A lot has changed since 1997 and more to the point, a lot has changed in film. I remember going to the theater to see Titanic. I’d heard about it, was waiting for it to come out the previous Summer, but had read of troubles with the budget and so forth. But I was home from college on break and my parents and I went down to the Darien Playhouse (a movie theater in Connecticut) where I first experienced the film. About halfway through the film, it stopped. Evidently the type of film used was lighter weight since the length of the film was so long. The manager offered to refund our money or we could sit and wait for them to fix it. Of course, most everyone stayed because it was just getting to the good part. Director James Cameron and company went onto collect a bevy of Academy Awards, the film went onto become the #1 movie of all-time (only recently being surpassed by Cameron’s own Avatar), it made Leonardo DiCaprio an overnight star and has even garnered a spot on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 American Films. Not too bad for a movie that everyone thought would, pardon the pun, sink.
I’ll go on the assumption that anyone reading this review has seen or at least heard of the plot, but for the handful that haven’t – here we go. The film is told in flashback fashion by an elderly Rose (Gloria Stewart). A team of glorified treasure hunters are looking for relics from the Titanic and, more to the point, the Heart of the Ocean – a priceless necklace believed to be among the wreckage. As Rose tells the tale of the ship, we meet Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a drifter. He lives his life by the seat of his pants and has won a seat on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Jack soon means Rose (Kate Winslet) and the two form a romance that’s destined for greatness. There is a small problem of Rose being engaged to Cal Hockley (Billy Zane). All domestic squabbles aside, everyone’s plans change when the Titanic hits an iceberg and it becomes a fight for survival. Will Jack and Rose end up together or will the icy seas of the North Atlantic claim more lives?
It’s somewhat daunting to compress a 200 minute movie into 8 sentences, but I think I managed to do it! As we all know, Titanic went onto break box office records left and right. Celene Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” won the Academy Award for Best Song, the movie itself won on the technical levels as well as for Best Director and Best Picture. Truly every accolade that was in existence was thrown at the film and some might say rightfully so. It’s been 15 years since the film first hit theaters and earlier this year was given the 3D treatment (overseen by Cameron himself). That’s no coincidence, of course, as 2012 marks the centennial of the Titanic disaster. It made perfect sense to re-release this and then to Blu-ray for all to enjoy…again. Simply put, this is one of those films that you just need to have in your collection. Odds are that someone in your household will want to watch it at least once a year. Like Fantasia, Star Wars and Toy Story – this is an essential part of any collection. And if you’re one of the people that’s never seen the movie, then there’s no better way to experience it than on this Blu-ray.
Video: How does it look?
I’m pretty sure that anything less than reference quality audio and video will be let down and no one knows that better than Cameron himself. That said, the 2.35:1 AVC HD image is, in fact, a perfect representation of what every film should look like in HD. A majority of the movie takes place at night, but contrast and black levels are both rock solid. Detail has been improved vastly from the 2005 DVD and the image as a whole has been cleaned up. Nowhere are the tiny artifacts that plagued the standard DVD years ago. Color balance is solid, flesh tones are normal and the image has a more “film like” feel that it ever has. While it’s been 15 years since I first saw it, and as corny as this sounds, it’s like seeing it for the first time. This Blu-ray has pulled out all the stops and the result is stunning.
Audio: How does it sound?
Not to be outdone, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is as robust as they come. The first half of the movie contains mainly dialogue, but once the iceberg has been hit and the second part takes over, so too does the audio. James Horner’s score coupled with the lossless mix make for the perfect symphony. The LFE are very aggressive towards the end and while the front stage handles the majority of the sound, the surrounds are almost always humming away adding a bit of excitement to an already explosive track. I could go on, but suffice it to say that this is one of the more active and dynamic soundtracks that I’ve heard in a while. Leave it to James Cameron to thrill us even 15 years later.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The consumer would be disappointed if Titanic came to Blu-ray with anything less than what was already available. In 2005 a special edition was issued and most, if not all, of those supplements made the leap to HD. With the inaugural Blu-ray of this film, there are some more features. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started. The first disc contains the film itself, all 194 minutes of it. There are also three, count ‘em, three commentary tracks. The first is with director James Cameron going solo, but it’s actually a pretty interesting track. I don’t know if Cameron loves to hear himself talk or that he’s so passionate about the film that he somewhat loses himself in it. Regardless, it’s a very interesting track full of little tidbits that add to the movie. The next track is a cast and crew commentary which is a nice way of saying that these have been edited together to make a pseudo commentary track. To be honest, I didn’t listen to it all but what I did listen to was more of a technical track. Cameron’s track is the must listen. Lastly we have a historical commentary track with Don Lynch, the historian of the RMS Titanic and Ken Marschall who served as the production historian. They somewhat repeat what Cameron says, but there are some more facts to be gleamed here.
Moving onto the second disc is where we find the lion’s share of the supplements. As mentioned, most were on the special edition DVD from 2005, but since we never reviewed that version, we’ll cover it all here. We start out with the aptly-names “Behind the Scenes” feature which is actually a series of short clips from the set. There’s not a lot of narrative here, but we do get some footage to some of the key sequences and see how they were accomplished. “Parodies” is just that, a trio of parodies from the film. Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn pitch a sequel at the MTV Movie Awards, Bill Paxton’s appearance on SNL and Angry Alien’s remix of the movie (in 30 seconds no less). “Deep Dive Presentation” shows us the video footage that Cameron himself did. Fox gave him the thumbs up after seeing this. If this is your cup of tea, then check out Ghosts of the Abyss. “$200,000,001: A Ship’s Odyssey” is just a collection of some behind the scenes footage with cast and crew. “Construction Timelapse” is just that, watching the set take form. “Videomatics” is some raw footage and what the vision is for the final product. An Alternate Ending is also included with optional commentary by Cameron. Essentially it’s the same as in the movie, though Paxton’s character gets a bit more facetime. Some Deleted Scenes are also included that show some more action towards the end of the film. I’d say they were cut due to time and since the movie is nearly 200 minutes long already, it’s nice to have them here though. There are over 1000 pictures in a still gallery, divided up into six separate galleries. There’s also a bevy of trailers for the film as well as some TV spots.
We’re not done yet! As promised, the new additions to this Blu-ray are two new documentaries. The first runs just over an hour and is entitled “Reflections on Titanic.” It’s broken up into four parts that covers the entire spectrum of the production, up to and including the release of the film in 3D. Next up is “Titanic: The Final Word” and running at 96 minutes is more of a historical take on the film. We get lengthy explanations as to how and why the ship sunk, several interviews are spliced in and if it’s more of the actual history you’re looking for – this is made for you. Of course, there’s a DVD of the movie as well as a digital copy.