On the legacy of Titanic: “It’s like nobody admits they went to see Titanic, like it was something you did when you were a kid that you’re not too proud of now, like wearing bell-bottoms.”I didn’t expect to follow up my last blog post about Avatar, but after I saw the film (and especially now as the movie is set to take over the top all-time box office spot, and in light of the recent announcement of Oscar nominations), I immediately thought back to the above quote, and it made me think that Avatar really is the next Titanic, yes because of the box office records and the awards, but more relevantly, because its eventual irrelevance is assured.
Despite Cameron’s penchant for over-portraying himself as the maligned underdog genius of Hollywood, what he says about his last mega-movie is not really an exaggeration. Think back. You know you saw Titanic, and you probably liked it. Maybe you even remember it fondly. But ask yourself: Who shows Titanic at movie night? Who names their beagles Jack and Rose? Who rocks “My Heart Will Go On” at the karaoke bar (disregarding the fact that you probably know all the words)? Maybe it’s not because you’re ashamed of having liked the movie then, but because you have so little concern for it now.
Until the hype machine started hammering Avatar into the collective consciousness, most people probably hadn’t thought of Titanic in over a decade. Sadly, the release of Avatar triggered as many memories of Dances with Wolves and even Ferngully as it did Titanic. And the interest wasn’t regarding whether Avatar would be as good a movie as Titanic, but whether it would make as much . . . what’s the word . . . cheddar?
Titanic was a whale at the box office, approved by critics, glazed with awards, and yet in the end, it was just a movie, and not even a particularly great one. It certainly didn’t become a cultural reference point, not even by movie standards, and neither will Avatar. And exactly what high horse am I riding, you ask? Well, just off the top of my head:
- “May the Force be with you.”
- “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
- “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” (pilfered, like so many other things, by Avatar)
- “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
- “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
- “So, you find yourself some local tail, and you just completely forget what team you're playin' for?”
As a side note, I’ve railed against the Oscars (and praised James Cameron) in the past, and it’s not worth giving that freak show of upturned noses and meager intellects any more breath than it deserves. I’ll just say that anyone with a hankering for an effects-laden sci-fi spectacle starring Zoe Saldana would do well to reach not for Avatar, but Star Trek, thank you very much!