In recent years it seems that Titanic can do no good. First it became common for hipsters and scholars to dismiss it on terms of how shallow and decadent it was, then it became a punchbag for jokes once James Cameron’s Avatar outgrossed it all over the world. Finally, it became an object of ridicule when it was announced that it would be re-released in 3D, because why else would this movie be shown again, if not to make its creator richer, right?
Turns out, just like when it was first released, Titanic proved that its success wasn’t accidental; it is still one of the finest motion pictures ever made. To date, the re-release has grossed over $340 million all over the world and now it’s come out in a stunning Blu-ray edition that might as well be the best home media release of 2012.
Explaining what Titanic the film is about seems redundant because by now we have all been subjected to it, whether on VHS tapes, DVD or the countless times it’s played over holidays or during Valentine’s Day (or even as part of V-Day staples like Love Actually). However, to those few people who have been living under a rock since 1997, Titanic is an epic film about the sinking of the most famous ship in history, combined with a sweeping love story described by one of its creators as “Romeo and Juliet on a boat”. Essentially, there is nothing particularly complicated about Titanic, the story.
What is so fascinating since it first came out 15 years ago, however, remains. What is it, exactly, that made this film so popular? How did a movie that would’ve fit best if it had been made during Hollywood’s Golden Era become such an audience and critical darling? How did its unabashed corniness survive the cynical late ‘90s, and how can it have grossed as much as newer movies in 2012 when people can watch it for free at home?
Simply told, Titanic is possibly the last great cinematic spectacle of our time. It came out at just the exact time for its use of CGI to be as innovative as its storytelling simplicity is timeless (in the same way we look at the effects on movies like King Kong or Star Wars, we know they’re not “real” but they work in the context). Like those classics, James Cameron’s film is worthy of our time because it believes so much in the story it’s telling that we can’t seem to dislike it. Its honesty is such that it has characters say lines like “I’d rather be his whore than your wife” without a hint of irony.
Powered by Leo’s baby face and Kate’s uncontrollable fire (shouldn’t she have won her first Oscar for this?) the romance may not appeal to all, but it still manages to tap into something quite peculiar: that idea that unfulfilled love always surpasses the intensity of truly possible love. It’s what worked in movies like Casablanca,Gone With the Wind and The Way We Were. Perhaps that’s just it, this film’s big secret: it’s nothing if not a deconstruction of classic Hollywwod and everything that made it so spectacular. From the powerful performances of the ensemble (even people in bit parts are extraordinary), to its loving attention to detail, and then its undeniable need to entertain, it can really be said that this movie has something for everyone.
Perhaps we might have become too cynical to blast out “My Heart Will Go On” in public without feeling like we’ve committed a crime, and perhaps we do pretend like Kate and Leo didn’t give some of their greatest performances in this, but at the end of the day it’s impossible to deny how Titanic defined an era and how we were part of the phenomenon. What’s even better, it loses none of its power when we watch it at home.
The folks at Paramount Home Media have done an extraordinary job bringing Titanic to Blu-ray in 3D and 2D. The 3D version is spread over two discs (before you complain, you need to remember how heavy this file is and then have to see how breathtaking it looks in 3D). The movie has probably never looked this beautiful and the disc with the 2D version includes commentaries by Cameron, cast and crew, and a historical commentary by historians Ken Marschall and Don Lynch.
A fourth disc includes an extensive array of extras imported from previous home media versions, including archival TV spots, trailers, one hour of deleted scenes (all of which prove how wrong this movie could’ve gone if Cameron wasn’t such a control freak and a phenomenal editor), a deep dive presentation, Celine Dion’s iconic music video, a series of parodies which prove humor isn’t always timeless, and various still galleries with conceptual art as well as storyboard and artwork sketches.
Rounding up this disc are two brand new documentaries: Reflections on Titanic and Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron. The former consists of a series of interviews with the cast and crew today, speaking of how the movie changed their lives and how they were never expecting it to become so huge. This is a documentary made for fans who will undoubtedly wonder where the hell Leo was during interview time. The second documentary is dedicated to Cameron’s passion with the ship as it is today. The feature lasts almost 100 minutes and will appeal to science and exploration buffs, more than those interested in the movie itself.
Titanic is one of those movies that will thrive forever in whatever new media format we’re using. Its spectacle is just too grand, it’s tale pulled from the depths of timeless history, for it to ever be rendered obsolete. This will most definitely not be the last home media incarnation Titanic gets, but at the moment it’s undeniably the most exquisite.