BLU-RAY REVIEW: Titanic 3D & Ghosts of the Abyss 3D
James Cameron's 1997 Hit & 2003 Real-life Underwater Adventure Come to Hi-Def...
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There's no doubt James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic was a hit. It resonated with both men and women, boys and girls of every age, race, and religion. It was everything moviegoers in 1997 wanted in a film: an intense adventure, a swooning romance, a dramatic suspense, and am often funny and simply entertaining movie that, while considered by some to be on the long end at 194 minutes, Titanic still kept us all engaged and watching as we enjoyed a seemingly simple story of a boy and a girl who meet under unique circumstances which turn into one of the most tragic and terrible incidence in modern transportation history.
Thanks to both Paramount Pictures and Disney/Buena Vista, fans of Cameron's original 1997 film Titanic and his 2003 follow-up documentary Ghosts of the Abyss can now get both films on blu-ray 3D.
The film's story is well known: a crew of modern day sea explorers lead by a persistant captain (Bill Pullman) is looking to discover the Titanic's treasures and specifically a massive diamond necklace called the "Heart of the Ocean." Instead, the crew finds a drawing which shows a nude woman wearing the necklace. When publicized, the drawing gains the attention of an elderly woman (Gloria Stuart) who says she survived the horrible accident. This elderly woman, Rose, thus begins to recount her joyous, wondrous, and ultimately tragic youth aboard the RMS Titanic. Through the eyes of young Rose (Kate Winslet) reveals she was to be wed to a wealthy businessman (Billy Zane); however, she feels trapped by this life of luxury, wealth and fortune, married to man she does not love and thus decides instead to end her life by jumping from the deck of the massive ship. As fate would have it, a young immigrant named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) finds her and rescues her from her own demise. The pair immediately hit it off and this of course leads them on a whirlwind romance which includes everything from first class dining with the riches of the rich and dancing with the poorest of the poor to nude sketching and - of course - struggling to survive after the ship hits an iceberg.
The film's main story is essentially a massive flashback being told to the treasure hunting crew which, in turn, makes for an interesting secondary plot as the crew members - like we the viewers - are enticed by Rose's story of her brief love with a man she hardly knew. As previously mentioned, the film is long at three hours and 14 minutes. However, it's because of the length we're able to watch as the characters grow, mature, and become relateable. Likewise, we're able to enjoy the well-paced, well-written romance between Jack and Rose begins, blossom, grows, and eventually - tragically - end. The casting is extremely well done and each and every member of the cast plays their roles perfectly. While I'm not particularly a fan of either Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, they both do an outstanding job of bringing their characters - Jack and Rose - to life on screen. It is these two characters who lay the foundation for the entire film and make everything else matter. Writer/director James Cameron, who before this was best known for movies like Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Abyss, makes a great case for his entering the drama/romance genres with Titanic. While you may not be a fan, many people were, which is why Titanic took home no less than 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Sound Mixing and Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects.
There's no doubt once you see Titanic you understand and appreciate the film's technical merits. It's a gorgeous creation that, thanks to a very talented crew of technical artists, designers, creators, and animators, looks so amazingly real, it's shocking. Now, thanks to Stereo D, who handled the 3D conversion process, Titanic looks more beautiful and impressive than ever. The film looks as though it was filmed in 3D and truly Cameron understood what he was doing when he decided to spend the money to re-release the film in 3D. While I am not personally a fan of 3D movies, especially ones not originally shot in 3D, I must admit Titanic 3D is something astonishing to see. No matter your opinion of the storyline, Titanic is nothing short of visual glory.
In 2D, the film comes to life in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a nearly perfect 1080p video transfer. Even more impressive than the 3D version, the 2D version providing viewers with gorgeous colors which jump off of the screen, deep contrasts, and beautiful smooth lines which flow on screen. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio also delivers with a solid use of the complete sound stage, ensuring those with home theater systems get an amazing experience. The background noise - sea gulls, crowds, ship engines and boiler rooms, shoes dancing and sliding across the floor, glaces clinking and - eventually - steel ripping and metal shredding; each and every sound is present.
As for special features, the multi-disc set includes almost too many bonus features to mention here. Those worth nothing include audio commentaries from the 2005 release, including James Cameron's take on the film and a cast and crew commentary which includes contributions from producers, cinematographers, actors, actresses, VFX supervisors, sound editors and mixers...the list is extensive. The last commentary includes comments from Historians Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, who discuss everything from ship history and survivor stories to props and costuming. All three of the commentaries are well done, though the most engaging is by far that with the historians.
Other special features include the 63-minute "Reflections on Titanic" documentary, which is broken into four parts examining everything from casting and acting, set design and film locales, the film's release, critical reaction and even interviews with cast and crew now. The second in-depth documentary is the 96 minute "Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron," which features writer/director Cameron and eight experts who discuss the ship's history, design, course, tragic end, and modern exploration. Made specifically for history buffs, those who enjoy the film will want to check this out as it's a great continuation of the modern search for truth and what really happened.
The set also includes a whole slough of behind-the-scenes production shorts which range in subject from deep sea diving and the different actresses who played Rose to the different locales on the ship and the use of digital characters on the ship. Each of the 31 separate production shorts range in length from 40 seconds to 1:30 long. Four short featurettes discuss the visual effects of Titanic, three shorts explore the Videomatics and an extensive archive includes trailers, TV spots, still galleries, music videos, parodies, posters, and more.
In all, this 4-disc set includes the full extent of anything and everything one could want if you're a fan of the film. All except Ghosts of the Abyss 3D...
Ghost of the Abyss 3D
Following the success of Titanic, writer/director Cameron and Titanic co-star Bill Pullman return to the ship of dreams and explore the bottom of the ship lodged at the bottom of the ocean. Re-released in 3D, this 60-minute documentary is a perfect compliment to the Titanic release and makes for a great, in-depth look at the ship in it's current state. Cameron does an exceptional job of explaining the exploration as well as providing viewers with both the ships look today and, at times, what it may have looked like when it first sailed a century ago. Pullman as the sidekick/friend provides some funny moments and compliments the crew of experts and historians with his normalcy (if you can call Pullman "normal").
The film's features a bonus documentary - Reflections From The Deep - which continues to explore Cameron's obsession with the Titanic. More in-depth and with just as much info as the main feature, Reflections of the Deep provides even further investigation into the ship, its history, and its continued affects on our culture today.
Overall, when together, both Titanic and Ghosts of the Abyss provide the most in-depth, impressive, and engaging fictional and non-fictional accounts of the tragic tale that is the RMS Titanic.
Both films are available now on blu-ray 3D, blu-ray, and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley