To begin this review, let’s get one thing straight: despite the misleading name, Titanic II is not an official sequel to James Cameron’s big-budget retelling of the Titanic disaster. Nevertheless, a film entitled Titanic II is sure to seem like a bad joke, even after watching the official trailer or spying the DVD cover at a local shop. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, to learn that the film was funded by The Asylum; a studio renowned for such “mockbusters” as Snakes on a Train, The Day The Earth Stopped and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. To the credit of the folks over at The Asylum, though, they’ve come a long way since their early features which were seemingly produced on ten-dollar budgets and Titanic II is a noted improvement over prior efforts — it contains a few moments of genuine humor, a modicum of effective tension, a few special effects shots that are kind of convincing, and a few almost-decent actors. By Asylum standards, it’s not too bad; by regular film standards, however, it’s pretty lackluster.
Set on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic (in 2012, in other words), the film begins with the launching of the USS Titanic II as it embarks on its maiden voyage to New York. Despite looking exactly like the original Titanic, it is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and an ultra-modern interior (including an area that looks remarkably like the inside of a mall). During the ship’s travelling journey, a veteran Coast Guard captain (Davidson) and the world’s hottest iceberg scientist (Burns) discover that glaciers in Greenland are breaking off at an alarming rate due to global warming, causing large tsunamis across the Atlantic Ocean. Problem is, the tsunamis are carrying icebergs with them. Soon enough, an iceberg is hurled at the USS Titanic II, causing history to repeat itself.
Titanic II is riddled with disaster movie clichés — there’s an estranged couple who find each other again, a corporate tycoon who brags about the ship’s invulnerability, the lone voice who expresses concern about the ship’s rushed construction, an asshole minor character we’re supposed to hate, and even a message regarding the consequences of global warming. The film is frequently predictable, too, and the dialogue is basic. With that said, though, the dialogue is at least serviceable rather than cringe-worthily terrible.
The filmmakers at The Asylum (chief supplier of movies for the Sci-Fi Channel) trim all the expensive extravagances that drive up the cost of productions (like sets) and employ a great deal of substandard CGI. Titanic II is no exception. While the movie admittedly looks more professional than most Asylum productions, the filmmaking is nonetheless second-rate. Due to its low-budget origins, the scope of the film is restricted, and thus it is unable to convey the scale of the disaster. This is exemplified in the notable lack of extras. Plus, the extras playing the first class passengers look like random tourists recruited from the lines outside of Universal Studios or SeaWorld. The CGI, unsurprisingly, is usually slipshod (with a few exceptions) — some CGI sequences are badly-lit (see the iceberg collision), and no passengers are on the decks in full shots of the ship. Also laughable is that the CGI rendering of the USS Titanic II looks identical to its 1912 predecessor, whereas the Queen Mary — which was a filming location and doubles for the ship in a number of establishing shots — looks completely different to the CGI ship.
Since writer-director Shane Van Dyke (Dick Van Dyke’s son) focused on the disaster aspects of the movie more than anything else, the characters are boring, leaving us with nobody to care about. Thus, Titanic II lacks an emotional punch. Also problematic in this respect is the scope of the project, as previously mentioned. We see barely any people in serious peril or being killed. Since no sets of the deck were constructed, there are just a few fleeting shots of people rolling around on the decks of the Queen Mary while the cameraman suffers a fucking epileptic attack. Loose ends abound, too. For instance, after the lifeboats are dispatched, a character states that the lifeboats are death traps. Yet, the lifeboats are never seen again and it remains a mystery as to whether those onboard the lifeboats died or were rescued. More crucially, the tsunamis would have devastating implications for the Eastern seaboard of the United States, yet the film is only concerned with the passengers onboard the ship.
After all the criticisms heaped onto Titanic II, it’s important to point out that the movie is not that bad. A main strength is the cast, some of whom are actually decent. Without being Oscar-worthy, writer-director Shane Van Dyke is surprisingly convincing as rich playboy Hayden Walsh who designed the ship. Also worth mentioning is Bruce Davison who seems very comfortable in his role as the worried father and veteran Coast Guard captain. Davison possesses genuine charisma, and his line delivery is frequently spot-on. Cast aside, the soundtrack is pretty decent as well, and at times the movie is somewhat compelling. That said, there are boring patches as well. All things considered, Titanic II is a mixed bag — it’s better than one might expect, but not as good as one might hope.
May 24, 2011 @ 6:51 pm Mariusz Zubrowski
Titanic II is one of those movies that you see on Netflix and just can’t help but watch. Doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good though. This is an entertaining (and informative) review. Good job Cal.