I am a long-time Titanic buff and student of the ship and her people. Camron's "Titanic" is the best when it comes to realistic, accurate sets, running a bit ahead of "A Night to Remember".
When it comes to storyline, the story is, at best, adolescent and at worst completely unreflective of the era in which the film is supposed to take place. This is an Edwardian luxury liner, people, not a Carnival cruse ship! Wealthy--or even shabbily-genteel--people wouldn't have been caught dead mixing with the Third-Class (aka "steerage"). It simply wasn't the "done thing". Even the rescue ship sorted out survivors into classes:First, Second, Third, officers, and crew.
Rose is basically, a brat. She's never known real hardship, having lived a life of luxury and ease. If you want a movie to have a heroine, at least make her likeable! Even in old age, she is self-absorbed, throwing away a diamond that could have left her beloved granddaughter comfortable for life. I mean, it's not like either the Hockleys or the insurance company are likely to come after Lizzie for it! Nope, Rose goes out to the fantail of the rescue ship and tosses as literal fortune overboard. Is this supposed to be a manifestation of "throwing it all away for love"? Because it comes off as completely selfish to me. But that's Rose--self-absorbed and selfish. As the story unfolds, she has no thought for her mother, who is trying to survive the only way she knows how. It wouldn't have been particularly noble, then or now, but still, there is no appreciation for what will happen to her mother should the upcoming nuptials fall apart. Given that this is Edwardian/Gilded Age society, it wouldn't be at all pretty. All Rose can do is to pout and try to commit suicide. Oh, and then cheat on her fiancé.
Jack is only slightly less likeable than Rose. He lives only living for the moment and wants what he wants, when he wants it, so basically self-absorbed and selfish. Had Rose and he actually left the Titanic together at New York, I suspect the relationship would have fallen apart. As a love interest, he simply isn't believable. First he looks way too young for his age, but I'll give Cameron that point since many relationships thrive despite a difference in age. However, given the vast differences in class and social standing, his boffing her in the back seat of a Renault--well, that plotline is for adolescents (IMO). Now, had Cameron made Jack a wealthy Bohemian in First Class that could have possibly worked. But steerage and First Class? Ummmm, no. Many people alive today simply do not understand how much class (either monetary or inherited) meant in that era. Furthermore, there was the divide between "old money" (represented by Cal, Rose and her mother) and "new money" (represented by Margaret "Molly" Brown, whose actual nickname was Maggie, not Molly). This divide certainly still existed in my childhood a good six decades ago.
The relationship that actually worked (had Ruth been younger) was that of Cal and Ruth. They actually have some chemistry together--and they understand one another. They are also class allies. I've watched "Titanic" at least a couple hundred times and seeing Cal and Ruth together, I can only think:Cal should marry Ruth. Both roles are played well by Billy Zane and Frances Fisher and reflect the social snobbery/social separation of rich and poor of the era.
Both Leo and Kate are very decent actors and I've liked them in several of their separate films. But even good acting (and they were good in their roles) can't save an adolescent, unbelievable storyline--at least for anyone with knowledge of the real ship and her passengers and crew or the Edwardian Era/Gilded Age.
There are so many real stories from the doomed liner that could have been portrayed to good effect--and should have been. Many of the Titanic's real passengers had interesting lives, along with hopes and dreams, unlike Jack and Rose.That is why I find "A Night to Remember" so much better than Cameron's "Titanic". Frankly, if Jack and Rose had both gone down with the Titanic, I couldn't have cared less and still can't. Contrast the endings of both films. "Cameron's Titanic"? Rose and Jack get to sail on forever together. "A Night to Remember"? Suffice it to say, the ending has a power that still shines through, even after more than six decades.
The sets are very accurate, which is one of the reasons I have enjoyed watching "Titanic" all two hundred-plus times. This is as close to the actual Titanic as we are ever likely to get. Cameron really did his homework here--and it shows. I felt like I was back aboard the Lady Herself while watching the film. That was a BIG plus for me. Also, the special effects are very decent for the time in which it was filmed.
So, I give it five stars for set accuracy and special effects, but only a one-star for storyline, for an average of three stars.