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Film / Raise the Titanic!

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"It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic."
Lew Grade, producer

Raise the Titanic is a 1980 adventure film based on Clive Cussler's 1976 novel of the same name, directed by Jerry Jameson and starring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer and Alec Guinness.

The plot centres around a plan to raise the ill-fated liner from the bottom of the Atlantic in order to recover a rare mineral thought to be on board.

Raise the Titanic proves examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Many aspects of the novel are trimmed, changed or omitted, including the ending. Cussler was not impressed with the final result and it was years before he allowed another of his novels to be adapted.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Arthur Brewster was Joshua Hayes Brewster in the novel.
  • All for Nothing: After the huge effort and expense of raising the ship, it turns out that the Byzanium isn't even on it.
  • Alternate History: Of course, the Titanic was never raised, and now we know it can't be done.
  • And Starring: Alec Guinness gets this credit.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: The cornet that the search team recovers is not only in perfect condition, but is clean and shiny within a day or two of being brought up from the seafloor. In reality, artifacts recovered from the ocean, especially after decades of immersion, typically require months or even years of careful cleaning and conservation before they look anything like as presentable as the cornet does.
  • Artistic License – History: The searchers find a cornet belonging to a member of the ship's orchestra. However, Titanic did not have any brass musicians; the orchestra played string instruments. The only brass instrument on board was a bugle used by the ship's bugler to announce dinner for First Class, but he was not part of the orchestra.
  • Artistic License – Marine Biology: At a press conference, Admiral Sandecker states that the Titanic is probably very well preserved because it lies in water so deep that there are no destructive marine organisms that could have damaged it. In reality, Titanic has suffered heavy deterioration from microbial lifeforms that are slowly consuming the iron in the ship's hull, leaving behind the famous "rusticles"; likewise, wood-boring molluscs have consumed most of the wood in and on the ship.note  Titanic as a whole has been referred to as a deep-sea oasis, as it has been colonized by hundreds of deep-sea life forms, including some previously unknown to science. The trope is justified given that very little deep-ocean research had been done when the movie was filmed and no one knew what conditions were like on the wreck.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The submersible Starfish springs a leak on the way down to Titanic and implodes after two minutes despite the crew's attempts to surface. At 12,000 ft, where the pressure is about 6000 pounds per square inch, the submersible would have imploded well before the crew was even aware of a problem; if such a leak had occurred, the water would have been forced through the breach with enough force to slice through a human body.
  • Artistic License – Ships: Bigalow tells Pitt that the Byzanium was in Cargo Hold 9. Titanic only had six cargo holds, three in the bow and three in the stern. He also says the cargo hold was on D Deck. All of the holds were actually on the orlop and tank top decks.
  • Creator Cameo: Clive Cussler has an uncredited role as a bearded reporter.
  • Dated History:
    • The Titanic wreck is shown in one piece, when it is now known that the ship broke apart before it sank. In defense of the film makers, they were working before the wreck's discovery in 1985. Up until then, the received wisdom was that the ship went down intact and every previous film adaptation reflected this.
    • Likewise the myth of the iceberg opening up a 300 feet gash along the Titanic's side is repeated. It is now known, thanks to the discovery of the wreck, that the damage caused by the collision amounted to buckled plates, popped rivets and a series of much smaller punctures.
    • Just look at the poster, really. The bridge, decks, masts, and most chimneys are intact. In reality, all of them were either torn out by the water as it sank or were thrown by the energy of the impact with the sea floor. When James Cameron visited the wreck, the steering motor was exposed and anything above was missing.
  • Deus ex Machina: After the Titanic has been raised, the Soviets board and attempt to steal it. Naturally, Pitt and Sandecker anticipated this and so had a submarine and a couple of fighter jets standing by, hidden out of sight and ready to be revealed at the moment the Soviets boarded the ship and attempted to steal it.
  • Dirty Communists: The Soviets are also out to find the Byzanium and thwart Pitt and his team.
  • Double Meaning: Brewster's crypic last words "Thank God for Southby".
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The Titanic's arrival in New York is accompanied by the obligatory shots of the Statue of Liberty and the New York landscape. Perhaps justified, since the Titanic is arriving into New York harbor, and so would naturally pass by all of the above.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Apparently, the Soviet Navy uses Huey helicopters instead of Kamovs.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the end Sandecker turns his back on the Sicilian Project, because the recovery of the Byzanium will probably lead to someone using it to build a bomb. This in turn leads to Pitt and Seagram doing likewise and leaving the Byzanium in the cemetery.
  • Hollywood Science: When the ship is raised, they enter a watertight compartment, still watertight after 68 years underwater. Titanic's watertight compartments were not capped off at the top, so water would still have flooded in from above. Even if the hold was genuinely watertight, it would have imploded very quickly due to the enormous pressure at that depth.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Prevlov claims the Byzanium is legally and morally the property of the Russians. He has a point, since it was stolen from Russian territory back in 1912.
  • Last Words: "Thank God for Southby"
  • Mineral MacGuffin: Byzanium.
  • Mirroring Factions: Both the Americans and the Soviets have defensive, rather than aggressive motivations. The Americans want to protect the USA from missile attack. The Soviets want to guarantee their security by preventing the Americans building a superior weapon.
  • Photo Montage: The film opens with a montage of black and white Titanic photos.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The search for the Titanic wreck was topical in the late 1970s and 1980s, in particular the attempts of flamboyant Texan millionaire Jack "Cadillac Jack" Grimm and his rival Robert Ballard, who eventually found it in 1985.
    • Dirk also mentions an attempt to raise a Soviet submarine. In 1974, the CIA attempted to raise K-129 from the bottom of the Pacific, using a specially-built ship with the cover story that Howard Hughes was trying to mine the ocean floor.
  • Shipshape Shipwreck: The film makers can be forgiven for getting it wrong about the Titanic splitting into two before it sank. However, the ship re-emerges at the surface after a dramatic sinking, a two mile plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic and 68 years underwater almost completely intact, to the extent that masts, funnels and metal guidewires are still in position. Even Titanic's famous glass dome survived.
    • Justified by reflecting other assumptions widely believed about the wreck at the time—that the deep, cold, oxygen-poor, salty water the ship would have (and did) come to rest in was not hospitable to the sort of marine life that could compromise it structurally and would preserve it mostly intact, as if it were in cold storage. Today, now that we know otherwise, it is seen as likely that by the mid-21st century all that will be left of Titanic will be a big rusty spot on the sea floor.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Seagram, who goes insane in the novel after discovering that the Byzanium is not on the Titanic.
  • Title Drop:
    General Busby: Are you talking about... raising the Titanic?!
  • Token Romance: The love triangle between Dana Archibald, her boyfriend Gene Seagram and her ex-boyfriend Dirk Pitt, never goes anywhere and is irrelevant to the story.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer gives away that Pitt and co will succeed in raising the ship. (Granted, it is kind of in the name, though that can be excused as what they are attempting, and doesn't necessarily reveal whether or not they succeed.)
  • Unobtanium: Byzanium. The rare mineral which is needed to power a missile defense system that could protect the continental USA from any missile attack, giving them the crucial upper hand in the Cold War. Unfortunately, the last known supply is believed to have been on board the Titanic.
  • Vehicle Title