Limited 3D Edition
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Danny Nucci, Gloria Stuart, David Warner, Victor Garber, Bill Paxton
Director: James Cameron
Release Date: October 4, 2012, 7:36 pm
Rating: PG-13 for (adult themes, violence, nudity)
Run Time: 03h:14m:49s
“I’m the king of the world!” - Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio)
Movie Grade: B+
DVD Grade: A+
I used to think James Cameron could do no wrong. Throughout his career, he consistently made some of the most memorable genre films of the last 30+ years, including Aliens, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Even the most brilliant of filmmakers has a misstep every now and then, and it’s usually something that’s only considered substandard because it can’t quite live up to the lofty heights of their best works. Nothing can compare to the obscenely colossal disappointment of a fiasco that was Cameron’s Avatar. I could write page after page about the absurdity of that film’s awfulness, but this is not the forum. Indeed, it was my revisiting of Cameron’s Titanic, here on Paramount’s new Limited 3D Edition Blu-ray release that reminded me of just how brilliant a filmmaker James Cameron could be, and just how awful a movie full of blue creatures (no offense, Smurfs) could be.
When a group of explorers/treasure-seekers head to the wreckage site of the Titanic, which sunk on April 15, 1912, during its maiden voyage, they are beyond awed by what they find. Their leader, Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton), is looking for something specific, namely, the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace that was said to have once been the property of King Louis XVI. When the elderly Rose Dawson Calvert (Gloria Stuart) learns of Lovett’s quest, she seeks him out, claiming to have close ties to the necklace, and tells of her experience on the Titanic during its first, fatal trip. Rose (played by Kate Winslet as a young woman) boarded the Titanic with her wealthy fiancée Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), and her very-approving mother, Ruth (Frances Fisher). Soon after the ship leaves port, Rose meets Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a scrappy young man trying to find his way in life, and has made his way onto the boat at the last minute. Despite their differences in financial status and social class, Rose is instantly drawn to Jack and they fall in love. Despite the strength of their passionate new love, even that might not be able to withstand the legendary tragedy that awaits them.
I really liked, dare I say, loved Titanic when I saw it in a theater on its opening weekend. I was sucked in by the sappy romance, charming lead actors, and, more than anything, the knowledge that very few of the people we were getting to know, would survive the film’s epic running time. A few of those elements still pack the same punch now as they did back in 1997, but the sappy romance angle not only seems over the top on its own now, but it’s even more disturbingly sappy thanks to the awful similar themes in Avatar. Still, unlike the awkward, out-of-place feeling that the romantic elements of Avatar oozed, they still serve a huge purpose in Titanic, as, without the Jack and Rose relationship at the forefront of his film (or the excellent work by the incredibly young-looking Winslet and DiCaprio), Cameron wouldn’t have had much of a film aside from the awesome special effects that recreated the sinking of the titular ship.
That incredible effects work looks better than ever on this pair of 3D Blu-ray discs, (the film is split between the two discs to preserve the best possible video quality) which presents the movie in 1.78:1 widescreen. This is easily the best looking film yet to be converted to 3D, as it has a very natural, 3D look and feel to it to begin with. Not surprisingly, there’s nothing in the way of “gotcha” 3D effects coming straight at the audience, but the 3D conversion adds a natural layer of depth to the overall image that makes the wider shots and extended sinking sequence feel much more “real” and puts us as close to being there as possible. The 3D even makes a huge impact in the beginning, from the awesomeness of the Paramount Logo’s arrival on-screen, to an added sense of claustrophobia generated as the visuals practically put us on-board the diving vessels scoping out the ship’s wreckage. This is one of those rare occasions where converting a beloved film to 3D was actually worth the effort. Saying that the 2D presentation is reference quality is an understatement, as this is easily one of the best Blu-ray transfers to date. Image clarity is unsurpassed, and the bright, vivid colors that shine during the sunny, daytime sequences, are brilliantly complemented by wonderful blacks and well-handled contrast levels during the perilous, nighttime scenes. Flesh tones are always natural, and there are literally no flaws or other blemishes that bog the transfer down in even the slightest way.
The audio is just as impressive, with the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio being one of the best HD audio presentations I’ve heard on a Blu-ray disc. The overall mix perfectly handles all of the various sound elements it’s given to deal with, whether we’re talking about a simple scene where the boat is traveling along calm waters or the ultra-intense, horrific sounds associated with its sinking. The track really shines once the sinking begins, as directional effects abound to immerse us as this metal monstrosity crumbles and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Even the dialogue clarity is impressive, as it works in perfect harmony with James Horner’s unforgettable score, and rounds out a mix that will be tough to top, and should be your new go-to Blu-ray when demo-ing your home theater’s audio.
The extras collection is spread out between Discs 3 and 4, with Disc 3 housing a trio of commentaries. The first features James Cameron, who has never been a huge fan of commentary tracks, but delivers one of the better ones that I’ve heard in quite some time. He covers as many aspects of the film’s production as possible, never getting too technical, and balancing those bits out with some great, truly funny on-set stories involving the cast. The second track includes numerous cast and crew members, including Winslet, who tells even more great stories of working with DiCaprio and Cameron, and offers even more interesting on-set tales. The final selection is a Historical Commentary by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, who focus on the technical aspects of the film, and how accurate Cameron’s take on the non-fictional elements of his film truly are.
Disc 4 is filled to the brim with supplements, beginning with a pair of documentaries. The first, and arguably most compelling, is the 63-minute Reflections on Titanic, a comprehensive piece that pretty much tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the making of the film, including a look at the 3D conversion that recently took place. The other doc is Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron, and this 96-minute film chronicles the technical aspects behind what actually happened to the titular ship, via dive footage and a roundtable discussion involving Cameron and numerous experts who have studied this for decades.
Next, we have 57-minutes of Deleted Scenes with optional audio commentary from Cameron. Sure, there’s some fluff here that clearly should have been excised from an already bloated running time, but there’s also some interesting footage that is well worth a look, including an alternate ending. There’s also another 63 minutes of behind the scenes footage, which is broken into numerous subjects, as well as a quick look (four minutes) at a time- lapse of the construction of the ship for the film. The 15-minute Deep Dive Presentation Narrated by James Cameron is a tour of the actual ship wreckage, where Cameron muses about his love of doing such things, and $200,000,001: A Ship’s Odyssey is a 17-minute collection of rather funny, on-set footage. There are three pieces involving Videomatics that last a scant three minutes, and four pieces regarding Visual Effects that barely last eight minutes.
We finish up this wonderfully exhausting supplemental journey with an “Archives” collection that kicks off with the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the Music Video for “My Heart Will Go On” By Celine Dion. But enough about that, we also get six trailers for Titanic, including the two trailers for the 2012 theatrical release, seven TV Spots, six Still Galleries, and a trio of hilarious “Titanic Parodies,” including a very memorable Saturday Night Live sketch from 1999.
Chuck Aliaga October 4, 2012, 7:36 pm