Shiori Darkship and the Revival Fires

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Titanic: The Legend Lives On
Eternal Sunshine: ___littlehope
The largest resource of public domain narratives is real life: every day, the news provides at least one compelling narrative with the added spice of truth. It’s understandable that these attract the attention of film-makers. Hence Hollywood, often with one eye on the Oscars, focuses on biopics (‘Ray’, ‘Ali’) or ostensibly-fictional movies based on a true story. If there’s a unique wrinkle or, even better, if it touched a public nerve, adaptation seems almost inevitable. Yet fictionalising real-life events is also the quickest route to litigation: even films that spent years in production, like ‘Titanic’ or ‘U-571’, were full of historical inaccuracies to which the filmmakers were forced to admit in the face of furious families.

You would imagine, then, that filmmakers too inept to depict a real-life event with accuracy and sensitivity would shy away from doing so. As the inexplicable ‘Titanic: The Legend Goes On’ shows, however, this isn’t the case. An Italian animation targeted at children, the film’s lack of respect borders on iconoclasm: the audience are treated like imbeciles; the ship’s crew are treated as villains; historical accuracy is shat on. The sort of film whose destiny is traditionally Poundland, its notoriety is due to IMDB, where it’s currently #1 of the Bottom 100. But how bad is it?

The film opens with stock film of a sunset over a sea, while backwards synth-strings churn atonally. The atonal MIDI soundtrack, jerky animation and poor lip-sync give the movie a disconcerting feel at times, like an episode of ‘Jam’. We’re then exposed to a series of apparently arbitrary sequences, reminiscent of ‘The Room’, or perhaps the bit in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ where Alex is forced to watch a montage of upsetting incidents. A girl (the unsubtlely-named Angelica) is being oppressed into servitude by her wicked stepmother and witchy stepsisters. A London detective is on the trail of jewel thieves. A French dastard called Gaston pilfers a necklace from Angelica to impress a boobulent singer. A gang of talking mice stow away on the ship. Yeah, there’s comedy talking mice in this film.

You may find that some of these plotlines remind you of other, more successful, animated movies and, indeed, the animation is suspiciously similar too; as if both drawing and script have been shamelessly traced over. The mice are straight out of from ‘An American Tail’. There are two familiar-looking Dalmatians. Other characters are obviously copies of characters from ‘Lady and the Tramp’, ‘The Rats of NIMH’, ‘Cinderella’ and elsewhere. It’s probable that the plagiarised characters are intended to strike a chord of familiarity with the kiddy audience, but it’s a short-cut too obvious to impress even the densest child. The discrepancy in copied animation styles is jarring, too: one minute, you’re looking at grotesque caricatures, the next minute, an attempt at intricate realism.

So much happens in the first half hour that it’s impossible to keep up: there’s about ten plotlines, some of which are identical (there’s two greedy villainesses, for example). Maybe the director wanted to emphasise the scale of the ship with so many storylines, and this might work if the film was three times as long. Here, though, everything is rushed: it feels like channel-hopping, except every channel’s showing lousy cartoons. There’s also this:

Eventually, a dominant plotline starts to emerge from the primordial ooze: a love story involving Angelica and William, a posh Englishman (presumably an unsubtle reference to our future King). They’ve barely brushed hands in a corridor before they’re regaling their mates about true love and smooching on a deck planning a life together, soundtracked by a sub-Celine dirge. Wind your necks in, guys! It’s only a holiday romance!

By this point, I’d never looked forward to a massive maritime disaster so much. Amazingly, the mice (and the Kia-Ora crow) still have time to engage in Looney Tunes-esque capers with the ship’s chef and break into the bosomy singer’s room, reclaim the pilfered necklace (remember the necklace?) and return it to Angelica before ship finally meets iceberg, 41 minutes into the movie. To subtly emphasise the atmosphere of disaster, the standard of animation completely disintegrates. Two of the female extras run on the spot like the birds from ‘Birdemic’, while the same sound clip plays over and over again: “you can’t go up there. Don’t make me resort to violence. You can’t go up there. Don’t make me resort to violence. Don’t make me resort to violence.”

Then everyone ploughs onto lifeboats, accompanied by jaunty pratfalls and slide whistles, of course, despite the fact that people are escaping a disaster in which 1,517 people died. The First Officer, meanwhile, ungraciously refuses to allow anybody drowning in the sea to climb onto the lifeboat in a scene that should interest his descendants’ lawyers. The second officer, meanwhile, looks like Hitler but still manages to be less of a jerk than the First Officer.

It won’t be too much of a surprise to learn that, for this overstuffed movie, even escaping a sinking ship isn’t quite action-packed enough. There’s still enough time for Angelica to save William and improbably reunite with the mother she never knew, who just happens to be on the same lifeboat as her. In a short epilogue we learn that all of the main characters in the film have survived. Because it’s a kids’ movie, right? The film ominously ends – FIFTY-NINE MINUTES INTO THE MOVIE - with a kid saying “See you soon!”: a ending as terrifying as that of ‘The Blair Witch Project’. There’s then 13 minutes of credits, elongated purely so that the film meets the minimum feature film length. The film is almost a study in Einsteinian relativity: watching this, 59 minutes feels like four years. ‘Goes On’ has never seemed more appropriate.

Like the ship, ‘Titanic: The Legend Goes On’ is poorly constructed and is a massive disaster with few survivors. It has had no DVD release, but is happily available on YouTube (search for ‘Titanic: The Animated Movie’). There's also another, unrelated, Italian Titanic movie with talking mice, which features an octopus dragging the ship to safety. Watch at your peril.

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I edited it out of the review, but I did have an opening about how while stealing people's characters was bad enough, at least you're only upsetting a fanbase, whereas when you steal from real life, you're upsetting families and survivors. One review of this film floats the theory that the director didn't know that the Titanic was real (both Italian cartoon films have the word 'Legend' in the title) and certainly the inability to give a fuck about what actually happened is one of its many, many problems.

As you'll have noted from that clip, though, you barely have time to think about how inaccurate it is, given the hyperactive parade of never-ending bullshit, blatant plagiarism and piss-poor animation. Even if it eschewed the Titanic name and called itself 'Gigantoboat: The Legend', it would be the worst film ever.

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