Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron rehashes much of what is featured in Titanic: 20 Years Later but with one new addition.
If it seems like I’m rehashing much of my review of the 2017 special, you’re not mistaken. This new special sacrifices the discussion with descendants of survivors and victims to focus on whether Jack could have survived on the door with Rose. It’s for this reason that my review grade is a half point lower. Why not go all the way in just making an new special altogether? Airing on National Geographic channel means accounting for commercials but streaming would mean a longer special. I really think they lose something in taking out the family members. If Cameron makes more additions for the 30th, he should add them back in.
Over 100 years following its sinking, the Titanic still fascinates people around the globe. It’s unfortunate that the wreck claimed five more lives this week with the Titan‘s catastrophic implosion. However, it also says something about people wanting to see the wreck. The technology didn’t exist to find the site back in 1912. It took Robert Ballard’s discovery in 1985 and that was only after he finished up an assignment for the U.S. Navy during the Cold War. The rest is history! The interview with Ballard is shorter in order to focus on the door.
When James Cameron was making Titanic, the filmmaker and crew did their best work at recreating the ship and sinking from scratch. How much of what happens in the film is what happened the tragic night in 1912? For instance, the filmmaking process led the grand staircase to pop out and go towards the ceiling of its deck. Further dives confirm that the grand staircase is not where it originally was, perhaps proving the theory true. The main thing that Cameron is figuring out in the 20th anniversary retrospective is the ship’s breakup. We know that the bow and stern are some 2000 feet apart on the ocean floor. We know exactly where they broke apart but the question is how it happened.
It isn’t just that Cameron and company discuss the choices made for the blockbuster film but they put them to the test by experimenting with them. Through dives that took place following 1996, Cameron learned which things were right and wrong. Unfortunately, the Straus Suite and Marconi Room discoveries are not in the 25th anniversary special. However, you can watch them in the 20th anniversary special on Disney+. Surprisingly, this one is only on Hulu.
One of biggest discoveries, however, in watching the 2017 documentary special is the actual sinking and breakup of the ship. Witness testimony is one way of knowing just how it went down but the question of how it broke into two is a different story. That’s where research and visual effects enters the picture. It’s a mixture of underwater footage, computer-generated simulations, and scholarly discoveries that enable Cameron and company to maybe solve it once and for all. They more or less include this in its entirety in the new special.
Another thing that they do is figure out why two of the lifeboats did not get used. Cameron and company use one of their boats from filming to put it to the test. It turns out that it takes a while to get a boat cranked out, loaded, dropped to the water, and launched. When you consider how much time there is at hand, they had to work rather quickly! They also include this in its entirety.
Using two stunt actors, Cameron decides to answer the question once and for all. Could Jack and Rose both survive? They pull out all the science for this one, taking “Jack” and “Rose” to a tank at the University of Otago New Zealand for studying with Dr. Jim Cotter. They are unable to recreate the frigid Atlantic temps but their research shows that Jack has a slight chance but his clothing is what eventually comes to doom him. Rose, because of her wardrobe and the life vest, is in a better position to survive.
Say what I will about what is not in the new special but there’s something admirable about Cameron revisiting his film and seeing what’s right or wrong. He doesn’t need to remake his own film but at least he can probably sleep better knowing what isn’t correct. Most filmmakers would probably make their film and move onto the next thing on the slate. Well, most filmmakers who are not George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, or James Cameron. Cameron is a filmmaker who is able to push forward advances in technology rather than wait for the technology to be invented. The fact that The Final Word with James Cameron is not the final word shows how much Cameron remains fascinated by the Titanic.
In making all the dives and the film itself, Cameron never forgot about the people who died. Cameron’s further exploration of the Titanic is his way of honoring those that died and their families. The film may have ended in 1997 but the research continued in the years that followed–unfortunately, Titanic: 25 Years Later comes at the expense of removing some conversations from Titanic: 20 Years Later. Will James Cameron revisit for the 30th or has the door closed on his research?
DIRECTOR: Thomas C. Grane
SCREENWRITER: Richard Brehm, Kurt Sayenga
FEATURING: James Cameron, Robert Ballard, Parks Stephenson, Don Lynch, Ken Marschall, Gene Warren III, Gene Warren Jr., Christopher Warren, Dr. Jim Cotter, Josh Bird, Kristine Zipfel
National Geographic aired Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron on February 5, 2023. Grade: 3.5/5
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