Utilising an AVC MPEG stream, the 3D movie is delivered on two discs. This suggests very high bit rates and no compromise in quality just to fit it onto one disc. Interestingly, the original super 35mm picture was cropped to 2.35:1 for its cinematic release and has been opened back out to 1.78:1 for the 3D version. This makes it full screen on a 16:9 screen or display, which suites 3D much better than extra black borders top and bottom. It does of course mean you are seeing shots with more framing than was originally envisaged, but nothing nasty creeps in! This movie will work your system very hard, as it is long and unrelenting.The colour range is subtle at times, with solarising showing up on the opening sea shots when in 3D mode on my Panasonic VT20 plasma, but not visible in 2D. This is due to the increased brightness levels required for active 3D reducing the available contrast and colour palette. The digital re-master is simply superb in both 2D and 3D, being very clean, with powerful colours, superb blacks and plenty of shadow detail. I would go so far as to say in 2D, the “live” scenes with little CGI are reference quality. Unfortunately this is where it all goes a bit wrong. The CGI is not up to modern standards and the sheer complexity of what was attempted means that other films of a similar vintage actually look much better.
So what about the 3D? It goes without saying that while the restoration has significantly improved what was already a fairly good master, the 3D could be better. Filming in 2D is an entirely different discipline to shooting in 3D. The very shallow Depth of Field that cuts actors out of the background and brings focus to the shot is precisely what you need to avoid in 3D, where a much wider DoF brings more elements into play and then the use of lighting and other cues to highlight the part of the shot we are supposed to be concentrating on. Although the conversion is very good, the sheer number of compositors and array of filming techniques (Hand held, pull focus, crane, etc.) employed mean that different shots have a variable amount of 3D applied to them. The issue with out of focus foreground and background elements of the scene add to eyestrain and reduces the effectiveness of the conversion. It is true to say that some background elements need to be out of focus to give a sense of depth, but the Depth of Field needs to be greater than the editors had to work with here to make things totally convincing and easy on the eyes. Having said all of that, this is probably the best conversion of a 2D movie to date.
The original soundtrack was extremely good and this DTS-HD MA 5.1 re-master defines the art. OK, so the surround mix is not as advanced or as heavy as some more recently releases, but the noise of the great engines and the clanks and groans as the hull is stressed rattle every rivet in your body. The Low Frequency Effect Channel is extremely well used and the extreme low frequencies are also well controlled. The music score is now a classic and sounds superb throughout. Dialogue is also clean and well positioned in the mix, even during the loudest passages. A true reference audio track and one that will stretch your system and clear away the cobwebs, while simultaneously showing off the musicality and general system balance.
Where to start?? There are over six hours of extras, ranging from a pair of hour long documentaries that explore the 3D and re-mastering re-release and also how the wreck ended up in its final resting place on the sea bed. The latter film does not show Cameron in quite the best light, as he comes across as arrogant in his assertions of what happened in the face of expert academics who have alternative points of view backed up by years of experience.
There are also sixty behind the scenes shorts, a deep dive video narrated by James Cameron, "Two Million and One, a Crew Odyssey" – one of those crew funnies never usually seen outside of the industry, some background on the pre-production model shots used to plan the final shooting and a further short concentrating on how large scale miniature models were combined with real actors and pure CGI. All very revealing. For the really avid fans, there are also more than one thousand pictures from the film as well.
The deleted scenes section contains some twenty nine segments, some finished, some not quite so much, plus a short introduction from James Cameron. All I can say is that thank God for editors! Although a few of the scenes could have stayed in, the alternate ending is just horrible and nowhere near as tender as the final version. All of the scenes are shown as pretty much complete without cuts to storyboards and conceptual artwork.
It is tempting to say too much has been squeezed into the extras disc. The thirty behind the scenes shorts would happily merge into less than a dozen and the first documentary is thirty minutes longer than it need be, once the sycophancy has been removed. Much of the footage and commentaries date from 2005, so if you have a release from that date, you will have quite a lot of this albeit in a different order!
The original film was superbly made, whatever you think about the romantic storyline. This re-release takes the quality to a new level, so it is a shame the 3D lets it down a little. For anyone looking for a film to show off the quality of their system while showing an extremely well known film, this is a disc to buy. Even if you do not have 3D, buy the 2D disc set and you still get the extras disc as well. 15 years down the line, there will now be a new generation of viewers who have not seen or possibly even heard of the original release. This film is an excellent introduction to the legend that the Titanic has become and will energise many to seek out the truth about the disaster.
The sound is still a high point of the film. The music score was an instant classic and holds up well today. Coupled with the huge effects befitting the death of the monster vessel, you get an enjoyable audible assault that compliments without dominating. The restoration has been much less severe than on some recent releases, so is likely to cause less complaints. It is more of a case of bringing the release up to date technically than any wholesale alterations. The limitations of the CGI are more clear here than on some other films of a similar vintage simply because Cameron pushed the envelope and brought the technology into the foreground. It does not spoil the enjoyment of the movie as a whole though. The extras maybe a bit too expansive if the truth be told, but many will appreciate the extra value and will plough through them picking out the better elements.
One to buy for both the technical quality and the movie itself.
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