Titanic appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on these single-sided, dual-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the original release packed the movie onto one disc, this one spread it to two. It also gave us an anamorphic transfer instead of the old non-anamorphic one. With that came noticeable improvements in this excellent presentation.
Sharpness was close to flawless. At all times, the movie offered a rock-solid sense of clarity and definition. Virtually no signs of softness popped up along the way, as the film was consistently concise and crisp. I witnessed no jagged edges or shimmering, while both edge enhancement and print flaws seemed absent. This was a clean, distinct image.
Colors were strong. Cameron suffused the film with a wonderfully warm glow that showed up nicely on this DVD. The picture consistently offered strong, vibrant and accurate hues. The costumes came across particularly well, and many of the outdoors, daytime settings also depicted lovely tones. Black levels appeared deep and firm, while shadow detail looked very good, an especially important factor since more than half of this film takes place at night. I saw virtually no problems during the movie, and it narrowly fell short of an “A+”. Put simply, this was a stellar transfer that did justice to the film.
Another change from the prior disc related to the audio. This one included both a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix along with a DTS 6.1 track. Although both were excellent, I preferred the DTS version. I’ll discuss the Dolby one first and then relate the ways in which the DTS track improved on it.
The audio of Titanic showed virtually no problems. The audio used all five channels very well and completely involved the listener within this environment. The sound seemed discrete and well-balanced. It blended together naturally to form a strong three-dimensional soundstage. Most of the information came from the ship-related elements, of course. As the ship soared across the sea in the movie’s first half and then fell to pieces in the second, all the speakers created a life-like and impressive setting that made it feel like we were onboard the vessel.
Even better was the quality of the audio. From start to finish, this track sounded topnotch. Dialogue seemed clear and natural even though much of it must have been dubbed, and it always appeared easily intelligible. James Horner's hit score came across beautifully. The track could deliver it gently or powerfully, depending on the situation.
Best of all were the consistently solid effects. They seemed absolutely realistic at all times and were very clean. The depth of the audio also appeared terrific; this mix really pushed the LFE channel hard, but no problems with boominess occurred. No distortion ever interfered with the audio. Put simply, Titanic sounded terrific.
Why did I prefer the DTS track? It presented a moderately more involving setting with slightly stronger audio. As good as the Dolby mix sounded, the DTS one was just a little richer and more natural. It also blended the five speakers in a smoother manner. There wasn’t an enormous difference between the two, but the DTS mix was amazing while the Dolby one wasn’t quite as stellar. That meant the DTS version earned my highest accolade: an “A+” grade.
How did the picture and audio of this new version compare to those of the original 1999 DVD? The Dolby tracks on both DVDs sounded the same, but since this one included the DTS mix, it got the nod for audio. As I alluded earlier, the new disc’s anamorphic transfer was vastly superior to the old non-anamorphic one. It provided a tighter, more precise image that was a noticeable improvement.
While the old DVD only included a trailer, this new “Special Collector’s Edition” packs in the extras. It starts with three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director James Cameron as he presents a running, screen-specific chat. Cameron discusses factual elements of the film and liberties taken, shooting underwater and various forms of effects, casting, characters, and working with the actors, the script and story, stunts, locations and sets, and general notes from the shoot.
This is only Cameron’s fourth commentary, but the other three – for Aliens, T2 and Solaris – were all excellent. His Titanic discussion is also quite good, but it’s not in the same class as its predecessors. To be sure, Cameron gives us a very nice view of the flick’s creation, and we receive a good feel for all the measures used and challenges faced.
That said, I think things remain a little too technical. At times it feels like he mostly wants to impress us with the film’s authenticity, and the nuts and bolts aspects get a bit tedious. However, whatever disappointment I feel is relative. I admit I expected greatness from this commentary since the other Cameron tracks are so good. While not excellent, this is still a very solid overview of the production and well worth a listen. I’ll probably like it more next time I screen it.
For the second track, we hear from cast and crew. This commentary packs in a large number of participants. We get remarks from executive producer Rae Sanchini, producer Jon Landau, deep dive technical coordinator Ralph White, second unit director Steve Quale, first assistant director Josh McLaglen, re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom, art director Martin Laing, camera operator Jimmy Muro, choreographer/etiquette coach Lynne Hockney, costume designer Deborah Scott, visual effects supervisors Robert Skotak and Rob Legato, composer James Horner, music editor Joe Rand, director of photographer Russell Carpenter, production designer Peter Lamont, unit production manager Kevin de la Noy, sound designer/re-recording mixer Christopher Boyes, stunt coordinator Simon Crane, associate editor Roger Barton, and actors Bill Paxton, Lewis Abernathy, Gloria Stuart, Kate Winslet, Frances Fisher, Danny Nucci, Jonathan Hyde, Jason Barry, Billy Zane, Victor Garber, Bernard Hill, Jenette Goldstein, Ioan Gruffudd, Ewan Stewart, Ellen Mower, Judy Prestininzi, and Suzy Amis. Obviously the size of the roster necessitates edits, as I think only Landau and Sanchini sit together. The track’s producers combine the many elements well, though, and they turn this into a smooth discussion.
And an extremely informative one, too. The commentary covers a vast number of subjects. We get notes about the expeditions to film the real Titanic, the cast and their performances, all form of effects, sets and their dressing/props, location elements, music and audio, editing and cut sequences, Cameron’s style on the set, and a variety of general anecdotes and notes.
If there’s any stone left unturned, I can’t think of it. Of course, some subjects get more time than others, but all receive good attention. The discussions are lively and fairly frank, though not brutally so; for instance, we get veiled references to Cameron’s abrasive nature but nothing terribly strong. In any case, this commentary adds a tremendous amount of good information and provides an excellent look at many aspects of the production.
Lastly, we get a track with historians/consultants Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. As one might assume, they mostly get into issues related to the facts behind the movie. They tell us what parts of the movie accurately reflect reality and which take artistic license. They also chat about their experiences during the making of Titanic and give us some notes about the shoot. The best parts appear during the movie’s second half, as they delve into the specifics of the sinking.
Overall, the discussion helps flesh out some historical issues, but it falls short of becoming truly rich and informative. The guys devote a lot of the track to praise for the film, and that gets old. I think this commentary would have been better if it’d come from people not involved with the production. Lynch and Marschall don’t have any distance from the film, so I don’t know how objectively they view it. This track offers generally good notes, but it suffers from too much happy talk to provide a strong examination of historical issues.
Also spread across DVDs One and Two, we get a Behind the Scenes Mode. This is a “branching” feature you can access in two different ways. If you activate it to run during the movie, occasionally a little sinking ship icon will appear; hit “enter” to watch the clip in question. In addition, you can check out the snippets on their own in a separate area. Taken all together, we get 61 pieces that last a total of 65 minutes, eight seconds.
As implied by the title, these focus on behind the scenes materials, and they also feature comments from the participants. We hear from returning speakers Cameron, Landau, Sanchini, Laing, Stuart, Winslet, Abernathy, Legato, Marschall, Lynch, Skotak, Nucci, Quale, Carpenter, Bates, Lamont, Scott, Fisher, Garber, Hockney, Barry, McLaglen, Crane, and Mower. In addition, we get comments from these new folks: motion control operator Jim Rider, model crew chief Gene Rizzardi, art director Bill Rhea, visual effects cameraman Dennis Skotak, assistant costume designer David Le Vey, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, digital artist Judith Crow, visual effects supervisor Richard Hollander, production supervisor Gig Rackauskas, co-producer Sharon Mann, historian George Mehe, and vocalist Celine Dion.
In a way, these 61 clips act as a sort of video commentary, for they correspond to the film as it progresses. These nicely complement the other commentaries because they focus more on the technical elements. We don’t learn a ton about effects in those tracks, but we get good coverage of those elements here. We find out a great deal about the challenges related to the recreation of the ship and all attached concerns. These go into various effects as well as stunts, camerawork, props and sets.
A few other topics like the characters and actors also pop up, and we learn a little more about the history, the story and the costumes. The elements mentioned dominate, though, and they come to life well via all the behind the scenes footage. We see nice examples of the elements as the snippets demonstrate the subjects. I wouldn’t want to use the branching aspect of this feature, as I think it would distract from the movie too much. However, taken separately, they’re very interesting and informative.
Over on DVD Two, fans will be delighted to find the film’s alternate ending. Presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, this nine-minute and 28-second clip differs from the current ending in only one significant way: the manner in which Rose disposes of the necklace. It’s fun to see but was definitely a good omission, as it mars the movie’s emotional arc.
We can watch the ending with or without commentary from Cameron. Informative as always, he tells us about the scene and why he cut it. Cameron already told us a little about the segment in his feature commentary, but he brings out additional data in this useful track.
Finally, DVD Two ends with a music video for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. I can’t stand Celine, but I must admit I maintain a soft spot for the song, mostly because I associate it with my fondness for the movie. Unfortunately, it’s a dull video, as it uses the standard lip-synch/movie clip format. Yeah, it puts Celine on a ship setting, but it brings nothing creative to the genre.
DVD Three houses many more supplements. Fans will zoom toward the collection of 29 deleted scenes. Watched together via the “Play All” option, these last a total of 47 minutes and 14 seconds. As with the alternate ending, these are presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital audio, and they also come with commentary from Cameron. In addition, Cameron offers a voiceover when you enter this screen; he gives us a few notes about what we’ll see.
Some of the clips restore historical details such as issues related to the wireless and warnings. We also get a little more information about the actions of real participants. Many of the elements focus on deleted subplots such as Fabrizio’s romance, and some expository bits between Jack and Rose get the boot. There’s also a little more in the present day, especially between Brock and Lizzy; that piece sets up the alternate ending. The single biggest cut comes from the scene in which Cal chases Jack and Rose as the boat sinks; it gets a lot more attention here as Lovejoy continues the chase.
Should any of this have made the final cut? That’s tough to say. Much of it definitely deserved to be removed, as a lot of it is unnecessary at best and a distraction at worst. The extended chase I mentioned is a particularly good omission. Some of the smaller moments might have been nice to keep, however, as they add a little life to the smaller roles. I know this is the story of Jack and Rose, but a bit of extra breadth to the secondary parts would have been interesting.
Cameron’s commentary proves useful as always. He offers lots of notes about the scenes and their creation. He also usually tells us why he cut the sequences, but he doesn’t always do so. Despite that flaw, this is another informative chat.
Three areas appear under the banner of “Marketing”. A promotional show from 1998, the Fox Special Breaking New Ground runs 42 minutes and 45 seconds. It packages the usual array of movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We get notes from Cameron, Winslet, DiCaprio, Marschall, Lynch, survivors Eva Hart, Marjorie Robb, and Ruth Becker-Blanchard, and co-producer Al Giddings. The program looks at the expeditions to film the Titanic wreck, the movie’s story and depiction of the voyage, historical debates and controversies, and memories of the sinking. We also get a few deleted scenes.
“Ground” is an odd beast. While it fell into the category of promotion, it came out about two months after the movie’s release. It can be argued that it existed more to serve the film’s legion of fans than to tout the flick; I’d say it played to both sides.
It was fine for what it attempted to be. I watched it when it first aired, mostly to see the short deleted scenes. Of course, those are now irrelevant for owners of this DVD; all of them appear in the “Deleted Scenes” area of this disc. The other features also render “Ground” pretty useless. The comments from the survivors are interesting but we don’t find many of them. “Ground” might merit a viewing, but you’ll probably never bother with it a second time.
More promotional material appears as Press Kit Featurettes. We find seven of these for a total of 18 minutes and 31 seconds of footage. They include comments from Cameron, Winslet, Zane, DiCaprio, Lamont, Landau, Crane, Hockney, Fisher, Sanchini, Giddings, Stuart, and technology supervisor Mike Cameron. It covers the movie’s basic story and cast, the sets, extras and costumes, the depiction of the sinking, Cameron’s work on the film, and the equipment used for the deep dives shots. Given their promotional nature, not a ton of good information pops up in these pieces, but they have some merit. The look at the extras’ “boot camp” is fun, and the clip about the deep dive filming is good.
“Marketing” ends with Concept Posters and One Sheets. This collection includes 62 ads, some of which date back to the film’s originally planned summer release. It’s a good package that gives us a look at many different ad concepts.
The “Special Features” domain presents a mix of additional components. The 1912 Newsreel runs two minutes, 22 seconds. This isn’t an actual clip from 1912; instead, it’s a little piece created during the movie shoot. It depicts the passengers as they arrive at the ship, and it utilizes the movie’s main cast members. I’m not clear why this was made, but it’s entertaining. We can watch it with or without commentary from documentary director Ed Marsh, the creator of the faux newsreel. He chats a little about the piece and what he did.
We hear from Marsh again during the optional commentary for the Construction Timelapse. As implied by the title, this shows the building of the huge fake Titanic in quick fashion. It’s definitely interesting to view the vessel as it goes up, and Marsh helps let us know about some issues related to it in this four-minute and 23-second piece.
James Cameron narrates the 15-minute and 33-second Deep Dive Presentation. This shows footage from the expeditions to film the Titanic wreck. Of course, some of this appears in the movie, but we get a nice collection of raw shots here. Cameron talks about how he convinced the suits at Fox to support this shoot and also lets us know what we see in his useful commentary.
Next we get something called the Titanic Crew Video. This 17-minute and 47-second clip offers a few bloopers, but it’s not a classic gag reel of that sort. Instead, the comedic collection shows goofy moments from the set – both intentional and unintentional - and interjects some irreverent moments. It ends with a long look at the folks who worked on the film. It’s surprisingly entertaining.
The seven-minute and 39-second Titanic Ship’s Tour was created for the 1997 meeting of the Titanic Historical Society. It shows the movie’s sets in detail to give the Titanic buffs a look at all that they put into the effort. This comes with optional commentary from documentary director of photography Anders Falk. He discusses what we see and lets us know a few related notes.
Two Videomatics last a total of three minutes and 18 seconds including an introduction. These provide a crude form of previsualization in which Cameron combined rough shots of miniatures and storyboards to get a feel for how to shoot the sequences. They provide an interesting look at this element, though I’d have liked to see more of them.
The four Visual Effects clips fill a total of seven minutes, 48 seconds. These allow us to see how various elements were combined to create the shots seen in the final film. They work well as they demonstrate various techniques.
If you have hours to spare, head to the Still Galleries, where we find a wealth of material. We get Cameron’s original “scriptment”. This lets us get a look at an early version of the film, though it’s certainly not a sketchy look; it fills 482 screens with text! I really like that we can check out this material and see other ideas Cameron had for the film.
Nine Storyboard Sequences go through different scenes. We get “MIR Sequence” (61 stills), “Southampton Departure” (27) “Ode to Titanic” (46), “Pre-Collision Scenes” (51), “Iceberg Collision” (58) “Loading Lifeboats/Panic” (91), “Final Sinking Sequence” (135) and “Aftermath and Rescue” (43) and “Final Shot” (20). That’s quite a collection of drawings, and most are very attractive; these aren’t crude little sketches. This is a great look at the planning that went into the movie.
“Production Artwork” breaks into three smaller areas. We get “Production Painting by Tom Lay” (71 frames), “Costume Design Art by David Le Vey” (68) and “Wreck Sketches by James Cameron” (9). All are good, but I especially like Lay’s art. The presentation works well, as it starts with a wide shot of the elements and then usually lets us see the pieces in more detail.
When we look at “Photographs”, we again split into subdomains. This area presents “Deep Dive” (45), “Escondido” (17), “Halifax” (29), “Rosarito” (377), “Model Shop” (161), “Russell Carpenter’s Polaroid Trail” (447), and “Core Extras’ Scrapbook” (214). There’s literally hours of shots to examine here, and much of it’s quite good. We find a nice examination of the different parts of the shoot in this quality collection.
More art shows up in “Ken Marschall’s Painting Gallery”. We get 82 frames of his work here. As with prior art galleries, these break down the paintings into segments after we see the whole piece. I like that method since it better allows us to view all the detail, and this becomes another terrific set of stills.
The somewhat enigmatically titled “By the Numbers” actually acts as an ode to Titanic’s success. Across its 25 screens, we see a list of the nations in which the film was the all-time top-grossing flick. We also find a roster of awards won by the movie. Though this seems a little self-congratulatory, it’s still interesting. I especially like the box office charts since they show the films right below Titanic in terms of gross. Who knew that Bean was so popular in Poland?
The “Still Galleries” conclude with a “Bibliography”. Across 72 screens, we find many Titanic-related reference materials. It’s a good listing, though it’d have been nice to get some annotations to let us know a little more about the works.
The DVD concludes with some Easter eggs. For the first one, go to the “Marketing” screen, highlight the Fox special, then press “right”, “down” and “enter”. From there you’ll watch a four-minute and 35-second clip first aired on the 1998 MTV Movie Awards. It shows Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller as agents who try to convince Cameron to make a Titanic sequel, and it’s pretty amusing.
For the other egg, go to the final screen of the “Deleted Scenes” area and highlight the box with “29. Extended Carpathia Sequence”. Click “right” and “down” from there and then press “enter”. This brings us to a four-minute and 50-second clip from an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Bill Paxton. It parodies the film and uses Cheri Oteri as old Rose. It also ends with a funny coda from Cameron.
Editorial note: I’ve seen at least one website that gave this DVD’s extras a less-than-stellar grade because apparently it lacks a planned documentary. This is absurd. I review what’s on a DVD, not what isn’t. If the content of the existing package isn’t great, then I say so, but I won’t downgrade a release solely because it doesn’t include a documentary that I’ve not even seen. Without this program, this remains a detailed and fascinating collection of extras, and to slam the set because it lacks an originally planned component makes little sense to me.
Many naysayers will disagree, but I still think Titanic heartily deserved all its critical and financial success. Though the movie has its flaws, this is clearly one of those examples in which the whole is more valuable than the sum of its parts. Moving, entertaining and stunning at times, Titanic remains an exceptional film.
Now it comes to us on an exceptional DVD. The movie looks and sounds absolutely amazing, and the supplements add a tremendous wealth of information about the flick. This one comes with my highest recommendation. If you don’t own the old DVD, get this one. If you do own the old DVD, get this one. It’s a real winner.
To rate this film visit the original review of TITANIC