Titanic: Blood & Steel is a loose historical narrative that takes a look at Belfast during the time the famous ship Titanic was being built by the White Star Line. Though the miniseries is less about shipbuilding and more about societal issues in Ireland at the time, Blood & Steel still features impressive visuals. Regardless, those obsessed with the “unsinkable” vessel may not find this series to be overly endearing.
The miniseries, which initially aired on Encore in the United States, is based on a validly good idea, following a fictional metallurgist who comes to Belfast to solve some problems with the steel the shipyard is using. Looking at the Titanic from an erection standpoint and not its downfall was truly imaginative, but the series becomes too bloated nearly immediately. Issues arise with the building of the Titanic, and similarly issues in the yard arise between employees of Catholic and Protestant descent. Home rule in Ireland is touched upon, as are relationships outside of marriage, women’s rights issues, and problems with politics pre-WWI. It’s a mess of bisecting stories and intrigue.
At the center of the narrative is Mark Muir (Kevin Zegers), a metallurgist who becomes part of the Titanic project on the recommendation of J.P. Morgan (Chris Noth). Muir is an idealistic young man, always looking for the best solution, but never understanding that projects as large as the Titanic require some sort of compromise to go into effect. This one-track frame of mind extends into other areas of Muir’s life: it messes with his romantic partnership with a young Italian woman, Sofia (Alessandra Mastronardi), it causes problems between himself and shipyard heads Lord Pirrie and Thomas Andrews (Derek Jacobi and Billy Carter), and it leads to petty grudges and unnecessary side plots.
Muir is good at his job, but unlikeable, ineffective, and unfair with other people. Still, the other characters seem to take the good with the bad, and we as the audience can, too. When Muir is involved in the plot, a good chunk of the time the Titanic itself is involved and we get to see the perspectives of those involved with the project, as well as watch the ship itself grow from a skeleton to it’s red, white, and black paint job. The visual look is reminiscent of the recent historical series, The Men Who Built America, and seeing the Titanic grow from the ground up on impressive Blu-ray is even more of a treat. The scene where the Titanic actually hits the water is clearly a highlight, and one of the extras, “The Visual Effects of Titanic: Blood & Steel,” takes a look at all of the green screen and motion capture effects used in the making of the miniseries.
Unfortunately, someone involved decided the world of the Titanic wasn’t enough to justify a full 12-part miniseries. The plot introduces us to the underbelly of Belfast, where we get to meet Sofia’s sister, Violetta (Valentina Corti), who has two courtiers, the bad boy Conor McCann (Martin McCann) and his steadfast older brother, Michael McCann (Branwell Donaghey). We also get a plotline with a U.S. journalist (Neve Campbell) who gets involved with German spies. If it sounds like a lot of characters and narratives, it is, but luckily the intro sequence uses a portrait format that helps us to remember which actor is playing what character—although it’s difficult to forget Nash’s character, with that crazy ‘stache.
As the plotlines begin to weave together into a tighter narrative, the Titanic itself is close to being built. For viewers, the series ends on a pleasant note; regardless, with the many plotlines swirling around by the end of the narrative, there isn’t ample wrap-up. Even a cheesy montage of the events leading up to the sailing at the end doesn’t really give this series an explosive ending. It just sails away into the twilight—a sunny ending, soon to be forgotten.
The 3-Disc set rounds out with a “Making Of” segment that interviews the actors on their characters and their understanding of the time period. Costumes and the look of scenery are also discussed, and the detail in the settings and the clothing are sumptuous. As Billy Carter notes, Titanic: Blood & Steel was a big story to tell, and I wish the sum of its parts had been as good as some of its individual pieces.
Release Date: 12/04/2012
Starring: Kevin Zegers, Derek Jacobi, Alessandra Mastronardi
Directed by: Ciaran Donnelly