Let’s pretend, for a moment, that we’ve somehow clicked on “Titanic II” believing that it’s the official sequel to James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster. It’s possible that someone could have made a sequel to one of the highest-grossing movies ever made without us hearing about it – we’re busy people, after all. It’s also possible that we could have missed the movie’s original theatrical run and any of the marketing blitz that surely would have preceded it completely. Again, we have better things to do than keep tabs on every movie Hollywood has in the hopper. However, I can’t imagine that there’s anyone out there with so much free time that they would choose to watch more than a few minutes of “Titanic II,” aside from myself, of course.
“Titanic II” is not named because it continues the story of Jack and Rose from Cameron’s “Titanic,” just to get that out of the way. No, there’s a massive cruise ship named “Titanic II,” built by a rich guy named Hayden. Hayden, like Bruce Wayne or Scrooge McDuck, is a professional billionaire – his job is having a lot of money and using it on things that movies can be made about. The Titanic II is about to set sail on its maiden voyage from New York to England, and one of the ship’s medical staff (one of only two medical personnel onboard, it seems) is Hayden’s ex, Amy. They exchange pensive looks as they meet near the gangplank, so right away we know they still have “feelings” for each other.
Meanwhile, Amy’s father is a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, and he’s called away to Greenland to monitor a glacier that is on the verge of breaking away due to global warming. Wouldn’t you know it, the darn thing breaks off while he’s inspecting it, and now there’s a tsunami and a giant iceberg bearing down on the Titanic II.
Things proceed pretty much as you would expect from there. The ship’s “unsinkable” construction is put to the test and fails miserably as thousands of tons of ice and seawater slam into it. The passengers and crew scramble to the lifeboats, only to find themselves at the mercy of the elements. Hayden and Amy reconnect in the chaos, and Hayden sacrifices himself to save Amy’s life. Amy is rescued by her father’s helicopter, and that’s it.
According to Wikipedia, “Titanic II” had a budget of approximately half a million dollars. To give you some sense of scale, if you had the budget of Cameron’s “Titanic,” you could make “Titanic II” about 400 times. The movie’s tiny budget is painfully obvious. The launching ceremony for the world’s largest cruise ship consists of a few dozen people in folding chairs sitting underneath the type of decorations that normally adorn used car lots. The ship’s main dining hall looks to be a Holiday Inn conference room with some Christmas lights thrown around with a tiny plastic banner that just says, “Titanic.” The movie looks more convincing when it’s on the ship’s deck, and that’s only because some of it was shot on the RMS Queen Mary, a decommissioned luxury liner that’s currently moored outside of Long Beach, Calif. The Queen Mary was launched in 1934, however, so it’s never going to live up to the hype of being a miracle of modern engineering, like the movie holds it up as. That’s not really fair to the ship, at all.
“Titanic II” goes through the motions of being a community-theater, public-domain reworking of “Titanic” that it gives the mind ample opportunity to wander. Even at a short 90 minutes, you have lots of time to wonder about why everyone on the maiden voyage of this multi-billion-dollar cruise ship looks so dumpy. I’m not trying to slight the poor extras who were charged with making the ship look populated, but there are a lot of people walking around this supposedly luxurious ocean liner in sweatshirts and cargo shorts. Even the captain looks like he found his suit on sale at Kohl’s – the jacket is too big and his hat doesn’t fit properly.
Class conflict was a major part of the storyline for “Titanic,” so maybe “Titanic II” is trying to say something about the middle class? Leonard DiCaprio was a poor ragamuffin and Kate Winslet was a pampered rich girl, and that was a big source of tension in their romance. But in “Titanic II” there don’t appear to be any distinctions between the passengers. Even Hayden is dressed like some dude attending a wedding at the Ramada Inn, and his arm candy ladies are dressed like they’re going clubbing in the Quad Cities. Was the Titanic II built shoddily on purpose to keep ticket prices down for middle-class vacationers? Does the ship look so bland because it’s trying to appeal to the Walmart crowd? If the original Titanic’s failing was one of hubris, does Titanic II commit an equal sin in trying cutting corners to give the workaday world a sense of opulence?
The answer, unfortunately, is that this is really just a cheap-ass movie that doesn’t think much about the details in favor of just playing through the broad strokes of a tired story. Why else would they decorate the walls of the ship’s medical office with multiple eye charts? Are people having their eyes examined during this cruise? What a terrible way to spend a vacation, and it’s fitting because “Titanic II” is a terrible way to spend 90 minutes of your life.