TitanicÖ one of the largest grossing movies of all time and the winner of 11 Academy Awards finally makes its way to DVD home video a full year after the initial VHS release. James Cameronís epic tale places Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as passengers on the luxurious ocean liner on itís journey to America. Rose (Winslet) feels overwhelmed by her forced marriage to a "suitable" husband when, in a twist of fate, she meets up with Jack Dawson, an artistically inclined passenger traveling in third class. Through the next few days they get to know each other better until they are hopelessly in love. But when Roseís suitor learns of the relationship he will stop at nothing to end it, including framing the robbery of his huge rare blue diamond on Jack. However, when the Titanic collides with an iceberg in the frigid North Atlantic their romance instead becomes a race for survival.
Place the fictitious plot aside and youíve got a commendably accurate retelling of the ill-fated shipís lone voyage, complete with all the emotional turmoil and special effects one would expect. This impressive tale runs for over three hours and cost more than any other movie to date Ė a perfect candidate for DVD technology. This is how it was meant to be seen Ė completely without interruption on a dual-layered disc, with the layer change occurring at 1:48.06 into the film.
The video transfer is presented in an approximately 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, preserving the original theatrical presentation. Unfortunately, Titanicís DVD production was begun before Paramount resolved itís concerns over anamorphic mastering, so it is not 16x9 enhanced, of little concern since the quality is so good. Colors are bright and vivid, presenting the shipís colors, woodwork and luxurious appointments in all their glory. Sharpness is fantastic with incredible detail. Only minor aliasing is evident on certain scenes. Black levels are calibrated perfectly. A moderate flaw is that outdoor scenes appear to be too bright, or slightly overexposed, so that softer pastel colors wash out to stark white.
Otherwise, this is a superb production. Indeed, Paramount released a dedicated press release announcing the special technology required to compress this length and type of film onto a single side with no visible artifacts. Though many believe the year-long wait for a DVD version was in order to present it on a DVD-18 disc (technology that is still being perfected), Titanic instead comes to us on a traditional DVD-9 dual layered disc with almost no extras to speak of. With over 7.6 gigabytes of data spread over the discís 30 chapters, itís quite easy to see why such additions are so limited Ė though judging by the actual byte count there would appear to be room for more.
A full-motion introduction leads into several menu screens. The original theatrical trailer is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen video and 5.1 audio. Included are static scene selection screens, which are also reproduced on a small booklet included in the case. Of more interest are some of the refinements Paramount have made to their DVD production template. Gone is the forced FBI warning in three languages; it is now supplied at the filmís conclusion. Disc load time is also improved with almost instantaneous playback of the introduction clip. Although players that automatically detect the 5.1 sound track are still unable to do so, you can switch via the AUDIO button on your remote, a feature that was disabled on earlier Paramount discs.
Audio is where this disc really shines. The 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track is clean with voices easily heard over music and effects. Deep bass is present almost everywhere and should really give your subwoofer a workout. Cameron is known for excellent surround channel usage Ė Titanic is no exception. When the ship begins to go down your ears are treated to a 360 degree soundstage with every detail conceivable, including huge deep groans and the popping of rivets as the superstructure is stressed beyond itsí design tolerances. Reference quality stuff. Though there is a bit of background hiss on certain quiet scenes, overall there are no glaring imperfections. Also available are English and French Dolby ProLogic soundtracks along with English Closed Captioning and English or Spanish subtitles.
Should Titanic make itís way to your videoshelf? Certainly! Though I fully expect a special edition to be released eventually, right now this disc is where itís at.
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on September 4, 1999.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony KV-27V65 27" Television using S-Video
Nuance Spatial & Star Series Speakers