James Cameron’s 1997 epic, Titanic, hits stores and virtual shelves today on Blu-ray with a beautiful new high-definition digitally remastered transfer, and I had a blast going back in time with it this weekend.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan, who saw this a dozen times in theaters back in ’97/’98, or just a fan of quality Blu-ray releases, you’ll want this release on your shelf. Even if some of the visual effects don’t hold up with time and higher resolutions, the tragedy and tension will keep you in your seat.
Earlier this year, a 3D version of Titanic toured theatrically, timed with the 100th anniversary of the ship striking the iceberg. Not to be outdone, Criterion also re-issued Roy Ward Baker’s A Night To Remember on DVD and Blu-ray, with brand new cover art and new supplements. As many readers and listeners know, I can’t get out to theaters very often due to my parenting duties and so I wasn’t able to catch Titanic on the big screen. I think we’re all (rightfully) a little gun-shy when it comes to films being post-converted and re-released in 3D, and I didn’t have much interest in it. After seeing a few glimpses at the pain-staking work that went into the post-conversion in the supplements on the 2D Blu-ray, I am much more interested in checking out the 3D Blu-ray to see it in action.
I’m including several screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray below, to give you an idea of how good this new remastered version looks, and while the images have been scaled down a bit from their full 1080p resolution, they should give you an idea as to how sharp the quality is on the Blu-ray.
There’s a moment in James Cameron’s Titanic where, as the ship is sinking, several cabinets full of dishes come crashing down, and very dramatically shatter. I’ve often looked at this scene as exemplifying the excess abundant in this highly profitable, populist, and tragic tale. Why include a shot of dishes being destroyed amidst all the shots of hundreds of people falling to their deaths, or freezing in the waters of the Atlantic? It almost feels like a little visual joke tucked inside the film.
It wasn’t until watching one of the new documentaries included on the new Blu-ray for Titanic, available today, that I realized how even a seemingly redundant scene like the dishes falling can mean something to someone. In “Reflections On Titanic“, a producer points out that how different cultures and countries around the world connect with different aspects of this story, and apparently many people in India connected with the shot of the dishes shattering.
Also available on 3D Blu-ray this week is James Cameron’s return to the Titanic, his documentary Ghosts Of The Abyss. It has been timed with the release of Titanic, and works as a functional supplement to this film, but can be appreciated as a stand alone feature. The 3D feature sucks you into the world of this expedition back to the Titanic, and despite a few gimmicky uses of the 3D, never feels like a cash grab.
I’ve heard many stories about the production of the film, but spending all weekend immersed in the film via the Blu-ray has really brought me around to Team Titanic. I still find the love story to be really ham-fisted throughout the first half of the film, and many of the accents and stereotypes are laughably bad. But the second half of the film, once the Titanic hits the iceberg, is so captivating that I almost forget what I didn’t like about the first half. The moments where the lights flicker, as Rose is making her way through the frozen water filling the lower decks looking for Jack, are so tense and beautifully shot, and really highlight James Cameron’s ability to combine all of the elements that go into great filmmaking.
Cameron likes to refer to himself as a populist filmmaker. This is presumably to help deflect any of the criticisms of poor dialogue or clichéd story elements, and I think he’s right to claim this mantle. There’s nothing wrong with being a populist filmmaker. Film has to be the most popular of the visual art forms, and in order to create a story that crosses time and space you occasionally need to whittle a story down to basic elements.
The supplements on the Blu-ray give you a great deal of context in terms of the overall production, marketing, and release of the film, as well as a look at how popular culture has been affected by the wake of this blockbuster.
- Reflections on Titanic’”NEW!
- Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron’”NEW!
- Deleted Scenes with commentary by James Cameron
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
- Construction Timelapse
- Deep Dive Presentation’”Narrated by James Cameron
- $200,000,001: A Ship’s Odyssey’”the Titanic Crew Video
- Visual Effects
- Music Video’”’My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion
- TV Spots
- Still Galleries
- Titanic Scriptment by James Cameron
- Storyboard Sequences
- Production Artwork
- Ken Marshall’s Painting Gallery
- Concept Posters and One Sheets
- By the Numbers
- Titanic Parodies
- MTV’s 1998 Movie Awards skit
- Saturday Night Live skit
- Titanic in 30 Seconds