Bill Paxton accompanies James Cameron on another expedition to the Titanic, and narratesthis documentary about their exploration of the ship. Though the narration is hobbled by anendless stream of pseudo-profundities, the underwater photography is simply stunning. Thanks totwo remote-controlled robots, we get to see the interior of the ship. Computer animation andsuperimposed extras (the ghosts of the title) both re-create the ship as it once was, and help usvisualize where…we are in the wreckage, and what transpired there.
The film comes in two different versions: the 60-minute theatrical version and a 90-minuteextended feature. The latter is “significantly modified” from its original form, we are told, andthis is true. Some of the sequences go on at greater length: we see where some wood panellingonce was, for instance, and we spend a lot longer seeing what life is like aboard the Russian shipKeldysh. Some sequences are entirely new to the extended version, such as a section on theanimal life that exists in and around the wreck. The most visible change involves the extensiveuse of split screen and frames-within-frames that characterize the theatrical release. The multipleframes have been almost completely eliminated, and so every shot of the ship now takes up theentire screen.
The picture may no longer be 3-D, but there are some very nice dimensional sound effectshere. Though the music tends to remain limited to the front speakers, the sounds of the oceanare immersive (and I use the word advisedly). Waves and bubbling sounds wash throughfrom front to rear in most impressive fashion. Of course, most of the time the sound consists ofdialogue and voice-over, all of which is perfectly clear.
No more Imax, no more 3-D. Naturally, the home experience can’t possible measure up tothe theatrical one. However, the picture is astonishingly crisp. There are some grainy shots, butthese are clearly the result of in-the-field limitations, and the views of the ship are so goodas to defy belief. The sharpness and clarity of the pictures, especially those of the exterior of thewreck, are better than what is on display in many studio-made SFX extravaganzas. There arenumerous truly jaw-dropping moments here.
The features are the discs weak spot. Disc 1 has a handful of Disney ads. Disc 2 hastwo features. “Reflections from the Deep” is a 6-part featurette, running just over half an hour.Though it does provide some interesting background on how the film was made, its promotionalfunction is all-too-obvious, and is finally of limited use. More fun is “The MRI Experience,” amulti-angle feature that allows you to toggle cameras during one of the exploratory dives. Themenus on both discs have animated and scored intros and main screens, and scored secondaryscreens.
A remarkable technical achievement by any standard, and one that should have beenaccompanied by a much more extensive making-of feature.
Special Features List
- “Reflections from the Deep” Making-of Featurettes
- “The MIR Experience” Multi-Angle Feature