One of the biggest box-office successes in movie history starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet celebrates its 25th anniversary. Featuring a generic, formulaic plot about a pair of star-crossed lovers, James Cameron's incredibly simple story is surprisingly the right approach for immersing audiences in the romance and glamor of the ship once called "The Last Word in Luxury" and its unfortunate plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, Paramount Pictures brings the epic disaster romance to 4K Ultra HD with a spectacular, reference-quality HDR video, a highly-satisfying Dolby Atmos track, and a plethora of bonus content. The overall package is Recommended for devoted fans.
After reading so much about production troubles, the ever-increasing budget and the release date being pushed from summer to the end of the year, I didn't have much interest in seeing Titanic because I expected a complete disaster. However, little did I know James Cameron's 1997 film was part of a major cultural movement that would prove early predictions wrong. The historical romance epic would not only go on to record-breaking history, but it also introduced the world to the "tween" audience, the consumer demographic largely responsible for making the film a phenomenal success. And to my surprise, I enjoyed the film. I wasn't swept away or convinced it deserved the endless praise, but I was nonetheless pleasantly satisfied. The story of two star-crossed lovers from vastly different social classes is nothing new. In fact, it's a rather generic and hackneyed plot — so common and unimaginative that it's downright stale.
Coming from the mind behind Aliens, True Lies, The Abyss and Terminator 2, I was dumbfounded such an inventive filmmaker would stoop to something so pedestrian for a movie of this magnitude, essentially affirming my expectation of a doomed production. Adding to my dismay was seeing Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, a pair of serious dramatic actors, in the leading roles of such a trite, uninspiring plot. But audiences at that time couldn't care less that the worn-out story had been used countless times long before Cameron's disaster flick finally set sail on its voyage to cinematic history, valuing the plot's simplicity as a straightforward modern retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet where the romantic leads fight against social stigmas and eventually for their lives. Understandably, it is a universal fantasy that captures the imagination, perhaps even the desires, of a very large audience.
On a more technical note, the overall production of a rather smart script is brilliant. Because we know the love affair of the free-spirited artist Jack (DiCaprio) and the restless, emotionally-constricted Rose (Winslet) is an ill-fated one, there's a natural sense of tension and doom that immediately draws us into the movie with little effort required. Cameron purposefully used a familiar melodrama that harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, perfect for the plot's 1912 setting and complementing the filmmaker's aspirations for a more regal and dignified period. Sitting through the 194-minute epic romance, I was swept away more by the striking cinematography of Russell Carpenter, whose photography beautifully added to that classic Hollywood feel. I simply marveled at the technical visual achievement on display while the love story helped in allowing my mind to gaze in awe at the production design and be astounded by all the historical details.
Watching it on the big screen at the time, I was captivated by the ship's majestic beauty as young love blossomed while an unfortunate disaster loomed ahead. And like so many moviegoers, I was spellbound for 90 minutes, witnessing the unsinkable "Ship of Dreams" slowly descend to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Before I even knew it, I was magically transported back to that ill-fated night of 15 April 1912 and found myself enthralled by the film, even tearing up to the band playing their final melody and at the sight of a captain going down with his ship. Whenever I reflect on that night and with every rewatch, I think Titanic remains one the best movie dates ever, and I also think that's the real genius of what Cameron had accomplished. We're not merely watching it; we're experiencing it. For a brief moment, we are on that luxury cruiser heading towards America, enraptured by its splendor and man-made wonder, docking safely on the other side with the memory of a lifetime.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
James Cameron’s box office juggernaut finally arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. A two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set, the film is pressed on a BD-100 disc with a BD-50 serving up all of the luxury bonus features. The discs are housed in a standard black case with identical slipcover art. The disc loads to a language menu before letting you choose to go to the main feature or go to the animated main menu.
The pride and joy of the White Star Line sets sail on the Ultra HD waters equipped with a stunningly remarkable, reference-quality HEVC H.265 encode that sinks its Blu-ray predecessor to the bottom of the ocean. Coming from a new remaster and restoration of the original 35mm camera negatives, the native 4K video boasts razor-sharp details from start to finish, exposing every nook and cranny of the ship with impressive clarity. From the rivets, the grain of the wood and the tiniest imperfections to the fine stitching in the costumes, the freshly-minted transfer enjoys striking definition, allowing fans to better appreciate the amount of work and talent that went the production. Even the dated CGI work shockingly looks good and holds up surprisingly well.
Thanks to the Dolby Vision HDR, the movie also enjoys an improved contrast and brightness balance, showering each scene in vividly bright and clean whites while specular highlights add a crisper, more intense sparkle and shine along metallic and watery surfaces and a tighter glow in the hottest spots. While the darkest shadows maintain excellent visibility and delineation, deeply rich and true blacks penetrate deep into the screen, providing the 2.35:1 image with a beautiful cinematic appeal and an appreciable three-dimensional quality. A richly saturated array of colors bathes the action in accurate yet spirited primaries, particularly the energetic blues and dynamic reds, while secondary pastel hues are bolder and more animated with better variation. Facial complexions appear more natural and healthier with a lifelike peach-rosiness in the entire cast, revealing every pore, minuscule wrinkle and negligible blemish. Awash in a very fine layer of natural grain, the mega-blockbuster lands on the shores of UHD with phenomenal results. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 98/100)
The ship of dreams crashes into home theaters with a terrific and highly-satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that fans will absolutely love. However, it's not quite the triumph that we'd expect from a production of this magnitude, starting with the surprisingly conservative low-end, which is not to say that it's lacking or disappointing. In fact, bass can be impressively strong and powerful in certain key areas, primarily during the disaster and sinking of the ship in the second half. The issue is that it's not quite as potent or robust as some of the visuals would suggest, as in it never really digs deep or shows much variation, mainly floating in the mid-bass region, which is nonetheless punchy and sturdy to satisfy. Thankfully, this does not affect the rest of the design, exhibiting outstanding distinction and crystal-clear clarity in the upper ranges even during the loudest segments. Imaging consistently feels broad and spacious with excellent movement across the three channels and into the top heights, creating an awesome, highly-engaging half-dome effect for the majority of the runtime.
The other issue is something mentioned in the previous Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA track, which again is not a bad thing in and of itself. This is a front-heavy story primarily driven by its dialogue and character development which just happens to also be a disaster flick, so much of the attention and focus is on the vocal and character interactions, which it delivers with fantastic clarity and first-class intonation so that we hear every emotive inflection in the performances. However, for an object-based mix, the height channels are largely silent and don't quite reach the level of a truly three-dimensional listening experience. Occasionally, we can enjoy some atmospherics bleeding into the ceiling, but they're pretty sporadic and sadly, call more attention to themselves than feel fluid and natural. It's not until the second half that the heights are employed with more consistency, but even then, the ambient effects are rather infrequent and easily localized. On the plus side, they move above the listening area with some appreciable smoothness and effortlessness to generate at least some sense of immersion.
Of course, this could all be intentional on the part of the filmmakers and the object-based mix has its moments, especially during the action-packed second half. Also, none of this is meant as a negative or to imply deficiencies in the track. These are just observations explaining why the audio doesn't quite reach the heights of reference quality. But in the end, this is still a fantastic, highly enjoyable listen. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 90/100)
If it wasn’t an iceberg that sank Titanic, the weight of these bonus features would probably do the trick! James Cameron and crew at 20th Century, Lightstorm, and Paramount have banded together to give fans of the film a terrific mix of new extra features and archival materials from the 2005 DVD and 2012 Blu-ray sets. It’s quite the haul, to say the least! Digging into the new goodies, we have a nice retrospective featurette with Stories from the Heart pulling in Cameron, producer Jon Landeau, and other movers and shakers from the film to comment on their memories. It's a puff piece, sure, but it's a good puff piece. Next on the new, we have that amazing special James Cameron did to prove (or disprove) that Jack and Rose could have both fit on the broken door and both survived. Next is a great look at the trailers and marketing for the film including the super cheesy “action” trailer Paramount originally made for the film. The last of the new materials is found in the Still Galleries offering a special selection of fan posters and art. If that's not enough, you have all of the archival documentaries and featurettes to dig into as well. If you're counting the runtime of the three excellent audio commentaries on the 4K disc and all of the new and archival extras, you’ve got the better side of fifteen hours of extra Titanic content.
4K UHD Disc
Blu-ray Bonus Disc
One of the biggest box-office successes in movie history features a rather generic and formulaic plot about a pair of star-crossed lovers during the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Nevertheless, the incredibly simple story is surprisingly the right approach for immersing audiences in the romance and glamor of the ship once called "The Last Word in Luxury" and its unfortunate plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, James Cameron's epic disaster romance sets sail on the 4K Ultra HD waters with a spectacular, reference-quality Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a highly-satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The package is also brimming with bonus features that will keep viewers occupied for hours, making this Recommended for devoted fans.
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