However, I really do think this is an excellent film. You take away the love story, and you will see a very accurate portrayal of an very tragic event.
There are some scenes that will break everyone's heart. One is the old couple waiting to die in their bed as their room is being consumed by water. Another is the string quartet playing music while death and destruction surround them. The scene that really wrenches my gut is when the captain commits suicide. I find these scenes very emotional mainly because they probably actually happened.
Is the love story really corny? You bet. But many films such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "The English Patient", and even "Lord of the Rings" have lot of silly sentimental corny love story lines but they are much more acclaimed than Titanic. I have a feeling the reason why this film got so much bad rap is that much of the audience are very young females and that their being head-over-heels over DiCaprio annoyed lot of men. (I think DiCaprio DID do a mediocre performance in this movie.) But the silly love story in my mind didn't affect the emotionally devastating impact I had watching the powerful sequences of death and dying. "Saving Private Ryan" is the only other film that affected me more than "Titanic" in showing the horror of human beings struggling to survive.
This film is done before CGI, which the vastly inferior "Pearl Harbor" used ad nauseum. This fact makes this film much more amazing. (This film must cost 300 million to make nowadays!)
The only bad battle scene in this movie is the bombing of Arizona, in which you can tell the ship is floating on a bath tub. But other than that, you'll be hard-pressed not to say, "Wow!"
There are several truly heartbreaking scenes in this film that made me almost completely break down. *Spoilers ahead!* One is is the reservation slaughter sequence. And another is the ending in which the Chief was awaiting his death but it didn't come; pretty soon his kind would "die" since it would be nearly wiped out.
I personally don't know why this film wasn't more popular especially after "Dances With Wolves" was released. Also, there doesn't seem to be much talk among modern critics (it was rarely reviewed in Rottentomatoes.com or rarely talked about in IMDb's messages.) This is one of the greatest films of the 70s that should get the attention it deserves.
The first twenty minutes of the film is truly astonishing. It's as if I was actually running up the beach, with bullets going all around me, slicing people to bits and bombs blowing off everywhere, tearing everyone to shreds. There was a feeling of total hopelessness of the existing and forthcoming carnage around me.
I remember when I first saw the film, there was somebody left of me who was so traumatized by the Omaha invasion sequence, she covered her eyes and went out of the theater. There was a seemingly hardened old man right of me who said he has never have seen such horrifying experience in his life.
Yes, this film has many flaws. I found the script to be very conventional and there were many corny cliches. The characters are not very well developed. Even the tank battle at the end, an amazing scene than matched the Omaha scene in tension, is pretty much Hollywoodized; it showed many military inaccuracies. I had participated in message boards that many military analysts rightfully criticized the ending as being very unrealistic.
However, it's still hard to not say this is a groundbreaking powerhouse of a war film that will (and had probably already) changed Hollywood war cinema forever. The intense violence of this film will teach generations of people that war is not fun and games. War really sucks.
Having said this, I saw "Animal House" close to ten times and I can't stop laughing each time. It's in my tope ten favorite comedies.
The genius of "Animal House" is that it intended to a b-movie type of film. Nothing is taken seriously. The casting is excellent and the comic timing of all the performances are very great.
I understand since there have been so many imitators the film might seem very outdated. However, please see the film as it as if you were back in 1978.
Luckily, after this film, Spielberg made one of the greatest films of the all time in "Saving Private Ryan" so that this potentially Tyrannosaurus Rex type disaster became only a small glitch in his career.
Being a Chinese American who was raised in Boston's Chinatown, I had expected bad things about this film. Even though "The Deer Hunter" is a great film, the depictions of Vietnamese and Chinese in that film are truly horrendous (no, Chinese DID NOT engage in Russian Roulette!!) I expected the same with "Year of the Dragon." I was totally shocked after I saw the film at how realistic the film was about Chinatown. I do understand many Chinese Americans do not want themselves portrayed as drug dealers, gang members, etc. However, I don't think there has been any film in Hollywood history who portrayed the dark side of Chinatown as accurately as this film. I know because I grew up in the area when there lot of Chinese street gangs and mafia activity.
The sad thing is after this film was released, depictions of Chinese Americans has gotten a LOT worse; they are depicted as chopsocky kung fu gangsters (now isn't that ironic!!) in Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies, or as baby killers, rapists, or domineering bigots in "The Joy Luck Club" (by the way, this film is truly truly AWFUL in it's portrayals of Chinese; the ignorant critics however gave this movie great reviews.) Strangely, Chinese anti-defamation leagues has been very silent during these years.
"Year of the Dragon" is Cimino's unappreciated gem. According to my view, it's his second best film. I understand this film has flaws but Cimino was brilliant in showing the side of Chinese Americans that few Americans know. Not all of us Chinese went to CalTech or MIT and became successful software engineers or research scientists.
I am very disappointed that John Carpenter hasn't made a great horror film after this one. Along with "Halloween", he made some of the greatest horror masterpieces of the past twenty-five years.