"Raise the Titanic" is almost a good movie. It has
some wonderful moments, but they're bogged down in two moronic subplots. Why is
it that they always gum up great movie Ideas by shoveling in those two
infallible dead-ends, The Girl and The Russians?
movie's basic premise-that it might be possible to raise and salvage the great
ship Titanic-is irresistible. We get some hot scientific gobbledygook about how
the Titanic might really be in pretty good shape, down there two miles below
the frigid Atlantic, where it wouldn't rust because of the oxygen shortage in
so. The plan to float the Titanic sure is ingenious: Pump it full of plastic
foam, attach giant inflatable balloons to its sides, and blast it free of the
mud. Easy as pie. Reminds me of an old Uncle Scrooge comic in which Huey, Looey
and Dewey were going to raise a sunken ship by pumping it full of Ping-Pong
the Titantic" is best when it sticks to the subject. The movie succeeds in
recreating some of the romance of the Titanic itself. It begins with old
photographs of the great ship and with a sneaky preview shot of the ship in its
watery grave. The plan to raise the ship involves the use of experimental Navy
submarines, and the sequences devoted to the search are tightly directed and
payoff scenes work, too: The moment when the Titanic breaks the surface of the
water is really very moving. And so is the shot of the ship being towed into
New York Harbor. Some reviews of the film have criticized the special effects in
those shots, but I thought they were pretty good.
mean, of course they're using combinations of a smaller ship, scale models,
tricks of perspective and special optical effects-but what'd you expect? The
Titanic? If you're not prepared to go halfway with a movie named "Raise
the Titanic" you are possibly in the wrong movie to begin with.
I liked the stuff involving the ship. What I didn't like was the movie's
compulsion to lay on all sorts of "human interest," as if raising the
Titanic weren't enough. Why don't they just once make a thriller that's about
its premise from beginning to end? Why didn't they have the narrative
discipline to really go into the history of the Titanic, the odds on its still
being intact, the ways of salvaging it?
newspapers have been full of stories recently about an actual expedition to
find the Titanic, but this movie would rather blast us with a lot of hot air
involving (as I was just lamenting) The Girl and The Russians.
would hack screenwriters do without them? The Girl is the lovely Anne Archer,
who plays a reporter for the Washington Star. She's the girlfriend of one of
the guys behind the expedition. It turns out, of course, she is also the former
girlfriend of another guy on the expedition. This other guy's name is
priceless, even in the annals of pulp: "Dirk Pitt."
after The Russians discover the secret U.S. plans to raise the Titanic, they
leak the story to The Girl (for no apparent reason), and then she fights with
her boyfriend. So what?
Girl's completely unnecessary, as are all of her scenes, especially one in
which she and her boyfriend go fishing all the way out in the country, just so
a helicopter can immediately turn up with orders to take the guy back to town.
The Russians are also unnecessary, and so is the basic premise of the plot.
late Alfred Hitchcock had something he called "the MacGuffin," which
was whatever it was in a plot that everybody was concerned about. The MacGuffin
this time is a rare mineral that the U.S. needs in order to power an
impregnable laser defense system. The Russians want the mineral, too, and try
to capture the Titanic after it's raised.
of this is, of course, completely ludicrous. And the scenes of the Russians
standing around saying sinister things are terminally boring. Who needs this
weird mineral as an excuse to raise the Titanic? Wouldn't the salvage alone be
worth it? Or why couldn't they just raise it in the spirit of Edmund Hillary,
just because it is there?