Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Raven (Film Review)



This one is a strange film in many respects because it manages to get oh so many things wrong, and yet it doesn't seem quite bad enough to hate. The core of the story is that in the last days of Edgar Allen Poe’s life, a killer begins to replicate his stories and goes on a spree of murders. In part due to the police wanting an edge against the killer in order to catch him and in part due to the killer’s demands that he be involved, often directly taunting Poe with messages.

Now, all of the above is actually well delivered and has some interesting aspects to it despite initially appearing as if it was trying to replicate Guy Ritche’s Sherlock Holmes films.

Unlike those instalments, there is far less humour in this and the dark subject matter is treated seriously rather than being laughed off or mocked. The most prominent example of this is Poe himself. In something which was a nice development in the early story, he was not being called in to help the police due to some great genius but simply because he’s more familiar with the killer’s methods. You never really see him outdoing the police at their own jobs or running rings about them. He just has a better skill at following the clues left behind by the killer to his next victim – predicting which of his stories will be used next.


This idea that he’s not some skilled detective or deductive genius is helped somewhat by the performance of John Cusack. The script requires him to portray a severely desperate, financially bankrupt, alcoholic and for the most part he achieves this. His mannerisms, speech and expressions do bring the character to life but he frequently goes too far and just ends up chewing the scenery. Meaning that while it makes it clear he's not a genius it's hard to see him as even a person a times.

This is the biggest flaw because director James McTeigue seems to have placed an incredible amount of focus upon Poe and the mystery behind the murders but given time for little else. For example there are no subplots or stories focusing upon the rest of the cast just the murders so they are given very little chance to develop or even flesh out their roles. This even extends to the deuteragonist of detective Emmett Fields whose first scene is to just arrive at the site of the murder. He is given no chance to expand upon his character’s personality in any individual introduction nor through any past history with Poe and despite Luke Evans‘ best efforts he feels like nothing more than a side character. So, despite all the effort each actor besides Cusack is putting into their role, we’re given little reason to truly care what happens to them.


This becomes so much of a problem that when the identity of the murderer is revealed, it has no impact. The character has been given no grounding, nothing to give depth to his murders or even complex motivations behind his thoughts – there is next to no reason for the audience to be invested in them.

In all honesty though, the film isn't so bad it's worth hating. It’s closer to Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow than it is Sherlock Holmes with a very dark atmosphere and some moments of grim humour. Each set piece looks very genuine with a stylistic twist, there are some very good performances by all involved, and the mystery itself is well written despite a botched conclusion. It really needed a better thought out ending and possibly a script which was more inclusive to the characters besides Poe.

It’s worth a look if you’ve already seen John Carter this month, but it’s only worth watching once or twice then never again. And if you’ve not seen John Carter, go watch that instead.

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The Raven and all related characters and media are owned by Relativity Media.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Down Time on the 19th and 20th

This is just a quick update to explain something to anyone who tried to access here in the last couple of days. The reason you weren't able to was my fault as I was trying to correct something which really didn't need to be fixed.

Not long after the Mass Effect 3 review was uploaded I recieved a couple of questions about the blog's address "http://thegoodthebadtheinsulting.blogspot.co.uk/" with people wondering why it was missing "and" between "bad" and "the". Truth be told this was due to a screw up on my part when creating the address for the first time and not realised my mistake. Thinking this would only be a minor error and there would be no problems correcting it, I changed the name to "http://thegoodthebadandtheinsulting.blogspot.co.uk/". It turned out however, that every image, link or any page people found on google searches was still leading to the old address, so next to no one was able to get on here.

It has been changed back now. Apologies to anyone who was unable to access any of the reviews or images on the site, there won't be any changes made to the address from here on.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Big Sleep - Censorship and Repression (Film Examination)

This is going to be a little different from usual.

Rather than an outright review of a famous film which is a well-known classic example which has been covered repeatedly and has rightfully been lauded for its strengths - this is going to look into two notable aspects of it. Also the era in which it was made to a lesser extent, so some sections and decisions can be explained. With any luck this will be a chance to display a wider variety of texts of the site and there might be a few more of these in the future.
Though if you do want a review here's a quick one - Are you a fan of classic film noir? Yes? See it, you won't regret watching it, but be ready to be confused and lose track of the plot at the end of the first act.


Right, with that done - enjoy.







 When the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association began to effectively enforce the Motion Picture Production Code (henceforth referred to as the Hays Code) in 1934 under Joseph Breen it introduced new problems in filmmaking. Where as previously studios had been able to produce films with little official interference, the Production Code Administration was given the right to censor and edit any script they felt breached the Code.
These acts of censorship were widespread throughout the film industry. Notable examples are the removal of explicit mentions of Rick and Ilsa’s adulterous affair in Casablanca (1942) as mentioned in London (2000), to the political censorship shown in The Brothers Warner (2008) by preventing Warner Bros. producing a film about the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.


The genre that suffered the most under the Breen era Hays Code was film noir. Due to its dark plots, private detective anti-heroes, corruption of authority figures, lurid characters and source material its films were heavily censored. Members of the Production Code Administration removed from the plot anything the Hays Code deemed inappropriate, often to the film’s detriment. One example of this is Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946), in which Hays Code censorship and, to quote Ahearn (2008), “too many hands juggling the broth” resulted in an extremely cryptic plot bordering upon incomprehensibility.

What is notable is this was not the first film directed by which Hawks which was linked to Hollywood censorship. As noted in Munby (1999) his film Scarface (1932) having been heavily criticized for encouraging sympathy within criminals, its displays of violence, and was considered to have led to greater power being given to the Production Code Administration. Unlike Scarface, it wasn’t depictions of violence which were seen to breach the Hays Code in The Big Sleep but instead its amorous displays.


The Hays Code was firmly against many sexual aspects within films stating, as recorded in Bynum (2006), “The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.” A sub-section to this also directly forbade displays or open “sex perversion”, which at the time included homosexuality. This proved problematic when adapting a film noir novels as 1941’s Maltese Falcon, due to the relative openness of several gay characters, so the widespread sexual content crucial to The Big Sleep’s tale proved to be even more of a dilemma.

As noted in Kuhn (1994) unlike a number of other films, the novel’s use of widespread full frontal nudity, open references to drug abuse and homosexuality were crucial to its story. While aspects such as the lurid painting in the Sternwood home could easily be replaced, others such as Carol Lundgrun’s motivation for wanting to avenge Geiger, and the role of their bookstore, could not be edited out without damaging the plot. As such methods were used to both appease the censors while at the same time project the idea of illicit acts through suggestion.


The most notable example of this is when the film’s protagonist, Marlowe, encounters Carmen Sternwood inside an isolated house. In the novel she was found drugged and naked, clearly having been posed for a camera but with that not being an option Hawks film utilized other methods to make the audience suspect this had happened. While still drugged Carmen in the film is found fully clothed, but her dress and the entire building has been decorated with far eastern iconography, statues and design elements. Marlowe even puts his coat over her to help suggest nudity.


When The Big Sleep was produced, and for years prior to it, Asian connotations were used as a method of “Orientalism”, a method of suggesting something illicit or sensual in nature, usually related to crime in some way. Two examples of this time are the Lady From Shanghai (1947), due to the titular character, and The Maltase Falcon due to the origins of the Falcon itself, having been created in Persia.

Due to this when the audience sees Carmen surrounded in such an environment it already gives very strong suggestions to something illicit having happened. This is then all but confirmed by Marlow’s disgusted reaction to film negative he prizes from the camera. It never outright shows or explains what happened but it leaves enough of a suggestion for audiences to conclude what has taken place, thus not breaching the Hays Code but also allowing for it to be an emblem of synecdoche within the film. A personification of crime and unlawful actions.

It is likely in part due to its oriental design that the setting was frequently reincorporated into the events of The Big Sleep, as a location for murders and revelations of criminal activities. The film obsessively returns to the same primal scene which sparked the whole plot, sometimes for entirely unexplained reasons such as when Marlowe brings Carol there directly after apprehending him. While this has been seen as nonsensical and added to the film’s reputation as being incomprehensible, it did allow Hawks to make use of the scene’s symbolism. The most plot relevant example of this is the use of the statue with the hidden camera, a key object to the plot which was used to film Carmen. It is present in every scene within the location and at the end of the film an exchange of gunfire smashes it. This symbolically represents the end of the cycle of murder and blackmail the film revolves around.


The film relies very heavily upon uses of suggestion, especially in exchanges of dialogue between characters. One example of this being used to display plot information, along with the use of Orientalism in the shop’s blinds, is the exchange which creates the idea of Geiger’s rare bookshop is a front for illicit businesses:
Marlowe: Know anything about rare books?
(…)
Marlowe: Do you have a Ben Hur, 1860, Third Edition, with a duplicated line on page one-sixteen (…) Or a Chevalier Audubon 1840…?
Proprietress: No one would. There isn’t one.
Marlowe: Right. The girl in Geiger’s store didn’t know that.
It is used in combination with more visual elements from scenes within Geiger’s shop itself to enforce the idea. Most notably through the use of guilty and worried individuals quickly passing Marlowe in the store directly before this exchange, and why its wares are frantically packed away after Geiger’s death.


One conversation which relied purely upon suggestion was the famous horse race discussion between Marlow and Vivian. It was added in a revised version of the film after the success of To Have and Have Not (1944), trying to recapture the same chemistry displayed between Bogart and Bacall. It consisted almost entirely of double entendres which suggest lurid subjects and allowed for flirtation between the characters while avoiding breaching the Hays Code:

Vivian: Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first, see if they're front runners or come from behind, find out what their whole card is, what makes them run. (...) I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.
(...)
Marlowe: You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how how far you can go.
Vivian: A lot depends on who's in the saddle.


The sexual themes were not the only parts of the film to fall afoul of the censors. The identity of murderer became muddled due to Raymond Chandler losing track of who killed one victim, famously answering “damned if I know” when asked, and the Hays Code.
In the novel, Chandler made it clear that Carmen was the culprit with Vivian trying to cover for her. Due to her role in the film as a character romantically involved with Marlow, this breached the Hays Code’s directives against crime as it would make her an accessory to murder. One both presented in a sympathetic light and who would escape without being punished for her crime.

As a result of this the story was altered to include a complex plot, with the blame of Regan’s murder by Carmen being placed upon Eddie Mars, due to the victim having an adulterous relationship with his wife and then attempting to blackmail the Sternwood family. This convinces Vivian that her sister had committed it while in a drug addled mental blackout. This ultimately resulted in Carmen’s role being reduced from what was seen in the book and Vivian’s expanded upon, a choice which had as much to do with the Hays code as it did the success of To Have and Have Not and the more extensive romance between she and Marlowe.


This also extended to Marlowe himself, removing some of his more morally ambiguous actions from the film. As stated in Kuhn (1994) Marlowe in the novel was indirectly responsible for the death of Carmen, but the Production Code Administration regarded this as “something not to be brooked in a hero figure.” Instead Marlow is recommended to have her institutionalized and cured of her vices rather than pressing any charges against her. While this was a measure to make Marlowe morally unimpeachable and remove some of his ambiguity, it did allow him to retain one defining topos of a noir private detective.
Unlike traditional law enforcing figures covered in Cooke (2003) such as those in Dixon of Dock Green (1955) who enforced justice by adhering to law, Marlowe is supposed to be closer to characters such as Sherlock Holmes, obeying his own personal morals and sometimes letting the villain get away. By having Marlowe suggest Carmen be institutionalised and cured rather than being locked away in jail he does just that, acting upon what he thinks would be better for her rather than the punishment the law dictates she should suffer.


Aside from censorship other aspects of repression primarily exist in how the film is structured, with The Big Sleep’s plot being an obvious oedipal landscape. Characters and events remain in line with an oedipal plot, and there are repeated displays of repression and castration present throughout the film. Many of these tie directly into the character of General Sternwood, a powerful patriarchal figure who is effectively disabled and has received a “prophecy of doom” in the form of the demands for money prior to the start of the film. This also doubles as one of the film’s “civic terrors”, a threat which risks bringing down the Sternwood “empire” and crippling them due in part to his daughter’s excesses.
As with all detective stories, the insoluble riddle ties directly into this threat and is the mystery which the hero must solve and unravel to defeat the antagonist.


The repeated displays of repression towards the protagonist come from those who wish him to give up, punishing him for looking into their affairs and threatening him. Primarily through the film’s villain when Marlowe is ambushed and attacked in an alleyway by thugs. Another aspect of repression revolving around Marlowe was altered for the film but originally existed within the novel. The illicit object of desire he sought after was originally Vivian who he never became truly involved with and later parted ways to continue investigations within other stories. In the film adaptation they display far more chemistry and a closer attachment to one another, remaining with Vivian until its end.


To conclude, it is clear that censorship had a major impact upon the 1946 adaptation of The Big Sleep. It limited many aspects which were significant to it’s story and ultimately resulted in the film relying extremely heavily upon suggestion of events to tell its story.
The aspects of repression within the film stem primarily from its characters and the Freudian aspects contained within its plot, sharply contrasting to the background excesses of gambling, drinking, pornography and Carmen’s lifestyle.


Bibliography:
Scarface (1932)
Maltese Falcon (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Lady From Shanghai (1947)
Dixon of Dock Green (1955)
The Brothers Warner (2008)


References:
Ahearn, W. (2008) The Big Sleep (1945) <http://www.williamahearn.com/bs1945.html> [Accessed 11th December 2011]
Bynum, M. (2006) The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (Hays Code) <http://www.artsreformation.com/a001/hays-code.html> [Accessed 11th December 2011]
Cooke, L. (2003) British Television Drama: A History, London, British Film Institute. pp. 29-30
Faulkner, W. Brackett, L. and Furthman, J. (1944) The Big Sleep Screenplay. Available through: Dailyscript.com <http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Big_Sleep.pdf> [Accessed 19th December 2011]
Khun, A. (1994) The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd. pp. 77-85
London, F. (2000) Censored: Wielding the Red Pen. [Online] Available at: <http://explore.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/show/censored/walkthrough/film1> [Accessed 11th December 2011]
Munby, J. (1999) Public Enemies, Public Heroes: Screening the Gangster from Little Caesar to Touch of Evil, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 59

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Mass Effect 3 (PS3 Video Game Review) - What The Hell Happened?


Mass Effect 3 is simultaneously the best and worst game in its series. It does almost everything right and yet at the same time have easily the worst climax to any Bioware game in the last five years. I’m not talking about the stuff surrounding the game either, this is without taking into account things like day one DLC you’re forced to pay for or being forced to install EA’s Origin spyware. This is purely from the aspects of the game and what you’re forced to do in it.

Now, to their credit, it seems like Bioware took a lot of previous criticism to heart rather than just ignoring it. They avoided problems from previous instalments, let you have a much bigger impact on the universe, and allowed minor things to carry over into ME3 which made it feel like a true conclusion to the series. Even things people were dreading from their first appearance turned out well, Vega was a likable character, you’re not forced to recruit Jessica Chobot, many aspects were not dumbed down and the big battles aren’t brainless. The only criticisms were things which could be overlooked without too much of a problem and while not buying certain DLC does have negative impacts upon you this is primarily to tie up storylines. Plus it only reduced certain war assets rather than completely removing them.
What are war assets? The stuff you’re hunting in the game this time round, forces which range from ME2’s recruitable characters to war fleets which will assist you in fighting the reapers. These are mostly the rewards for certain missions and take the place of resource scanning; they’re certainly a hell of an improvement over that as well.
Combined with the much improved combat, artistic approach to cutscenes and emotional delivery on par with the scenes from the Overlord DLC, this game looked like it was going to be the best in the series. Until the ending. Sweet heaven, Mass Effect 3’s ending.
This following section is going to be full of spoilers so if you don’t want to know its conclusion stop reading now, just be ready to be very disappointed in the last ten minutes of gameplay.

Now, as you’d expect with a Bioware game the ending is heavily based upon a moral choice of sorts – the one which ultimately defines your character. Or at least that’s what it should have been. Instead you’re given the exact same ending three times with slightly differing consequences and events which happen no matter what choice you make.
In one you destroy the Reapers but at the cost of earth and all synthetic life, both ally and enemy. In the second you take control of the Reapers but with the suggestion they might return one day and start again. In the third choice you perform some act which turns everything into cyber-organic beings which stops the Reapers somehow. After all of these the following happens – Shepard dies, the Normany crashes with no closure to your team and all the mass relays everywhere self-destruct as a result of your choice. Let’s go through this step by step:

Shepard dies. You know what, I’m fine with that, giving up his/her life in order to finally halt the Reapers is a good ending to the character and there are some situations in which he/she can survive. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
What there is something wrong with is the fate of the Normandy and your crew – the ship crashes on an unknown planet, a few people get out, look around and that’s it. No closure, no final ending for them or even a hint about what will happen to them in the future. Bioware games generally don’t give too much of a conclusion to their characters, but this was seriously lazy, and gives no hope for them. At the very least there should have been some hint they’d be rescued or perhaps even a page of text like in Dragon Age Origins, which tells you what happens to them later on. Just some small indication of what the hell happened to some of Bioware’s best written, best fleshed out icons. It’s not too much to ask for is it?

And finally – the relays exploding. Why. There was no reason to do this and it adds nothing to the story in any way. It’s nothing meaningful or any event which feels tacked on to insult the player, like Bioware has just gone “Nya-ha! There’s nothing you can do to change this, this is canon now and it’s all your fault!”
Let's consider all of the problems with this last part – the mass relays are vital to galactic space travel and civilisation as a whole. Without them space lanes will collapse, lines of communication will break down and every planet will become an isolated fragment of civilisation in the universe. This is effectively the dawn of a new galaxy wide dark age.
To make matters worse, almost all worlds were heavily damaged by Reaper attacks and had refugees swarming towards them en-mass as other planets were destroyed. All of the best leaders, scientists, ships and people vital to each race were at earth. So you have thousands of isolated, wrecked planets overcrowded with refugees and no way of contacting their leaders or support. Worlds which will likely collapse due to this stress and devolve into anarchy. They are also going to be cut off from supplies, ao many worlds which would have needed shipments of food or fuels will now be starved of resources. These are things which are going to be a major problem for earth as the planet has thousands of ships from many species surrounding it, is in total ruins and has been noted to be resource starved. Ships which will almost certainly have been crippled by the detonations as in each ending we see the Normandy being fried and crashing after being caught in the shockwaves given off by the mass relays.
And all this? This is the best case scenario. There’s also two other things to consider, the first being the “dead” Reapers on each world.
We’ve seen two dead Reapers in the past games, one was Sovereign and the other a derelict you were forced to visit. Sovereign was completely torn to bits by concentrated fire from several fleets after having its mind destroyed while fighting Shepard through Saren – it was made “safe” as it was utterly dismembered and had its mind deleted. The derelict didn’t have this and in spite being supposedly dead was able to indoctrinate hundreds of humans without any conscious effort, bending them entirely to its will.
In the so-called good ending, there are dozens of Reaper corpses littering Earth and hundreds lying on worlds across the galaxy – ones completely capable of indoctrinating others and turning everyone nearby into its tools. The galaxy’s sentient races are very likely completely screwed over, as are any planets the Reapers took interest in and landed on en-mass. And finally there is the big issue – the explosions.
In the Arrival DLC it was very firmly established that a mass relay exploding would go off with the force of a small supernova, wiping out any and all nearby worlds and everything in between them. Every single mass relay in the galaxy explodes as a result of the player’s actions, no matter which choice you make. You have quite possibly just done the Reapers' job for them, not only wiping out every advanced sentient race in existence but also entire planets covered with unique bioforms. And the game railroads you into doing this, without any way no to get around this event.
Now, all of the above, that’s just the stuff which comes from the unavoidable last few minutes. You don’t even want to know how aneurysm inducingly stupid the few minutes prior to Shepard’s death are.

So that’s Mass Effect 3, great game – terrible ending. If it had a much better written last few minutes this would have easily been the best in the series, quite possibly Bioware’s best game to date. But it's brought low by the same problem we had with Dragon Age 2; you can see the quality in it but the ending completely undercuts and wrecks every aspect of the game.
Honestly, and it breaks my heart to say this, don’t buy it. Wait for the price to come down or for some DLC to be created which gives a much better ending and then get it. As it stands the game just isn't worth paying full price for.




Now, for those of you who did hate the ending to ME3, I do have some good news. There's a very good fan re-editing of the concluding moments which skips most of the stupidity. It's not perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than what we got in the game, take a look if you're one of the many who wanted something which felt like a conclusion to the trilogy.


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Mass Effect and all related characters and media are owned by Bioware.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Titanic 3D (Film Review)



Titanic in 3D AKA James Cameron tries to gouge more money from audiences with minimal effort.

Yeah, this one is bad. Not only was this film the turning point in which Cameron took the George Lucas route of devolving from a god of movie-making to a egotistical moolah-grabber churning out cinematic blights, but the 3D in this re-release is abysmally horrible. This film manages to use even less 3D in its runtime than Thor and even when used it's badly implemented. It doesn’t emphasise upon objects flying out at the audience and is rarely is present when height or size needs to be emphasised upon. It ultimately feels like it’s been tacked on at the last minute – which of course, is exactly what has been done.
Paul W.S. Anderson might be using 3D in nearly all of his recent productions but at least they’re made with 3D in mind from the start, at least in those the 3D actually looks good, but this? Titanic was never made with the intention of having 3D in it to begin with so the sections featuring the gimmick look unrealistic. Sometimes appears even more two dimensional than the cardboard cut-outs which serve as characters and looks like they’ve been done in a week with as little money as possible.

The film’s simply not worth the cost of viewing in 3D and you can spend nearly the entire run-time with the glasses off and have no issue watching it. So, if you desperately need to see this for some reason just watch it in regular format. Or better yet, save yourself money just wait for it to be shown on TV for the millionth time.

So that’s the updated version of 1997’s Titanic, unthathomably terrible bordering upon insulting which is admittedly an improvement over Avatar. But, since we’re reviewing this, we might as well take a look at the film itself and not just things added so Cameron can try to make a few million more dollars.
First, the good – The actors. Titanic boasts a fine cast of actors who play both minor and major roles in contributing to the plot. Every one of them is clearly making the best out of what they’re given, which is quite frequently very little, and there are some admirable performances littered throughout the film. The soundtrack, barring a certain song, is beautifully composed and while not the best in Hollywood it gives a great deal of emotion to many scenes, deserving or otherwise.

There’s also something to be said for the effects, while this is something that will be a target of criticism in this review there is no denying their quality. A massive amount of detail went into the locations and every aspect of the ship, trying to make it as lifelike as possible and for the most part it succeeded. The CGI was balanced out by well-made physical effects which gave a sense of solidity and, unlike Avatar, things like the ship breaking up had a real sense of weight behind them. There are few if any flaws within the composition of shots or the cinematography, and for all his flaws Cameron still knows how to direct how a film is visually displayed. And now onto the bad.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of the century, or simply slept through every school lesson on the subject, the Titanic is one of the world’s biggest man-made disasters. It was one of the world’s biggest ocean going ships, carried hundreds on board and was declared “unsinkable”. As such when it struck an iceburg, there were far too few lifeboats to save everyone and few if any lower class passengers on the lower decks made it out alive. The few who did nearly all frozen to death long before help arrived. It was a horrendous loss of life caused by overconfidence in design and ultimately a tragedy.

So rather than focusing upon that, looking into the historic elements of the film, or even just giving a factual documentary, what does James Cameron do? He turns it into a clich√© ridden, emotionally shallow teen romance story. He used a real life event which cost the lives of hundreds to focus upon a romance story between two people filled with every clich√© and shallow ham fisted attempt to tug at people’s heart strings imaginable.
This would be like setting Twilight on the Hidenburg as it burned down. Actually, no, at least that might have had the added fantasy element to remove itself from the real thing – the only thing Titanic has to distance itself from the real disaster is inhumanly bad writing.

The core aspect which really drags down the writing is the characters, many of who are either caricatures or overly simplified jokes which read like they’ve come from a morality play for four year olds. The two leads, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winselt, are infallible, have no character flaws and are sickeningly perfect on every level.
The villain meanwhile, lacks any redeemable traits, repeatedly performs acts which are cartoonishly evil and is written to be so over the top in how horrible he is that Billy Zane‘s performance becomes hilarious, hamming it up at every turn. There’s no depth to them, no hint of flaws or any human aspects which make them remotely believable; instead they are defined purely by their role. The heroes are good as such they are 100% pure with no faults and can do no wrong, the villain is bad and as such are completely corrupt and can do no right. Another Avatar comparison could be made to this, but if we keep this up most of the review will be nothing but bitching about what was wrong with that film.
What makes this worse is similar characterisations extend to the secondary cast with figures like Molly Brown being used as comic relief when the stories surrounding her actions on the Titanic were heroic. The workers in the mail room of the Titanic all died trying to do their jobs, dragging bags of letters and documents to the upper decks even as they were being flooded. Even as the ship is sinking we get to see only very brief moments of what took place in real life, with the main focus being on a gun wielding Zane chasing down the two protagonists through the ship. Even as people are dying the focus is still squarely upon the fictional protagonists.
So, to add to bad writing, Cameron pissed all over the graves of those who were actually on the ship in favour of his generic stereotypes of protagonists and villains. And that’s before we get to the gender issues of the film, a problem prevalent in many of Cameron’s films.

Now, the actual events of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic itself have severe gender problems surrounding them, but that has already been covered here. As such the problems of gender will be focused purely upon the films script. It doesn’t help that any of Cameron writes female characters better than he does male ones, but watching the film there’s a clear bias towards females. Every male character is killed off by the end or executed in some way, either from the ship disaster or by suicide, so only females end up surviving. What is more is that out of the villains, Rose’s mother, Frances Fisher, is repeatedly fed moments to make her more sympathetic.

On the one hand this does make her a more three dimensional character, but at the same time it contrasts heavily with the moustache twirlingly villainous Zane. Imagine for a moment if the genders of this were reversed – that the film had all of its female characters killed off and only the male villain was presented in anywhere near a sympathetic light, just how much of a backlash would that have generated?



At its core the film really has nothing to do with the Titanic itself, it just happens to be set on the Titanic. You could have put the characters in any other location, give them any single disaster to be introduced in the third act and you’d barely have to change anything. It’s not worth remembering, it’s not worth watching, and the only thing its story deserves is to be rightly ridiculed as a bad joke.

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Titanic and all related characters and media are owned by 20th Century Fox.