Titanic (1997)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Gloria Stuart, Billy Zane
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

I must have been one of the very few people in this world who had not seen "Titanic" during its theatrical run. The reason was quite simple. At the time the hype was just too much for me and it got to the point that it actually turned me off the film rather than get me excited. I also had no intention to watch the film either on VHS or Laserdisc so I was simply waiting until it would finally make it to DVD. This moment has finally arrived, as we all know, and hopeful I inserted the disc into the DVD Review reference player to see for myself what everyone was so crazy about.

The film starts with a diving crew making their way through the wreck of the "Titanic" in the Atlantic Ocean in hope to find a fabulous gem. They find the safe that is supposed to contain the jewel but when they bring it to the surface and open it, it contains nothing of value, but a pencil drawing of you beautiful young girl.

The event is telecast and so the image of the young woman finds its way into every living room in America. And so it is also seen in the living room of Rose Dawson Calvert (Gloria Stuart), one of the few survivors of the "Titanic" disaster, and the young woman from the picture, now 102 years old.

She contacts the expedition at Sea, visits their maritime exploration station and tells them the real story of the "Titanic" disaster. It turns out to be the story of her life, and a love she has long lost. The love was an impecunious young man (Leonardo DiCaprio) whom she met as a young woman (Kate Winslet) during her voyage on the doomed ship to America.

"Titanic" is a monumental film and director James Cameron once again proves how well he can direct audience expectations into certain directions, and how skillful he is at creating interesting stories full of rich emotions and drama. At the same time,
"Titanic" is almost too smooth and composed for my taste. Many scenes feel unnaturally clean and lack a certain amount of freshness and attitude, while the love story is highly predictable.

The vast amount of effect shots doesn’t exactly improve things either. The quality of these effects ranges from subtle and practically unnoticeable all the way to obtrusively obvious, which came as quite a surprise to me considering the whole shebang surrounding its production. Maybe these effects are more noticeable on the video transfer than during a film presentation, but compared to effects shots from films like "Starship Troopers" and others of the same time, it can’t really hold up that well. Fortunately it is never really getting in the way of the experience and you just notice it on the side as you are held captive by the story itself.

The film is well acted and heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio is clearly a highlight in the film’s cast. But also Billy Zane as his snobbish, rich and decadent antagonist is making a lasting impression, especially towards the movie’s desperate end. The entire cast and the film’s production design manage to vividly recreate the era, giving viewers a taste at what it must have been like on board this giant of a ship. You can almost taste the cigar smoke in the air of the first class cabins, and feel the fresh wind blow in your face during the deck scenes

Paramount Home Video has released "Titanic" as a rather plain DVD without notable extras at this point. A special edition, while not yet announced, is most likely to follow in 2000, especially since no film of the scope and success proportions of "Titanic" will not receive a special edition treatment.

Paramount Home Video has released "Titanic" as a rather plain DVD without notable extras at this point. A special edition, while not yet announced, is most likely to follow in 2000, especially since no film of the scope and success proportions of "Titanic" will not receive a special edition treatment.

The disc contains the film’s <$THX,THX> certified <$PS,widescreen> transfer in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer on this DVD is not <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> and is surprisingly soft upon close examination. I am not sure if this was intentional, as it gives the film an almost ‘silky’ feel at times that matches the picturesque imagery on the screen remarkably well.

Color reproduction of the transfer is very good with natural looking fleshtones and strong colors. Saturation is very good, giving the film a vibrant look with strong hues. Shadows are solid but lose a bit of detail due to the softness of the transfer, while highlights are reproduced very nicely. Overall the transfer has a good and well-balanced look. The compression has been done quite well without notable <$pixelation,pixelation> or other compression artifacts.

"Titanic" comes with a 5.1channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack. While it starts out quite subtly, towards the films climactic scenes in the second and third act, the disc reveals its good bass extension and an aggressive use of the split surrounds. The mix is very wide and engrossing at times and also has a very balanced feel. While sound effects are dominant in many scenes, through clever spatial placement they never get in the way of dialogue, making sure the dialogue is always understandable. The film contains a great score by James Horner that perfectly enhances the film’s glorious moments and follows the dramatic curve of the story closely for its more driving, accentuated motives during the film’s climax. It is a great score and its smooth, conventional and overstated nature perfectly matches the pompous images we see on screen.

I enjoyed "Titanic" a lot on this DVD, and I was surprised at how quickly the three hours of its running time had passed by. It is a good film that once again shows James Cameron’s masterful skills as a director of epic movies, although "Titanic" is getting overly melodramatic at times due to the subject matter. The DVD is well done but leaves a lot to be wished for in terms of additional information and bonus programming. Wasting the printed 8-page foldout inlay for an illustrated listing of chapter stops is almost blasphemous considering that the space could have been much better used to historically document the film’s background or to remember the victims of this tragic night. Nonetheless, "Titanic" is a solid release that will allow you to re-experience the film in your living room in all its beauty.