Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TV Review: Titanic Blood and Steel

I have a weird relationship with Titanic the 1996 movie. Now a days I tend to escew overblown melodramatic movies but those are the types of movies my parents really dig. So when I was younger the "epic" is what I had on VHS. Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Gladiator.

 My brain doesn't like them because the film wants to engage in the type of spectacle and storytelling that demands foreshadowing and melodrama. All the same I liked Titanic. My late music teacher really dug the movie and taught the class how to sing and for some of the kids how to play "My Heart Will Go On".

As an experience yeah it was pretty good, but as narrative it ran on the type of melodrama that I would smack down anywhere else. As much as want to give my wag of the finger the movie works. It movie was created to do that sort of thing as James Cameron's return to form and succeeds if I can get into a head space to enjoy it which yeah I can. It may not be my default head space but with a little work I can get there.

All the same it's kind of hard to take the movie seriously when you know a lot of the emotional ratcheting isn't because of narrative necessity but to grip the audience in a little deeper and put them through the ringer.

This version of the ill fated voyage makes a decision early on that separates it from the 1997 version. The thing that wows audiences in the 1997 version and most versions is the spectacle of watching the sinking ship.  Nobody is watching the movie to watch Roses fiance make digs at Jack.

The series isn't really about the sinking of the Titanic, but rather the environment and people around which it was made. The boat it self if a physical symbol of the age and the hopes of the people living in that age and the knowledge of it's crash looms over the audience. No matter how hard these guys work, how much they sweat, or how good things look in the moment we know how the story ends.

And that's the overall point of it all, to show the endeavor as being more than just it's ending.

Look I am and always will be a sucker for stories about engineers. Blah blah blah, path not taken and all. I still really dig science and the application thereof to practical problems and there is a lot of science in this show as the protagonist Mark Muir who partners with real life based drafting manager Thomas Andrews to design the ship..

Look I'll be honest I failed out of engineering school but really still do get a kick out of tolerances, materials choices, and spreadsheets. God how I love a good spreadsheet. Also I like hearing the pull between "We could do this really awesome thing," "We have a duty to do this as a bare minimum" and "It would cost a fortune" articulated.  What generally separates an engineer from a pure scientist is that engineers have to aware of the practicality of implementing ideas meaning they have to know when the cost doing something outweighs it's practical benefit and or the budget. The pull between the scientist, the builder and the accountant. GIVE THE ROADS MORE MONEY, DAMN IT!!!!!! And for the love of god don't patch the bad roads at the expense of maintaining the good ones, or we'll be right back here in another 3 years. If I hear that line about getting to the worst one more time my head will explode!

Sorry what was I saying. Right the Titanic is a physical manifestation of the hopes and dreams of all the characters representing all of their work. The story mostly follows Mark Muir but also other characters. To the a lot workers and foremen the ship is just as much their baby giving them an opportunity to show the managers just how necessary they are in the social order. Ship don't get built without them.

This is a show that's trying depict the environment in which the ship was made so it continuously deals with big ideas. Manufacturing, science, economics, feminism, class, law, politics and trying to show how all of those impacted the building of the ship.

And its inevitable failure.

You see the compromises and why they were made. That's mostly what Mark's role is to guide the audience into understanding the science of it all, the manufacturing process from ingots to rivets and plating while Andrews does the hemming and hawing over whether or not he can sell it all to the board sometimes succeeding sometimes not.

To that end the show has a really strong supporting cast.

But what makes it is the ending. Like I said one of Mark's role for most of the show has been explaining how the structural failure of the ship happened and sounding an alarm to anyone who would listen during it's construction. Not all of his suggestions were listened listened to but enough were that it feels like the show earned the right to rewrite history a little. This created a narrative problem. The last episode feels like it's trying a little too hard to remind the audience that yes despite everything that happened in 11 episodes prior the boat did sink as it tries to undo all the decisions made by Andrews and Muir. But the show has the sheer balls not to end on the sinking of the ship leaving it ambiguous and up to the audience. Did THIS Titanic sink? I dunno.

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