James Cameron's Titanic may be over 20 years old, but the necessity of Jack Dawson's tragic death continues to be one of the most hotly debated topics around movie circles (and physics circles).

Near the end of the film, Rose and Jack found themselves floating around in the sea after the Titanic went down. The pair managed to find a broken door, but after encountering some trouble when climbing on it, Jack decided to stay in the water and allow Rose to survive. Eventually, our free-spirited protagonist died from the extreme temperatures. As heartbreaking as the sequence was, fans had a major problem with it: Why didn't Jack just try to climb onto the door once again?

This tidbit has sparked a number of arguments, critiques, questions and also stirred a whole lot of controversy for years. Fortunately, the time has come to put this seemingly endless debate behind us, because the man behind the film, James Cameron, has cleared up the matter once and for all...

James Cameron Says Jack Dawson Was Going To Die No Matter What

'Titanic' [Credit: 20th Century Fox']
'Titanic' [Credit: 20th Century Fox']

The Avatar filmmaker recently sat down for an interview with Vanity Fair. At some point during their talk, the topic of Titanic came up, and Cameron was asked once again about why Rose didn't make some room for the love of her life to stay afloat.

The director revealed the main motivation behind Jack's death was the emotional punch it gave the film:

The answer is very simple because it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies [...] Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him [...] Had he lived, the ending of the film would have been meaningless [...] The film is about death and separation; he had to die. So whether it was that, or whether a smoke stack fell on him, he was going down.

Now, that was the creative explanation, but let's face it, we're all here for the technical breakdown of the situation. Pressed to explain the science behind Jack's demise, Cameron finally broke down the scene:

I was in the water with the piece of wood putting people on it for about two days getting it exactly buoyant enough so that it would support one person with full free-board, meaning that she wasn't immersed at all in the 28 degree water so that she could survive the three hours it took until the rescue ship got there. [Jack] didn't know that she was gonna get picked up by a lifeboat an hour later; he was dead anyway.

Huh... that sounds quite reasonable. I don't know about you, but it feels great to be able to watch the scene without being bothered by the possibility of Jack making it through their ordeal.

This Isn't The Only Scientific Explanation Behind Jack's Death

Remember when I said the debate on this scene has gone on for quite some time? I wasn't exaggerating. In a 2012 Mythbusters episode, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage tackled Rose and Jack's survival and had James Cameron as a special guest. After an extensive experiment, the Mythbusters concluded that Jack needed to tie up Rose's life jacket underneath the door to give them better balance, then simply climb on next to her and wait for rescue boats to come in.

The explanation seemed simple and feasible enough, but Cameron didn't see it that way. Five years after the episode aired, during an interview with The Daily Beast, the director explained that in the poor conditions Jack and Rose were in at the end of Titanic, they simply wouldn't have had the time to stabilize the door with a makeshift gadget:

You're Jack, you're in water that's 28 degrees, your brain is starting to get hypothermia. 'Mythbusters' asks you to now go take off your life vest, take hers off, swim underneath this thing, attach it in some way that it won't just wash out two minutes later — which means you're underwater tying this thing on in 28-degree water, and that's going to take you five to ten minutes, so by the time you come back up you're already dead.

Well, there you have it, my fellow Titanic fans, there's probably no scenario in which Jack gets to live a happy ending with Rose. Is it a bit sad? Yes, but as mentioned above, it's better to not have that nagging sensation that the film's most emotional scene may be a plot hole.

[Source: Vanity Fair]