The overrated Titanic delivers an impressive transfer with enough supplements to fill a cabin hold. But does it make the movie any better?
It's clear that one of the most debated films of our generation continues to be Titanic. Over-hyped and over-rewarded at both the box office and at the Oscars, the ultimate historical disaster film somehow snubbed more deserving films L.A. Confidential and Good Will Hunting. In fact, many might suggest that the Oscars themselves became lost at sea in 1997 by either honoring actors for previous work rather than for the current film in which they starred, or failing to understand the difference between a high-grossing film and good film. But it was Titanic which started it all, and its release this week onto Blu-ray will no doubt spawn new discussions along those same lines.
The Movie - 3.5/5
After winning a trip on the RMS Titanic during a card game, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island) meets the beautiful society girl Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet, Quills) who is on her way to marry the wealthy Cal Hockley (Billy Zane, Back to the Future series). Distraught at the idea of marrying someone she does not love, Rose attempts to commit suicide by jumping off the ship, only to be rescued by Dawson. After Jack suffers in the presence of Cal's elite friends, part of Cal's 'thank you' for saving Rose, she and Dawson escape to enjoy a night of wild dancing and the two begin to fall in love. Later, Rose asks Jack (who sketches for a living) to sketch a nude portrait of her holding a precious blue diamond, courtesy of Cal who later locks Jack up. Oh yes, there's the slight issue of an iceberg, and as the fates of all aboard hang in the balance, Jack and Rose must locate each other as the ship begins to sink.
Watching this cry-fest was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. I honestly can't imagine how the guys ever get through it without wanting to scratch your eyes out. Granted, Kate Winslet is beautiful, and DiCaprio will one day win an Oscar, but it's the love story at the sacrifice of history which pains me. The performances of the supporting cast are very good yet certainly nothing to speak of; but Director James Cameron's vision certainly deserves the nod in terms of scope and keeping the look as grand as the Titanic itself. Cameron (Aliens) is one of the greatest directors of all time, producing some of the most memorable works of our generation; but Titanic in my opinion will always be the most overrated film of all time.
The Video - 5/5
Titanic sails into an MPEG 4/AVC transfer that's one of the best of the year. I can find absolutely nothing wrong with its quality, which is as sharp as any I've ever seen. Period pieces always seem to benefit the greatest when a transfer is done right, because the colors and detail of costumes and backgrounds get their chance to show off. Titanic is no different, displaying every tablecloth, tuxedo, and ship feature with amazing clarity and color. Women in general get the better end here, as their hair, skin tone, and other 'features' stand out even as the ship goes down. There's no edge enhancement, banding, alias, or pixelation to speak of; and it appears Cameron used the mother of all master prints to produce this transfer. Shadows and bright lights complement one another, never allowing one to swallow up the other. From a technical perspective, the old world of 1912 comes across as beautiful as anything on Blu-ray. In the end, it's a stunning piece of work.
The Audio - 5/5
Titanic comes complete with a lossless HD DTA Master Audio 5.1 track that handles everything that the film throws at it. Every water slosh, crowd applause, and scream is as clear as a bell. The LFE gets a good workout near the film's end, as the ship begins to tear itself a part, like a giant animal dying front of us. Every exploding piece of planking, each thunderous smash of the aft upon the icy water is probably more powerful than when it was experienced in theaters. While dialogue isn't tested against action until near film's end, it never gets sucked up by the tragic events surrounding it. The score by Composer James Horner (Star Trek II) sounds more pristene than ever before; and although I cannot stand Celine Dion's theme at the end, I must give credit to how clear the entire thing sounds.
The Supplements - 5/5
Boasting one of the best set of supplements I've ever seen, Titanic comes complete with an entire Blu-ray disc of extras, as well as three commentaries on the feature disc itself. All in all, this combination is provides a thorough backgound to the film. Check out all the extras which appear below:
Audio Commentaries - Three different commentaries with Cameron, cast, and crew. Among some of the insights shared include the near 'miscasting' of actor Victor Garber (Alias) and the intricacies of shooting the sinking sequence. There's a lot to like within these commentaries, so take a moment to peruse some, if not all, of them.
Reflections on Titanic (HD, 1:03:47) - This four-part featurette covers the filming, editing, and public reaction to what Producer John Landau called 'the last great epic.' Nearly every element is covered here, and if you're a fan you'll appreciate all the various elements, including how Hollywood responded to the spiraling budgetary concerns. Everyone (except DiCaprio) is re-assembled to share in their memories, and it's nice to see how the film was restored for the 3D experience, which then led to the Blu-ray release.
Titanic: The FInal Word with James Cameron (HD, 1:36:16) - The director and eight experts gather to discuss what really happened to the Titanic. The team treats the sinking site like a crime scene, introducing relevant evidence and rejecting the rest. There's a collection of interesting dive footage and insightful CGI recreations, as the team seeks to uncover what really happened on April 15, 1912.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 57:32) - Fans will really enjoy these scenes, as there's an option to play Cameron's comments as each scene is presented. There are too many to mention here, but trust me: if you like deleted scenes, there's plenty to like here.
Behind the Scenes (SD) - Ported over from the DVD release, fans will enjoy features like 1912 Morph Transition VFX (1:04), Boiler Room Flooding (0:42), and Southampton Flop (1:24). If you can get past the SD, the featurettes are interesting.
Construction Timelapse (SD, 4:20) - This is an amazing feature showing how the set ship grew out of the waters of Mexico in only 100 days by as many as 500 workers.
Deep Dive Presentation (SD, 15:30) - Cameron takes us through the Titanic wreckage, showing us his passion for exploring shipwrecks.
$200,000,001: A Ship's Odyssey - A gag reel of missteps by the actors.
Videomatics (SD, 3:26) - Broken into three excerpts, we learn how the creative team imagined the look of the film.
Visual Effects (SD, 7:22) - There are four featurettes here, from constructing the first class lounge to the Titanic Sinking Simulation
Music Video (SD, 4:46) - Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" is presented.
Trailers (SD/HD) - Six trailers over the course of the film's life and journey into Blu-ray are featured.
TV Spots (SD, 2:33) - These are commercials advertising the film.
Still Galleries (HD) - Six subsections appear here, each one telling another interesting aspect of the film. I think only hardcore fans of the movie will appreciate it, but try it even if your interest is passive.
Titantic Parodies (SD/HD, 9:38) - MTV's '1998 Movie Awards Skit," "Saturday Night Live Skit from 1999," "'Titanic' in 30 Seconds"
Our advance copy included an embossed slipcover, as well as a two-disc DVD. two-disc Blu-ray, and a Digital Copy code. There's no interior artwork, but that's a minor detail here considering the breadth of material presented. Fans can also purchase a much larger set, which comes in a Titanic-looking case with other goodies inside.
The Final Word - 4/5
Supported by one of the best audio and video transfers of the year, as well as the deepest collection of Supplements since Blade Runner, Titanic's arrival onto the Blu-ray market is as spectacular as the ship that sailed only once before meeting a tragic end. Too bad the love story is given so much attention, but this home release is one of the best of the year.
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