September 2012

TitanicA Titanic Home-Theater Experience on Blu-ray

Paramount 14680
Format: Blu-ray, DVD

Overall Enjoyment

Picture Quality

Sound Quality


Director James Cameron's Titanic is available on home video in two four-disc packages. The 3D set is Blu-ray all the way, presenting the 3D movie on two discs, the 2D movie on one disc, and the copious extras on a fourth disc. The 2D set, which is the one I received for review, presents the 2D movie on one Blu-ray Disc, the extras on another Blu-ray, and the 2D movie on two DVDs.

I've had mixed feelings about this film since it was first released, as Cameron has added a fictitious love story to the factual account of the Titanic's sinking. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a great artist from the poor class, and Rose (Kate Winslet) is a refined upper-class girl. They meet and fall in love, and it's sort of like Romeo and Juliet on the high seas, with the impending disaster giving them little time to work out their class-conflict issues. Cameron focuses on the couple at the expense of creating many other three-dimensional characters, and as a result, we feel little but awe and shallow emotions when the ship goes down to its watery grave.

Titanic begins there, in the ocean depths, as divers investigate the skeleton of the once proud "unsinkable" vessel. They discover a sketch of a nude woman, and a much older Rose (Gloria Stuart) identifies herself in the picture and tells the story in a flashback. At the end of the movie we return to the present, so the lengthy story is nicely bookended with a positive ending that some might find a bit sentimental. I found it worthwhile as a last impression after the realistic and gruesome sight of so many drowning souls.

Cameron is at his best in the spectacular crowd scenes, so it's not surprising that the movie gains momentum from the time the ship strikes the iceberg to its sinking. The director was a stickler for details of the Titanic's design and its lavish appointments. In one of the most wrenching scenes, he has the ship split in two, which we now know is factually accurate. Producers of other movies involving the doomed ship, including A Night to Remember, perhaps the best movie based on the tragedy, didn't have access to the wreck, and they portrayed it as going down in one piece.

If you have a home-theater system, Titanic is certainly a feast for the eyes and ears. The picture has good color (including Cameron's penchant for "golden glow"), sharpness, and ideal contrast, with realistic skin tones throughout. The soundtrack is rich and robust with lots of focused bass and good use of the surround channels. As the ship starts to sink, we hear its death throes in creaking and groaning sounds all around the 360-degree listening field. These serve to make the frightening sinking scenes all the more horrible and immediate. Technically, this disc is on a par with Cameron's Avatar. That's a pretty high compliment.

Appropriately, there are enough extra features to sink a ship. The movie disc includes three commentaries: one with James Cameron, one by the cast and crew, and a third by historians Don Lynch and Don Marchelle. The Blu-ray Disc of extras includes "Reflections on Titanic," an hour-plus documentary on making the movie; "The Final Word with James Cameron," a 2012 documentary first shown on television; deleted scenes; and more. You won't be able to finish them all in one sitting. "The Final Word" is particularly interesting, as it follows Cameron and a handpicked group of specialists who use the actual wreck to answer most of the Titanic's mysteries. It has excellent animations to illustrate its theories.

Titanic is the home-theater demonstration disc of the month, and it's destined to be in the top ten for the year. It has state-of-the-art video and audio -- as good as it gets by current standards.

Be sure to watch for: Chapter 12 takes us down to the ship's boiler and engine rooms with detailed scenes of the mighty pistons pumping, accompanied by impressive sounds that make it all seem real.

. . . Rad Bennett