scottishpig (scottishpig) wrote,

iTV's Titanic

Haven't updated in a while... been too busy.

I've been a big Titanic-nut since a few months before the famous James Cameron movie came about in the autumn of '97. I still remember trying to compare the Titanic with the known sizes of things nearby and trying to fathom what it'd be like to see on the big screen.

Anyway, 2012 was the centennial of the sinking and iTV came out with a four-episode three-hour miniseries on the Titanic. Now... for the centennial of a disaster like this, you'd think there'd be no-holds-barred historical and visual accuracy. If you thought this, you're pretty mistaken.

Before the 1997 blockbuster was a little-known 1996 made-for-TV miniseries which is hugely analogous to this 2012 series. They both introduce a bunch of characters and plots and try to follow them through the famous list of Titanic events 'til after the sinking. Both the '96 and '12 series suffer from way too much talking, anachronistic human stories, ham-fisted social commentary, and fictions added to the plot. They both largely ignore the Titanic... 'cept the '96 version actually hits more of the required checklist than does the longer, newer, centennial series.

Let me back-track. In 1958, a movie "A Night to Remember" came out. It was somewhat remade in 1977 with "S.O.S. Titanic" (another made-for-TV mess that actually got all of its facts straight). Both these films set the checklist in motion. So, let's hit this checklist thing (starred entries were shown/mentioned in the new series, the ones with the plusses are shown or mentioned rather inaccurately or inadequately):
  • Locations
    • Grand staircase
    • Smoking room+
    • 3rd Class Common Area+
    • D-Deck Dining area*
    • Squash Court
    • Turkish Bath
    • Forecastle/Poop Decks
    • Forward Well Deck
  • People
    • John Jacob Astor
    • Bride and Phillips
    • Guggenheim*
    • Murdoch, Lowe, Lightoller, Boxhall*
    • Captain Smith+
    • Ismay+
    • Molly Brown*
    • Allison Family*
    • Made-up love story characters**
  • Events
    • Some sense of hubris regarding Titanic
    • Titanic takes to sea+
    • Iceberg warnings+
    • People kicking ice around on deck
    • Important ship parts get flooded
    • It's cold
    • The band plays to the end
    • Californian gets signaled+
    • Carpathia picks up survivors+
Essentially, the Titanic itself-- the famous story-- is largely glossed over and pushed into the background. Problems that really didn't exist (or were largely irrelevant) were pushed into the foreground. Also, the format was such that events were re-exposed each episode, which made the story more interesting, but took away from the reality that there was a ship and it was sinking. What's more, if you'll notice the lack of stars in the events list, I'd say that it was a decent soap-opera-ish drama about a sinking ship, but not the Titanic.

Anyway, interesting things-- like the story of the Allisons whose nanny kidnapped a child and fled the ship, leaving the parents and remaining child on the ship eventually to die-- are glossed over or sent to the background. Real dramas based on historical fact are usually the plot-devices of most Titanic movies. If this series could have taken all these plots that we've seen and read elsewhere and spun them into something serious and solid, this would be an excellent movie.

Instead, there's a bizarre plot about Italians (they run the A La Carte restaurant... which is constantly referred to as "Gratzi's"... and they're arrested and someone must pick the underwater lock in a scene reminiscent of another, more successful Titanic movie), two stories where people are cheating on each other, an intrigue about some of the wait-staff falling in love, and no caring whatsoever for the after-effects of the sinking. So, when Titanic sinks, we see some flashes on the horizon, are told the Californian came and rescued everybody, and the credits roll. The characters are so flat and uninteresting because they do nothing and haven't done anything. When the time comes for the ship to sink, nobody cares if they live or die. And speaking of sinking: of the three hours and seven minutes, only 10 minutes or so actually shows any water at all. All-in-all, it's a drab snoozefest with some serious writing and pacing problems. A hundred rejected soap-opera plots were thrown in a blender and poured over some art-student's Titanic project.

This is disappointing because it opens up beautifully enough. The first episode and a half had me going. "This is a lot of needless setup," I thought, "but the ending's going to be really fantastic." The music is nice and the sets are very clean (even if un-Titanicish) and a lot of care was taken to make everything look and sound nice (even if unauthentic).

Speaking of unauthentic: Smith (not Ismay) orders the ship to go faster to set a record. Watertight doors were mentioned, but nobody bothered to flip the switch on the bridge. The conversation between the captain and Andrews happened in one of the boiler-rooms which was flooded beyond what it should have been (rather than on the bridge or Andrews cabin), the carpenter and wireless operators were missing, Murdoch fires his gun on A-deck, where most of the lifeboat-loading took place (as opposed to the boat deck)... There's lots of stuff that suggests they did some research and then threw it away... which is interesting since 1997's blockbuster Titanic got so much shit RIGHT, they just underpresented it in favor of that shit Jack-and-Rose story.

So, it was moody and boring, but not appropriately sad. It pretentiously hinted at verity and credulity but missed the mark. This is a shit way to remember Titanic's centennial. Don't waste your time.


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