The critical knives were out long before James Cameron's "Titanic" was complete. Spiralling costs that led to it becoming the most expensive motion picture of the 20th Century, and a cast without any big stars seemed to doom the film before release. But box office and audience appreciation proved Cameron right and many critics wrong.
It's reckoned that the rivets were a key structural element that failed the doomed liner. But you could hardly condemn the whole ship as shoddy, or question its magnificence. The script for the movie is rather like those rivets. It's weak and riddled with poor dialogue. But despite its failings it's hard not to become swept up in the sheer grandeur of "Titanic".
Previous disaster epics like "The Poseidon Adventure" or "The Towering Inferno", used a layered structure of introducing many characters with separate stories that would interact towards the inevitable calamity. "Titanic" offers up only two central characters, with DiCaprio playing an impoverished artist, and Winslet the wealthy bride to be of the wonderfully demonic Billy Zane.
DiCaprio and Winslet fall for one another in some remarkably contrived scenes, but their inevitable fate is nevertheless very touching. Surrounding them is the opulence of a movie that is technically excellent. The sinking of the great ship is no secret, yet for many exceeded expectations in sheer scale and tragedy. And when you consider that it tops a bum-numbing three-hour running time, then you have a truly impressive feat of entertainment achieved by Cameron.