Despite a slew of solid genre titles to his name, and the general audience attraction to disaster pictures, James Cameron’s Titanic was, on many levels, a gamble – almost as ambitious and daring as the ship on which the film is based upon.
At a staggering estimated cost of more than $200 million, Titanic could have easily been a box office stinker, winding up at the bottom of the box office ocean along with the underrated flop Waterworld. But luck, it seems, was on James Cameron’s side, and Titanic became a worldwide international phenomenon, with its grating theme song, “My Heart Will Go On,” highlighting proms the world over (I went to that prom). My grandparents, who hadn’t seen a movie in the theater since Jaws went to see Titanic in the theaters…twice. That’s a cinematic draw of unseen proportions.
Titanic is an extraordinary film – a jaw-dropping feat of outstanding and Oscar-winning art direction, costume design and cinematography. The film captures the essence and decadence of the era, as well as the spirit and raw allure of the ship herself. Coupled with nearly seamless visual effects, James Cameron’s Titanic feels like a wholly real creation.
The story itself, while a bit melodramatic and overly romantic – sometimes focusing way too much on the love story between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslett) – is often quite powerful, blending real-life figures with classic fictional hero and villain archetypes.
While the first half of Titanic can drag a bit after the first few viewings, it’s really in the film’s second half where things get interesting. The film transforms from an almost too-sweet romance to a wildly intense and, of course, brutally tragic survival picture, as Cameron’s Titanic is ripped and torn to sheds, its decadence and beauty sunk to the bottom of the merciless sea.
Titanic is an outstanding motion picture, an achievement of big-budget filmmaking that will continue to amaze for decades to come. While some might argue that the story has grown dated over the years, it’s hard to deny the quality of the film’s pitch-perfect action set pieces, raw emotion and the brilliance of the production itself. Titanic isn’t just a great film, it’s a magnificent historical record of one of the most unfortunate disasters in the annals of human history.
Titanic comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution. There are two Blu-ray releases for the film – a four-disc Limited 3D Edition, featuring a Blu-ray 3D presentation (spread across two discs), a 2D Blu-ray, a Digital Copy and a bonus Blu-ray loaded with hours of extras. There’s also a four-disc standard edition which includes a Blu-ray, two-disc DVD, bonus Blu-ray and Digital Copy. For this review, we’ll be looking at the four-disc Limited 3D Edition.
Titanic is presented on Blu-ray 3D in 1080p/MVC (reframed from 2.39:1 to 1.78:1), spread across two BD3D discs. The presentation is nothing short of absolutely fantastic. Post-converted 3D titles are often a mixed bag, with mediocre effects and images that rarely pop. Part of the problem is simply the lack of foresight. The photography process for 2D cinema is quite a bit different than with native 3D productions, and more often than not the conversion process is either cheap or doesn’t gel with the 2D cinematography. Thankfully, that’s not the case with this release. Titanic looks and feels like it was shot in 3D, with staggering depth and an immersive visual appearance. Much of this is thanks to the film’s intensely detailed architecture, which converts well to the 3D format. You’ll honestly think Cameron shot this one in native 3D. In fact, it really feels like he did compose his shots with 3D in mind.
The 2D presentation is equally terrific. Presented in 2.39:1, encoded in 1080p/AVC, Titanic has held up quite well over the years, and this Blu-ray restores the film to its original cinematic luster, topping any previously released home video or HDTV broadcast by leaps and bounds. If I had one complaint, it’s that I wish Paramount would have opted for a two-disc 2D release as well, offering the absolute minimal compression for both versions of the film. Still, this is an exquisite presentation that brings out the very best Blu-ray has to offer.
Audio for both versions of the film are mixed in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. For a short while, it seemed as though Paramount was fully embracing 7.1 lossless audio for most of their films, including catalog titles, but a few recent releases (including this and Indiana Jones) feature only 5.1 mixes. While the track itself is hardly anything to complain about, it’s an odd choice to not embrace all that current technology has to offer, especially with the 3D version of the film. Immersion is key.
But don’t fret, the 5.1 DTS-HD track is quite terrific, layered with clean, pristine dialogue, thunderous bass and aggressive surrounds that paint a vivid picture of the RMS Titanic. With no crackles or distortions of any kind, and plenty of atmosphere in every single scene, there’s little fault to this track whatsoever.
In terms of extras, this release really outdoes itself. Fans who previously owned the three-disc special edition DVD can take solace in knowing that each and every goodie from that release has been ported over. This includes the three outstanding audio commentaries, one from James Cameron, one from the cast and crew, and one from Titanic historians. There’s also nearly an hour of deleted scenes, presented in 1080p for the first time.
In addition to those goodies, the set comes stocked with more than 60 featurettes, parodies, galleries, animatics and more (presented in SD). While most of the featurettes are brief, the combined total of the bonus features here is close to 90 minutes. The set also includes trailers, teasers and a music video for “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.
To sweeten the pot even further, the disc also includes two all-new documentaries that, when combined, run more than two-and-a-half hours (presented in HD). “Reflections on Titanic” is a tremendous hour-long account of the making of James Cameron’s epic. For those who feel the featurettes are a bit too brief, this documentary should make up for that. There’s also “Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron,” a 96-minute documentary that takes a more investigative approach to the Titanic legend. Pair it with Disney’s Ghosts of the Abyss for a fascinating, in-depth look at the Titanic then-and-now.
Unfortunately, the only missing piece here is the long-rumored four-hour cut of Titanic. That said, Paramount does provide fans with the original hour of deleted footage, in 1080p no less. So, fan editors, it’s up to you to crank out that definitive extended cut. Go!
Titanic is an epic piece of cinema, and it makes for an equally epic slice of Blu-ray history. With an outstanding 3D presentation, a wonderful 2D transfer, and hours upon hours of old and new bonus material, there’s no reason to skip out on this release if you’re a fan. Either version you choose, the Limited 3D Edition or the standard edition, you’re going to get a demo-worthy special edition.
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