When the theatrical release of James Cameron's Titanic
was delayed from July to December of 1997, media pundits speculated that Cameron's $200-million disaster epic would cause the director's downfall, signal the end of the blockbuster era, and sink Paramount Pictures as quickly as the ill-fated luxury liner had sunk on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. Titanic
would surpass the $1-billion mark in global box-office receipts, win 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Director, launch the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time, and make a global superstar of Leonardo DiCaprio. A bona fide pop-cultural phenomenon, the film has all the ingredients of a blockbuster (romance, passion, luxury, grand scale, a snidely villain, and an epic, life-threatening crisis), but Cameron's alchemy of these ingredients proved more popular than anyone could have predicted. His stroke of genius was to combine absolute authenticity with a pair of fictional lovers whose tragic fate would draw viewers into the heart-wrenching reality of the Titanic
disaster. As starving artist Jack Dawson and soon-to-be-married socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater, DiCaprio and Kate Winslet won the hearts of viewers around the world, and their brief, but never forgotten, love affair provides the humanity that Cameron needed to turn Titanic
into a moving emotional experience. Although some of the computer-generated visual effects look artificial, others--such as the climactic splitting of the ship's sinking hull--are state-of-the-art marvels of cinematic ingenuity. It's an event film and a monument to Cameron's risk-taking audacity, blending the tragic irony of the Titanic
disaster with just enough narrative invention to give the historical event its fullest and most timeless dramatic impact. --Jeff Shannon
Perhaps James Cameron wasn't ready to dish in 1999 when his mega-hit debuted on DVD with nary an extra (no, we don't count the trailer). Now in 2005, Cameron and his magicians dish on the cutting-edge effects and the craft of the movie. The heart of the extras are over 45 minutes of deleted scenes fans will fawn over, including some dealing with historical backstory (including a scene on the nearby ship California), a great kiss between Jack and Rose, and an extended suspense scene (listen to Cameron's commentary on that one). Happily, the alternate ending was not used (no, Jack doesn't live). The sound has been upgraded (including a DTS 6.1 ES track), the color palate is richer (the interiors glow more), and the picture is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions, although the film is now split onto two discs.
The three-disc set has an abundance of materials; the galleries, for example, contain 628 on-set photos, 447 personal photos from the cinematographer, 532 storyboard sketches, 148 technical drawings, and even a 72-page bibliography. The features on the sets and effects offer some great tidbits, many dealing how everything had to be made versus rented since most items were going to be destroyed on camera.
Cameron is pictured on the box art and his stamp is all over the DVD set. He narrates the deep dive footage, you can read his original "scriptment" (if you want to read though 492 page clicks; some of these extras would have been better on a CD-ROM), and his commentary track is so complete, he covers most of the items the historical experts offer on their own track (they get too caught up in the film to muster more interesting facts). He offers only one apology for a factual "guess" and clears up that "king of the world" riff at the Oscars. The third commentary with most of the key members of the cast and crew is worth a listen but, alas, Leonardo DiCaprio does not contribute to this or any other new feature. Other must-sees: a time-lapse short on the creation of the boat set, and the first-half of a salute to the staff that works as a blooper reel. One caveat: there's a four-disc Region 2 version available in Europe with parodies and other extras, but no one is offering an official reason why it's not offered in the States. --Doug Thomas