Few filmmakers have been able to take a huge chunk of money, spend it on an epic adventure in filmmaking, riding through waves of bad publicity and production troubles, only to create a huge blockbuster success as a result. James Cameron has done it twice. Recently, he managed to shatter the record for biggest film of all time with Avatar, but the record shattered was that of his own previous film, Titanic. Titanic is a film that by all accounts should not have worked. A romantic/disaster drama with a huge budget, where everyone already knows the ending, and has no chance of being made into a franchise is not exactly the kind of film studios would want to get their hands on, but Cameron was able to do the impossible and have it succeed. Now the film has been released onto Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D formats, with the film having been remastered and the 3D having been heavily supervised by Cameron, providing audiences with the opportunity to view the film in the best home format possible, along with a ton of special features, making this the ultimate Titanic package. Continue on to learn more about this unsinkable set.
Let’s just skip past the plot, shall we? We all know it; first class passenger Rose (Kate Winslet) and steerage passenger Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) fall in love, while aboard the maiden voyage of the “Ship of Dreams”, the Titanic. Emotional and disaster drama ensues. Getting past that, I have to say that I still genuinely find Titanic to be a pretty fantastic film. I admire the film as a whole, not just due to the final hour, which is filled with tension and excitement, but the entire body of this film, which adequately handles what is essentially a romantic sidestory occurring, while we witness the doomed voyage of Titanic. Regardless of the backlash that this film has since received, which I will address, Titanic is a film that still holds up pretty spectacularly as an epic drama. Putting the melodramatic romantic plotting and occasionally wonky screenplay (one of the few awards it wasn’t nominated for), there is so much to admire from a technical standpoint, along with the way it delves into class relations, and several of the film’s performances.
Addressing the most notable aspect of this release, the 3D is about as good as you can expect for a film of this nature and of this age to be, as far as conversions go. James Cameron, who knows a thing or two about 3D, has already stated that he is aware that Titanic is not capable of being presented in true, 100% 3D, but merely “99.9%”. With that said, it is very apparent that this is not the kind of engrossing 3D that made Avatar such a unique experience. This is due to a very simple reason – Titanic was never meant to be presented in 3D to begin with. Given that many months were spent on producing this version of the film, it is certainly not a rush job (I should note that the film has been completely remastered, which makes the film look better than ever anyway, especially if one were to see it in 2D), but the film can only perform so well in this format.
The lack of truly astounding 3D is the most notable early on and in shots focused on the characters. While it is an epic, there is a lot of character-based drama going on throughout the film and as good as the cinematography of the film, as a whole may be, the 3D does little to bring out the environments of close-up shots. It is also quite noticeable at how lacking some of the 3D is when portraying many of the on-deck daylight scenes, which mix various amounts of CG with reality. A lot of this comes off as flatter than one would see in a regular version of the film. Some scenes that involve the interiors of the ship, dining halls, lobby areas, etc. do work well in providing depth, however. The best examples of the 3D effect are obviously related to the disaster portion of the film. Seeing people helpless tumble off of Titanic looks decent enough, but watching corridors as they flood with water and seeing the various characters in the foreground, with more and more water filling the background is where the added format truly shines.
Additionally, I continue really admire Titanic as a film. It was always strange to me that the film almost feels underrated now; given that it was a success in its time in every possible way. James Cameron went all out to make the best film he could, given the resources available to him. Stepping aside from the romantic storyline, the film is filled with great details, both character-wise and in terms of the details that went into constructing various aspects. For example, the bookends are enormously helpful, due to not only seeing where we are headed thematically, but visually, as the computer recreation of the Titanic provided a layout of how the Titanic sank. When this occurs later on in the film, I think understanding that visual makes the third act of this film all the more compelling, as you know exactly why something is happening a certain way and can focus on how all these characters are going to have to deal with it.
On a character level, I just really enjoy a lot of these performances. Winslet and DiCaprio are fine, with Winslet, in particular, really delivering on what is required of her part, given how young she still was as an actress (I wouldn’t say this is one of her best performances, even though it did earn her an Oscar nom, but the groundwork being laid can be seen here). The real joy comes from this supporting cast, starting with Billy Zane, who makes for a wonderful villain. Kathy Bates is also quite strong, even if her performance is notable for being the loudest. There are several more strong supporting parts as well, but my favorite character in this film has always been Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder, who is such an affable man, but must deal with not having provided a safe enough ship, as he realizes the inevitable.
There are so many other things I could go into in regards to this film, but Titanic is an epic sort of feature that has already had so much written about it. As I have made clear, I am firmly in the camp that finds Titanic to be a very good film with so much about it that works. While I do not have all that much against the romantic nature of the main storyline, the rest of the film surely makes up for it, given the epic scope that leads to impressive production, art, and costume design, not to mention a pretty fantastic final third of the film, which is incredibly exciting to watch. Given that I am now able to view the film in a fully remastered format, it is certainly worth being able to watch, given how great-looking, this already great film is.
With all this talk about remastering the film and spending tons of time to properly convert it over to 3D, Titanic looks pretty fantastic on Blu-ray, in both the 2D and 3D formats. With both cuts of the film presented in full 1080p on AVC-encoded transfers, the images scene on these discs are fantastic, when it comes to fully representing what Cameron was able to bring to the screen initially.
For the 2D edition of this film, Titanic looks glorious in almost every respect on Blu-ray. There may be some naysayers talking about the effects and how well they have aged, but seeing full view shots of the entire ship is pretty fantastic and the Blu-ray does a good job of representing what has been filmed. Textures throughout are sharp, colors are vibrant, and the black levels are certainly solid, which is good, given how much of this film takes place at night and in the dark, once it gets towards the end. It is a good showcase for water as well, as the film is full of it and seeing how good something like water looks on Blu-ray is always a pretty good testament to the quality of the format, when given a specific element to test out.
Regarding the 3D, I have addressed my thoughts in the film review already, but with that said, while some of the visual splendor has to be dropped, when compared to the 2D version, for somewhat obvious reasons, all of the same commendations still pretty much apply. It should also be noted that given the huge nature of this film and the fact that Cameron decided to “open it up” even further by expanding the aspect ratio to 1:78:1 for 3D viewing, the 3D version of this film has been divided up onto two separate discs in order to maintain its quality. It is a fantastic Blu-ray transfer all around and one of the best currently available.
Obviously the one thing that everyone wants to know regarding the audio quality of this Blu-ray is how great Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” sounds…Ok, so maybe that is not on everyone’s mind (though “great” is the answer), but regardless, the lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Surround track is one of the best this format has to offer. Again, with Cameron so committed to making every aspect of this film perfect, it comes as no surprise that he has a film that stands up incredibly well on Blu-ray. Between the roaring sound effects of the Titanic, as we see the ship gliding through the see or within its engine room, a great balance is heard throughout. The same can be said for all of dialogue between every character, as they interact aboard the ship, which is full of background activities, with other passengers, the live bands, and more ship noise. And of course, the disaster portion of this film, which has a great number of audio activities going on, between the sounds of the destruction of the ship, to the panicked passengers, to the nonstop splashing of water that begins to majorly factor in are all the more effective given the superior surround track available on this Blu. All of this and there is still the powerful score by James Horner, who did wonderful work for the film, which is well represented here. It is a great audio track all around.
The Titanic Blu-ray continues to deliver with this tremendous set of special features, which basically answers any questions you could possibly have about this film and no doubt provides more information than you ever thought you could know. As this is a 4-disc set, one should know that the first two discs only contain the 3D presentations of the film, while the third disc contains 2D version of this film, which has 3 commentary tracks to go with it, and fourth disc contains all of the special features. There is also a digital copy voucher inside of the case. It should also be noted that, while the two newest features and the deleted are presented in HD, the rest of the special features are presented in SD, as they have been brought over from the previous Special Edition DVD release, back in 2005.
Director James Cameron – This is the track that everyone should listen two, as it is incredibly informative and does a good job of getting everyone to understand Cameron’s vision for the film.
Cast and Crew – This is more of a commentary for really big fans of the film that want to hear even more about this film from many different perspectives. With over twenty participants, this track has been edited together well enough to flow well with the film, given how exhausting it is to here from so many different people.
Historians – For anyone really interested in the historical aspects of this film, Don Lynch and Ken Marschal provide a pretty detailed track that is also a worthy listen, as long as one has interest in this sort of information.
Deleted Scenes – Nearly an hour of deleted scenes are present in this release, which may seem like a lot, but really just feel like extra bits that were excised for a reason, given the epic length of the film, as it already is. James Cameron provides optional audio commentary.
Reflections on Titanic – A pretty fascinating feature that goes over several aspects of Titanic from a retrospective point of view. The feature goes over thoughts on the production environment, Cameron’s directorial approach and what he was risking to make the film. It also examines the buzz about the film and what went on during the lead up to its release and all that followed. The backlash against Titanic is addressed as well, which I found to be quite interesting. The last thing discussed is the conversion of the film to 3D. This is a really solid feature.
Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron – A feature length documentary that delves into what really happened to the legendary ship. It is a neat sort of roundtable feature that contains plenty of dive footage and interesting interviews.
Production – This menu divides out a ton of the featurettes available on the Blu-ray, which goes over almost every aspect of the making of the film.
Behind the Scenes
Deep Dive Presentation Narrated by James Cameron
$200,000,001: A Ship’s Odyssey (The TITANIC Crew Video)
Archives – This menu divides out various elements that surrounded the film, such as the marketing.
For a Titanic fan, I am not sure what else anyone could want from a home release. They get to view the feature in the best way possible, short of a giant movie theater, given the amazing picture and audio quality, and learn as much as they want about the film. Those who desire to view the film in 3D get to do so in the best possible way to view that version of the film (converted 3D features do tend to look better at home, as opposed to in theaters, for whatever reason). Then you have the huge bevy of special features, which provides all anyone needs to learn about the making of Titanic and all that came with it. I can only stick up for the actual feature so much, however, so those who have something against the feature, for whatever reason, should at least be aware that this is a great Blu-ray just in terms of having a disc to reference. For everyone else, be prepared to have the best version of this film possible to enjoy whenever one wants.