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James Cameron’s Titanic remains one of the most popular movies ever. However, not everyone was a fan. For example, Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan wrote a sharply critical review of the film upon its first release. Tired of the criticism, Cameron wrote a response published in Turan’s paper. Here’s the effect the review and Cameron’s op-ed had.

Rose and Jack on a staircase
Rose and Jack | CBS via Getty Images

A film critic on why ‘Titanic’ attracted ‘hordes’

By any commercial metric, Titanic was a resounding success. Box Office Mojo reports it grossed over $2.1 billion. For comparison, the film only cost $200 million to produce. However, rather than view the film as an example of a filmmaker connecting with audiences, Turan felt the film’s gross revealed Hollywood’s deficiencies.

In the Los Angeles Times, Turan wrote “the flip side of Titanic’s ability to draw hordes of viewers into the theaters is the question of where these viewers have been for the past several years. In its unintentional underlining of how narrow an audience net most movies cast over the American public, Titanic is not an example of Hollywood’s success, it’s an emblem of its failure.” Turan felt Titanic did well only because other Hollywood movies were worse.

“My Heart Will Go On”

When James Cameron attacked Kenneth Turan in an article

Filmmakers often ignore negative criticism. However, Cameron decided to respond to Turan’s review with a Los Angeles Times article of his own. Cameron said he valued the reviews of other writers like Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin because they inspired him to do better. On the other hand, he felt Turan was unqualified for his job because he resented popular entertainment.

Cameron wrote “Give us a critic who actually likes movies.” He added “Give us a critic who has at least some slight understanding of the toil and energy, the hopes and dreams that go into a movie, any movie. Give us a critic who shows respect for our chosen art, and whom we can respect in turn. And give us one who respects the paying audiences who look to him or her for guidance, not for lectures on how stupid they are for liking what they like.”

Furthermore, Cameron said Turan should be “impeached” like President Bill Clinton. He clearly meant Turan should be fired.

A trailer for the film

James Cameron: Did Rose Go to Heaven in ‘Titanic’ or Just Dream About Jack?

The effect of Kenneth Turan and James Cameron’s articles

The Washington Post reported the Los Angles Times was not going to fire Turan. However, the paper printed a number of letters-to-the-editor about Titanic — most of which defended Cameron. The Washington Post received more letters about Turan’s review than they had about anything in recent memory.

So did Turan’s review change much? Titanic has an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While Turner was not a fan, many other critics enjoyed the film. In addition, Titanic remains a cultural touchstone while many other films from the 1990s — even popular ones –faded from memory. Turan was not a fan — but Titanic was the king of the world.