Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 8/26/98
1992 (1998) - IMAX
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
A solid documentary of an expedition to the Titanic. Although just
one of many such programs that are now popular since James Cameron's
film took the world by storm, this one benefits from the experience
and quality of IMAX.
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/F
Generally excellent picture (with a few minor flaws) and great
Dolby Digital sound quality. But zero extras really hamstring this
Overall Rating: C+
Great if you're into the lore and history of the tragic shipwreck,
but otherwise, this barebones DVD is not worth the price.
67 mins, unrated, full frame (1.33:1 - close to it's original
aspect ratio), single-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed
menu screens, scene access (13 chapters), languages: English (DD
5.1), Close Captioned
Leonard Nimoy (of Star Trek
fame) narrates this hour-long documentary about the great ship
Titanic, and the tragedy that befell her. The IMAX Corporation
interviewed a number of historians, scientists, Titanic experts, and
survivors of the 1912 sinking for this film. They have also followed
an actual deep-sea expedition to visit the wreck site, filming some
spectacular large-format footage of the doomed ship.
Titanica was filmed aboard the
Russian research vessel Akademik Keldysh, and her two submersibles
Mir I and Mir II. Interestingly enough, this is the same ship and
crew that director James Cameron later worked with to film footage
for his Oscar-winning film. There are several fascinating moments
here. There's an interesting story about how the workers who built
the great ship, used to hear banging noises inside the hull, and
feared a man had accidentally been sealed inside during the
construction - a bad omen. Eva Hart, one of the survivors of the
wreck, recalls how her mother got a bad feeling about the trip, when
she learned they would be travelling on the Titanic. During the one
of the dives, it's fascinating to watch the mini-power struggle
between Yevgeni Chernyayev (the submersible pilot) and Ralph White
(the cameraman and navigator), as they argue about whether or not to
open a piece of luggage found on the sea bottom. White is chomping
at the bit to see if the bag contains perhaps the ship's log, but
the others are insistent that he doesn't have the right to disturb
it. There's also a scary moment where one of the submersibles
collides with the wreck, and gets stuck for a short time.
The video quality is generally excellent. Some of the footage,
particularly the shot-on-video stuff, is absolutely crystal-clear.
However, some of the filmed footage, including the film taken of the
wreck, exhibits a little too much edge-enhancement. This is
noticeable as a slight 'shimmering' effect seen in the fine detail.
Unfortunately, this is a problem that plagues nearly all of Buena
Vista's DVD releases. I'd guess that it results from using transfers
done for previous VHS and laserdisc releases, rather than new,
all-digital transfers done specifically for DVD. DVD requires no
edge enhancement - all of the detail is retained in the picture.
This is why you should have your TV's sharpness control turned
almost all the way down when watching a DVD. Having it up simply
adds undesired noise. Which, because of a post production adjustment
(made with formats other than DVD in mind), is what you get here
anyway. Oh well. If only Buena Vista would put a little more effort
into their discs, and run some new transfers...
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, there are some very good
surround effects here - great use of the sound field to create
ambience. This is particularly noticeable in the shots inside the
subs. Listen to chapter 7, at about 37 mins - the scene where one of
the subs gets stuck. Right at the start of the film, there's another
cool effect, as a wave sweeps over the deck of a ship (chapter 2,
about a minute into the film).
Unfortunately, there are absolutely no extras on this disc at all -
not even alternate languages, or subtitles (other than English
captions). Well, OK... there is the annoying Additional Titles
section (all Miramax titles, having nothing at all in common with
this film). Very disappointing given the premium price Buena Vista
asks for their DVDs. One other note - this documentary has been
altered from its original theatrical presentation, to include newer
footage and information. I have not seen the original version, so I
can't speak as to how the alterations effected the overall quality
or effect of the film.
Titanica is a good
documentary, there's no doubt about it. But it's pretty tough to
recommend a DVD that retails for $29, and has not a single extra. If
you dig documentaries on the tragic sinking of the Titanic, then by
all means, buy this disc. Otherwise, you might want to think twice.