Written by Kirk BairdJust out on a two-disc Blu-ray, two-disc DVD set is the love story set to tragedy and drama, Titanic. Fifteen years after its release, the film remains an effective combination of a director’s unyielding vision, an audience-pleasing romance, historical curiosity, and arguably the best use of CGI in movie history with the sinking of the ship.
Written and directed by James Cameron, the 1997 Best Picture Oscar winner remains the filmmaker’s greatest triumph and, until Avatar came along, his most flawed work. Titanic is a 90-minute gripping film with a 90-minute warm-up, but given the limitations of Cameron’s workspace — he had to shoehorn a dramatic plot into a historical disaster everyone knows — his script and film succeeds.
Leonardo DiCaprio shoulders some unnecessarily harsh criticism for his role as lower-class and happy drifter Jack, while Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress for her role as upper-class beauty Rose, who’s miserable with her station in life. The unlikely couple make for a likable and, more important, believable pair, and without them Titanic’s sinking is simply an exercise in groundbreaking effects.
But this movie is less about the people on board the ship than the film’s namesake, and the spectacle and grandeur of the recreated Titanic and its historically accurate details make for a magnificent display on Blu-ray. While the commentaries with Cameron, the cast, and historians have been imported from the 2005 DVD release of the film, the Blu-ray offers two-and-a-half hours of new material, including a pair of documentaries — Reflections on Titanic and Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron — as well as 30 deleted scenes, and 60 behind-the-scenes featurettes. This is a must-have for fans of the second-biggest film of all time.
To complement the Titanic Blu-ray release is Ghosts of the Abyss 3D, Cameron’s documentary capturing his return trip to the Titanic and its resting place on the floor of the icy Atlantic Ocean. The three-disc combo Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray/DVD version offers the original hour-long theatrical release from 2003 and an expanded 90-minute cut. The extra half-hour provides extended trips into the rusting and deteriorating ruins of the ship, as Cameron and actor Bill Paxton, who played treasure seeker Brock Lovett in Titanic, dive in submersibles to the wreckage. More impressive is the footage from special underwater robot cameras nicknamed Jake and Elwood as the crafts negotiate ghostly dark rooms and hallways that have been silent since April 15, 1912. CGI effects provide context and ghostly visions to the often-unrecognizable remains, as the ship is slowly being reclaimed by the sea and sea life.
Ghosts of the Abyss makes a fascinating bookend to Titanic — assuming after more than three hours on the S.S. Cameron you’re up for another 90 minutes with the director and the doomed ship.