Blu-Ray review: Titanic (1997)

“Once more, you open the door….”  Will Titanic go on and on?  Well, it kind of does in the spiffy new Blu-Ray edition.  But for fans of the film and lovers of quality Blu-Ray it’s wonderful to see James Cameron use the tools he wielded so well in Avatar to spiff up this modern classic.

I have to admit that I had been burnt out on Titanic.  Not surprising, as I’d seen it 7 times or so in theaters, and innumerable times on VHS, DVD and TV.  (Yes, I watch movies I own on DVD when they pop up on television.  As the fellas from Guy Code say, #DontJudgeMe.)  I think it’s just that there’s only so many times anyone can see poor Jack slip into the icy black water before your heart will go plotz.  So, as much as I wanted to see the way this film had been dressed up for it’s new debut , there was a bit of trepidation hanging around as well.  But before I knew it I was sucked back into the story of Rose, Jack and the iceberg.  Not without a gasp or two though; the Blu-Ray tweaks and primps will take the breath away from anyone who has seen the movie as originally shown in theaters.  It’s so crystal-clear it’s almost freakish.

I wanted to raise my hand and touch the fuzzy-looking rust clinging to the sunken ship, count each sequins on Rose’s black-and-red gown.  I was gobsmacked at the visual clarity, and the detail the set, art and costuming crew that put Titanic together is quite literally in sharp focus.  Which makes the scene where all those lovely White Star Line plates come crashing down from the walls that much more heartbreaking.  The iceberg is clearer, with shades of color I’d never seen before (and I could aaaaaalmost get a bit of the prop-ness of it, as the ship grazes the ‘berg.)  The cast and crew commentary track says there was a small Godzilla embedded in the “ice”.  Now?  I feel like I could probably find it.

Speaking of commentary tracks, there are three here: one from James Cameron showing his thought process during the making of the film as well as his deep love of the history of the original ship, a free-for-all cast and crew commentary with tons of folks (including Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott, producer Jon Landau, and music master James Horner) and a historical information track.  Phew!  What’s great about these tracks is how easy it is to switch from one to another, from the movie soundtrack to a commentary.  What I would have liked in addition is the ability to have the commentary tracks as subtitles while the original movie sound played.  Kinda like a “Pop-Up Video” for movie and history geeks.  But I did get to listen to the commentaries just the way I hoped; first half cast-and-crew, second half historical.  Then I vice-versa’d that bad boy.  I’m a completist.  I’m glad; at the end of the cast and crew track there’s a discussion of how “My Heart Will Go On” came into being.  Sappy singing, nowadays?  Sure.  But don’t tell me you didn’t cry when you first heard it.

On to disc two, the extras.  My favorite is the other movie attached to this set, “Titanic The Final Word”, which is worth watching just so you can see the film’s Titanic sink in reverse.  Sweet!  As with the film disc, a pop-up menu makes turning subtitles on and off simple.   At a bit over an hour and a half, it’s a great chat-fest between James Cameron and several experts, including a naval architect from the U.S. Naval Academy.  They deconstruct every bit of real information to bring together the closest thing to a real, true breakdown of the sinking.  They also discuss what the film got wrong, the possibility of saving more people if they could go back in time to help, and show an updated  animation of the sinking.

Another item in disc two is the new “Reflections on Titanic”, a series of short films that have cast and crew reminiscing.  Is it a mutual admiration society?  Sure.  But it’s also a fun way to get to see the actors and crew work behind-the-scenes as their voice clues you in on more info.  There’s also a mention of the infamous “Titanic Watch” from Variety, and all the negative buzz that surrounded the film before it’s release.  Sure, it cost a boatload (see what I…yeah) but it seems funny now to think people figured this movie would be a flop.

Stills and artwork (harder to maneuver through than the movies and shorts), deleted scenes from the film, and Titanic spoofs (the MTV and SNL bits feel overlong and a bit mean-spirited now, but the Angry Alien’s “Titanic in 30 Seconds”  is a hoot) add to a kitchen sink approach that works well with this much-beloved film.  My favorite?  The James Cameron’s original script/treatment that shows a similar story with intriguing differences.  Yes, he put up the whole thing for everyone.  It’s amazing that only 167 pages became over 3 hours.  Totally worth it though.  Disc 3 and 4 of the Blu-Ray set are parts one and two of the film, which is really only good for bringing over to a friend’s house who doesn’t have a Blu-Ray player. But it’s a nice, inclusive addition.  So’s the digital copy, which was easy to download to iTunes (though it did take forever with my cruddy ISP).

So, should you buy the thing?  If you’re a fan of the film, yes.  Even if you have it on DVD.  The picture quality is so much better than anything you’ve seen before that you’ll really want to take a look at this spiffy new version.  Ditto for fans of high-quality Blu-Ray; there’s love in this version and it definitely shows.  Plus, there’s nothing quite like seeing all those amazing sets, props and costumes in laser focus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>