing was bad and the story was terrible? Sorry, that's not trolling, it's an opinion based on the terrible dialogue, slow dull plot and an extremely cliche love story that had nothing to do with the actual events in 1912. History had much better stories than this one. Just because others liked it doesn't mean the minority opinion is wrong.
What if I hate it because the writing was bad and the story was terrible? Sorry, that's not trolling, it's an opinion based on the terrible dialogue, slow dull plot and an extremely cliche love story that had nothing to do with the actual events in 1912. History had much better stories than this one. Just because others liked it doesn't mean the minority opinion is wrong.
+2
11:06AM on 04/21/2016

At long last...

What I've thought about Titanic all along. Cliché, dumb, pointless.
What I've thought about Titanic all along. Cliché, dumb, pointless.
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10:41AM on 04/21/2016
Other than the unnecessary love story, it's an amazing movie. The sinking kills me every time.
Other than the unnecessary love story, it's an amazing movie. The sinking kills me every time.
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10:34AM on 04/21/2016
"This movie is much like the titular ship: big, expensive, and full of promise and yet ultimately it was doomed to sink."

but the movie didn't sink.

Next up on What movie can I say is shit but isn't shit

Goodfellas
Heat
The Dark Knight
Citizen Kane
Empire Strikes Back
Blade Runner
Terminator 2
and more.
"This movie is much like the titular ship: big, expensive, and full of promise and yet ultimately it was doomed to sink."

but the movie didn't sink.

Next up on What movie can I say is shit but isn't shit

Goodfellas
Heat
The Dark Knight
Citizen Kane
Empire Strikes Back
Blade Runner
Terminator 2
and more.
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1:50PM on 04/21/2016
Well Goodfellas, Heat and The Dark Knight could hardly be more overrated... Actually I thought Heat was incredibly boring.
Well Goodfellas, Heat and The Dark Knight could hardly be more overrated... Actually I thought Heat was incredibly boring.
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