The main problem with the Titanic mini-series is that at almost every turn you expect Leonardo DiCaprio to pop up. The film, made 15 years ago, is still too fresh and there’s the overwhelming sense that everyone involved in this project knows that. I imagine that were it not for the centenary, there’s no way this would have gone ahead.
That said, the series, created by Julian “Downton” Fellowes, is passably enjoyable. It’s got all the social mores, sneering contempt and ludicrous hats you would expect in a series set in 1912. The set, if not quite as majestic as James Cameron’s creation, is vast and impressive. The acting is fantastic, the characters interesting and, if not sympathetic, engaging.
But it’s not a triumph. For one, there are too many characters; maids who look alike, imperious women distinguishable only by accent. Perhaps that will resolve itself by episode two, when we meet the cast again and view events from another perspective, but it’s not a good omen for a series if the main characters aren’t instantly recognisable an hour in.
The biggest problem, though, is that we know this story and we know it won’t end well. We are all too familiar with “women and children only”, a flawed design of a ship and empty lifeboats sailing away because of social snobbery. We know that the men in steerage, and the crew, stand almost no chance of survival; likewise, it’s no surprise no see the violinists stoically playing on or the men taking the tragedy like gentlemen, with a stiff upper lip.
I probably will watch on, but this won’t be a memorable series and it won’t usurp Jack and Rose from their places at the helm. The dialogue is crisp, the relationships intriguing, but in the end, this is a story we don’t need to watch unfold on screen again – at least, not without a radically different approach. And this doesn’t give it one.