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The original four-part miniseries written by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park) marking the Titanic’s 100th Anniversary.
Brought to life by a stellar, award-winning ensemble cast, this extraordinary re-telling of the doomed voyage reveals a world built upon class distinction – headed towards destruction as surely as Titanic towards the iceberg. From the aristocratic elite to the officers, crew, second class and steerage passengers, TITANIC follows the destinies of both victims and survivors as their stories of passion, betrayal and hope unfold amidst the tragic events of that fateful evening.
INCLUDES 2 HOURS OF BONUS MATERIAL:
Six Making-of Featurettes, Titanic: Behind-the-Production, “The Curse of the Titanic Sisters” Documentary
Episode One Audio Commentary with writer Julian Fellowes, producer Nigel Stafford-Clark and director Jon Jones
Everyone knows how a story about the Titanic is going to turn out, thanks to James Cameron (and, hopefully, their history teachers). But Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote this new miniseries, considers that an advantage. "You don't have to get into a whiz about giving away the ending," says Fellowes, who has been interested in the story since he saw 1958's A Night to Remember as a boy. Each hour of the four-part miniseries spotlights different members of the ensemble cast (which includes Linus Roache, Toby Jones, and Josephine de la Baume) as they face disaster and scramble to escape the doomed vessel. "You think, 'Would I have panicked?'" says Fellowes. "''Would I have been brave?' That appealed to me." —Sara Vilkomerson, Entertainment Weekly
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My problem with this production gravitated around issues such as continuity, character development, and something that is virtually insurmountable --- the legend of the Titanic itself.
I think it is difficult to play around with anything that has its basis in fact because too much has been written about the Titanic. While the subject is being overworked right now due to the centennial of the disaster, the event has been in the public eye for decades and got a new life when the wreckage was located and explored 26 years ago. Traveling Titanic shows, books, documentaries, and James Cameron's films have stoked public interest and has provided at the very least a common perception of what occured on April 14-15, 1912.
This production attempts to mimic the formula that has made Downton Abbey a phenomena. Julian Fellowes has written a screenplay that mixes real people and events with fictional characters that represent all classes of people present on the ship and creates multiple personal storylines for his ficticious characters. The problem I had with this is a mini series of less than four hours doesn't allow the viewer to get invested in the characters and their stories as well as an epic disaster. This production also hops all over the Titanic roadmap, bouncing between multiple narratives and the actual sinking. I even think some scenes (or at least parts of scenes) are reused throughout the story. I found myself flipping between flooding corridors and lifeboats being loaded and scenes that had to have occurred earlier. It tends to be somewhat confusing, though I concede that when I viewed it a second time without commercials it did make more sense.
There were some areas where this story managed to remain true to the original event. There was the feistyness of Mrs. Margaret Brown, the model/actress Dorothy Gibson flightiness, the wealthy Philadelphia Wideners private dinner on the night of the sinking, Benjamin Guggenheim was traveling with his mistress, officers Murdoch and Lightoller were accurately portrayed as they were involved loading the lifeboats. All of this added a sense of authenticity to this production which is focused on a fictional study of a class system. The Titanic is an excellent metaphor for the class system that was in place at the time and ultimately resulted in the overwhelming number of third class passengers that died. However, I really didn't get the way Captain Smith was portrayed. He came off as a pompous incompetent and seemed to be jockeying for the mantle of ultimate villain with J. Bruce Ismay. This is obviously a dramatic conceit to place blame on someone for the disaster, but I am not sure it worked or was even necessary. Titanic sank because there was a convergence of many isolated events/flaws that came together to create the ultimate disaster. Really isn't that dramatic enough? Something that wasn't supposed to happen did.
In retrospect, I think the thing that sunk this production was the lack of time to develop the characters properly, the choppy editing which really lost me for the most part, and the endless commercial breaks. It was really difficult to feel invested in the fictional characters. The only plot that was simple enough to work was a romance between a maid and an Italian waiter. It was simple and direct so it worked.
The dvd release should be better ---- no commercials, but I think more would have to be done to pull this story together. What works so well with Downton Abbey doesn't seem to work in this instance. Time wasn't on the Titanic's side and the same is true regarding this screenplay. It was far to ambitious given the amount of air time this project was given. There were far too many ficticious characters and far too many story threads to present the rarified world of Titanic given its frenetic pace.