Raise The Titanic! (1980) Movie Review

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Back in the late ’90s, I was obsessed with the Titanic, and the 1997 James Cameron movie featuring an actor who would go on to be a modern legend, was among the least of the sources that kept me interested (Although the ship looked good, and witnessing life drawing in action does have an effect on young boys).  I was more interested in the 1958 film ‘A Night To Remember’ (Still the best film about the Titanic, in my opinion), as well as numerous documentaries on VHS about the shipwreck, with theories about how it sunk (Keeping in mind, these theories have since been updated further), books full of photographs of the ship back then and in the late 90s (recovered items included)…and of course, the 1996 Point-And-Click PC Adventure game “Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time”, which I consider 1 of my greatest nostalgic childhood memories, and a game that used the plans of the sister ship The Olympic, as the basis of which the game’s world was build upon.  Before continuing with this, I will say it now – I haven’t seen the Titanic animated films outside of what Doug Walker has already ripped to shreds. Now…where does this film I’m going to talk about come into all of this?  Well, lets just say I remember seeing it as a VHS tape on display during that obsessed time, but I never had a chance to watch it…until now.  This is Raise The Titanic!

Set in modern day 1980 and based on a novel of the same name by Clive Cussier – our story revolves around a group of men (mostly CIA) searching for an extremely rare metal called byzanium (Think Captain America’s shield valuable), in order to fuel a new defence system code called “the Sicillian Project”, which uses laser technology that would destroy incoming nuclear missiles during an attack and therefore “make nuclear war obsolete”.  The CIA then find out that boxes of the metal was loaded onto the Titanic by an American.  With the aid of a Titanic survivor named John Bigalow (played by Alec Guinness in between Star Wars movies), they find out that the only way to get the byzanium is to actually raise the titanic from the ocean floor.  So they begin a search – but in their search they are not a alone, as the Russians have also made it their mission to seek the metal for themselves.

Now to break this film down into elements:

The acting, despite having the likes of Jason Robards and Alec Guinness, wasn’t great…it was okay.  I’ve seen worse from a lot of B-movies.  But when you consider who’s in it, it’s pretty disappointing.

The characters are mostly bland men in suits (American and Russian) with attempts at humanity here and there.  They’re mostly a humourless bunch designed to advance a plot that’s bigger than them, but it does little to show off the men as characters, and therefore if they all died, we wouldn’t care.

The cinematography is a combination of swooping shots from a helicopter, with some well composed moments when surrounded by sea and nature – but a majority of the character interaction scenes scream soap-opera.

The Set is very impressive, and when we consider that the appearance of the Titanic after it sank remained a mystery up to that point, they did a good job (at the time) presenting a floating shipwreck, as it was a really, really nicely made (But highly inaccurate) model.

The story…sucks.  The emphasis is less on the fact that this film’s title screams that this is a Titanic Otaku’s wet dream, and more on it being a Cold War story about 2 sides trying to recover a metal to help them in the war.  While it might make a good book – it made a terrible film, to the point that the author of the book, Clive Cussier, vowed to never let Hollywood make another film about his books ever again…until Sahara came out in 2005  (keeping in mind, Clive Cussier has actually found over 60 shipwrecks with his National Underwater & Marine Agency, including the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the Titanic Survivors!).  Nobody would be interested in the story, they just want to see the ship being raised.  30 minutes in, you’ll be yelling “get to the ship already!  Nobody cares about the rest of this crap!”  “Oh, but we’re building suspense – you can’t have dessert without your main meal”  “Sure, but the Titanic is a phenomenal character on it’s own, and of a similar aura in this film as those 40 minutes were Bruce Lee was actually in Game Of Death.”  If you wanted me to care, develop interesting characters that take up time on screen, and not use pawns to advance a story that wasn’t multi-layered enough to be interesting.  One the greatest crimes about this film is the same 1 that the Godfather 3 committed – it isn’t that watching the Titanic being raised from the ocean is a bad idea – the problem is that this film…is so…so…boring.

The Dialogue was dull.  I appreciate everything being said to advance the plot – but I wouldn’t mind some little Tarantino moments here and there or scenes that would break it up a little bit and let us get to know who these guys are.  There’s barely any humour in it outside of Alec Guinness’ scenes, but even then there isn’t much there.

The music is generic late ’70s/early ’80s drama music with the use of brass to convey emotion and suspense that the actors and the editing isn’t conveying too well.  In itself, it’s a decent sound, but it doesn’t rescue the movie.

In terms of historical accuracy…lets just say, I’ll judge them by what they knew.  Nobody knew what the Titanic’s wreck looked like in 1980, because it wouldn’t be seen again like an old friend on the ocean floor for another 5 years.  In the process, they wouldn’t have known that the ship broke in 2, and therefore any possibility of the ship being raised was somehow hopeful…up until that point.  But by the time Robert Ballard made his discovery, the dream was over.

Would I recommend Raise The Titanic?  Hell.  No.  As soon as the Titanic was discovered in real life, this film became as historically inaccurate as the likes of Escape From New York and the Terminator movies – but while EFNY and Terminator have their incredible enjoyment factors that surpass any speculation of the future that never happened – Raise The Titanic is about as enjoyable as watching grass grow.  Jason Robards, we enjoy your work, and we miss you, but for funk sake, what a train wreck this was.

Acting: *1/2

Characters: *1/2

Cinematography: ***3/4

Set/Production: ****3/4

Story: -**

Excitement/Interest: -***

Dialogue: -**

Music: ***3/4

Historical Accuracy: -*****

Overall: 1/4*


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