Titanic is a 90-minute gripping film with a 90-minute warm-up. Just out on a two-disc Blu-ray, two-disc DVD set (MSRP: $39.99), the 1997 Best Picture Oscar winner is an effective combination of a director's unyielding vision, an audience-pleasing love story, historical curiosity, and arguably the best use of CGI in movie history with the sinking of the ship.
Written and directed by James Cameron, Titanic is the filmmaker's greatest singular achievement and, until Avatar came along, his most flawed film. Given the limitations of his workspace -- he had to shoehorn a dramatic plot into a historical disaster everyone knows -- his script succeeds. One can quibble with the dialogue, but his use of the timeless tale of romance between social classes is an effective means to garner audience support and empathy. Leonardo DiCaprio shoulders some unnecessarily harsh criticism for his role as lower-class and happy drifter Jack, while Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress for the role of upper-class beauty Rose, who's miserable with her station in life. The two make a likable and, more important, believable pair, and without them Titanic's sinking is simply an exercise in groundbreaking effects, with a parade of mostly dull characters to help us pass the time until tragedy strikes.
But this movie is less about the people than the film's namesake, and the spectacle and grandeur of the recreated Titanic and its historically accurate details make for a magnificent display on Blu-ray. While the commentaries with Cameron, the cast, and historians have been imported from the 2005 DVD release of the film, the Blu-ray offers more than two hours of new material, including two documentaries -- Reflections on Titanic and Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron -- as well as 30 deleted scenes, and 60 behind-the-scenes featurettes. This is a must-have for fans of the second-biggest film of all time.
To complement the Titanic Blu-ray release is Ghosts of the Abyss 3D, Cameron's documentary capturing his return trip to the Titanic and its resting place on the floor of the icy Atlantic Ocean. The three-disc combo -- Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray/DVD (MSRP: $44.99) -- offers the original hour-long theatrical release from 2003 and an expanded 90-minute cut. The extra half-hour provides more glimpses into the rusting and deteriorating ruins of the ship, as Cameron and actor Bill Paxton, who played treasure seeker Brock Lovett in Titanic, dive in submersibles to the wreckage. More impressive is the footage from special underwater robot cameras, as the crafts negotiate ghostly dark rooms and hallways that have been silent since April 15, 1912. CGI effects provide context to the sometimes unrecognizable remains, as it is slowly being reclaimed by the sea and sea life, using images fr0m the ship before it sank.
While not a great standalone documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss makes an interesting, though not essential, bookend to Titanic -- assuming after more than three hours on the S.S. Cameron you're up for another 90 minutes with the director and the doomed ship.