Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Titanic (2012)

No, I don't mean the 1997 movie that was recently re-released in 3D starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The Titanic I'm referring to is the 2012 miniseries written by Julian Fellowes, known for creating Downton Abbey. I found out about this miniseries some time ago before it was released in America. I was interested in it since Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay. I didn't know all that much about the Titanic (other than it sank after it struck an iceberg) and I had heard that the 1997 movie Titanic was not as accurate as it could have been. But I had heard that Julian Fellowes pays close attention to period correctness (though, we must allow, that some artistic license must have been taken), so I thought I would give this miniseries a try after finding it on Netflix.

Box Art
Told in a nonlinear format, this miniseries follows the finishing touches that were put on the Titanic towards the end of it's construction, the boarding of its passengers (some wanting to take a trip to America, others searching for a better life), and the fateful night that it struck an iceberg and sunk. Multiple subplots are followed including the voyage of Lord and Lady Manton and their daughter Georgiana Grex, the Batleys (a middle class couple) and the Maloneys (an Irish family seeking a better life in America).

There are only a couple of actors that I recognized. Perdita Week (Lady Georgiana Grex) was also in Lost in Austen and the latest version of Great Expectations. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Muriel Batley) was also in Series 2 of Downton Abbey. Stephen Cambell Moore (Thomas Andrews) can be seen in He Knew He Was Right and Amazing Grace. Toby Jones (John Batley) can be seen in The Way We Live Now and Amazing Grace. Peter Wight (Joseph Rushton) can be seen in a couple of episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford and in the 2007 version of Persuasion. Celia Imrie (Grace Rushton) can also be seen in Daniel Deronda. Sylvestra Le Touzel (Lady Duff Gordon) can be seen in Northanger Abbey, the 80s Mansfield Park, and Amazing Grace. Timothy West (Lord Pirrie) can also be seen in Bleak House (2005)

Georgiana Grex and Lady and Lord Manton
Titanic does not follow a linear story line, but it isn't told in flashbacks either. At the start of episodes 1-3 is the start of the entire story line (so the Titanic is on land and it's either having the finishing touches put on it or people are boarding it). Each of those episodes ends with the Titanic beginning to sink and a cliffhanger. Episode 4 begins while everyone is on the Titanic, but before it struck the iceberg. Essentially, the Titanic sinks four times in this miniseries. This method didn't stop me from following the story line, but I must admit I was confused watching the first episode (I think my thought was, "Wait, it's sinking already?!"), but luckily episodes 2-4 weren't all about the sinking (which is a good thing because it might have been too much if episodes 2-4 were about the sinking; it's good that they broke it up a little bit).

Titanic follows a couple of different stories of the passengers of the Titanic. Because of this, we get a sense of what First Class, Second Class, Steerage, and staff accommodations were like (or possibly like) on the Titanic. The story of the earl and countess of Manton and their suffragette daughter, Georgiana Grex, give us a sense of what first class was like. Much like on land, ladies dressed up to go to dinner (except on the first night at sea), and they had very nice rooms that were of pretty good size. They also had very nice food to eat and everything was mostly quiet in the background for them while they were on board. The story of John and Muriel Batley showed what second class was like. I had the impression that the second class passengers didn't have much room, but they had more room than those in steerage. The Batleys were always polite to the Grexes, though Muriel Batley disliked Lady Manton almost instantly; other than that, their experience was similar to the first class experience. To show what steerage was like, we follow the Maloneys, an Irish family going to America for a better life. Their room was very cramped (and a little bit of deceit on Mr. Maloney's part got them in a room where they could be all together), but it was livable (which, from what I've read, was unlike most other passenger ships at the time for steerage). The staff was also followed to show what their accommodations were like (some had better accommodations than others); ladies maids had nicer rooms, for example, than the men shoveling coal into the engine.

Though, I must admit, I was a little disappointed that Julian Fellowes didn't have a Patrick Crawley on board the Titanic... *End of Downton Abbey Reference*

Muriel and John Batley during the sinking of the Titanic.
The Titanic's construction was focused on in the beginning of this miniseries. We get to see Mr. Maloney working on the electrical system on the Titanic and that it was complicated (apparently, there were separate electrical systems on board so if one failed the whole ship wouldn't lose electricity). We also get to see Thomas Andrews talking to his uncle, Lord Pirrie, about how the people building the Titanic were cutting corners during construction and how they wouldn't need as many lifeboats as, it turned out, they needed. We also hear various characters saying that the Titanic will never sink *face palm* and how it was the most impressive boat ever built. And the politics during the construction of the Titanic (the unrest going on in Ireland at the time) were also gotten into, but only a little bit.

Now, the part that we know happens with the Titanic -- the sinking. Most of the miniseries revolves around the sinking of the Titanic (and, again, thankfully it was broken up a bit with the nonlinear storytelling). This is the most heart wrenching part of the miniseries. Constantly, you get the feeling like "I hope it doesn't sink" or "I hope everyone will get off okay" even though you know it won't be so. I won't give away the endings, but let's just say you might be surprised who survives and who doesn't.

Mrs. Maloney leading her children to safety.
The Titanic itself on the inside was very lavish for the first and second class passengers and not as nice for the steerage passengers. Now, I had the impression that any outer pictures of the Titanic either docked or on the sea were computer generated (not that I was expecting the set to be a complete copy of the Titanic, but you could tell that there were whole scenes that were computer generated). But the CG graphics were well done and looked nice. Few shots were on land at the beginning of each episode (except 4).

Paolo Sandrini and Annie Desmond,
two members of the staff aboard the
Great costumes! Ever since watching Downton Abbey, I have been in love with the early 1910s fashion era, and this was the perfect opportunity to see more 1910s fashion. The first and second class passengers have some very nice clothes (some of which were also seen on Downton Abbey). Steerage didn't have as nice of clothes, but their costumes were still good. The staff also had on uniforms the entire miniseries.

Overall: 4/5
It's not the happiest miniseries and I knew how it was going to end (history will tell you that the Titanic sunk), but I was very much concerned with the well fare of many of the characters. There are complaints out on the internet that some of the storylines were abandoned or never finished, but that didn't really bother me too much (I just assume that if a character didn't show up at the end that they must have died -- I think that's the impression you're supposed to get). If you don't know much about the Titanic, I would say check out this miniseries. It might not be 100% accurate (what biopic is?), but the impression I got from it seems to be accurate.

Titanic would be rated about TV-PG. There is some talk of scandal and a scene that might want to be skipped over (not graphic, but might cause some blushing). There is violence (especially the first scene of Episode 3: it's a bit bloody). People do die since most of the people on the Titanic died. There might be some bad language here and there, but nothing too awful.

Titanic is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It is rated TV-PG and runs at 190 minutes (four 50 minute episodes).


  1. Random question--did they have the musicians playing "Nearer My God To Thee" while the Titanic was sinking? That song is so beautiful, and I love that bit of history; it would be a shame if they didn't include that.

    1. They did have the musicians during the sinking, but I don't think they were playing "Nearer My God To Thee" (never actually heard the song; I'll have to check YouTube). While the Grexes were running to a lifeboat, Lady Georgiana stops to listen to the musicians and makes a song request that was a dance song and then runs to the lifeboat, but that was the only time I saw the musicians.

  2. Thanks for the review Miss Elizabeth! I grew up being fascinated with the Titanic, and really want to see this series.

  3. Haha, I had the same thought as you at the end of the first episode! It was certainly a good series though, and I enjoyed it a great deal more than the 1997 Titanic movie. If you're interested in seeing another good version of the Titanic story, check out A Night to Remember. It's an old one from the 50s, but it's quite true to history, I believe, and definitely a good movie! You'd recognize some of the same characters from this miniseries.(:



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