Titanic: Blood & Steel Blu-ray Review
Ever since James Cameron’s epic interpretation of TITANIC in 1997, the story of the once thought unsinkable titan falling to the bottom of the ocean has carried the cache for multiple spinoff tales of anything even remotely having to do with the ship. Enter a 12-part miniseries titled TITANIC: BLOOD & STEEL. However, instead of a futile attempt at trying to best the mighty Cameron with a made-for-TV budget, the makers of this series decided to tell the story of how the creation of the ship came to be.
The construction of the ship is the mainstay for the basis of the story; however it’s mostly just an excuse to propel the subplots that mainly focus around politics. Twelve episodes of simply building a ship would probably enter C-SPAN caliber monotony 20 minutes into the first chapter. The series begins around the start of the 20th century in Belfast, Ireland amidst union riots and religious conflicts where the White Star Line is beginning the construction of the doomed ship. A stringent metallurgist named Mark Muir (Kevin Zegers) has been brought in by J.P. Morgan himself (Chris Noth) to solve some problems that the shipyard workers are having with the metal for the frame construction. However, the same attributes that make Muir exceptional at his profession also condemn him in his personal life and professional relationships. Muir is also forced to compromise, a concept he is not at all comfortable with, when dealing with the profiteers of the Titanic who want to cut “unnecessary” safety regulations. He also begins a romance with an Italian immigrant named Sofia (Alessandra Mastronardi), which becomes highly complicated once Muir’s true heritage is exposed.
On a purely visual standpoint, this miniseries is an excellent barometer for just how far along television films have come since the days of the big 3 networks’ “movie of the week.” Witnessing the Titanic being built from the ground up using very sophisticated digital motion capture and green screen effects is the base for why anyone would give this series even an hour of their time. And when it’s the focus of the story, it makes for a very interesting historical narrative. But unfortunately this is not a 1-hour special on the History Channel, it’s a 12-part miniseries, so much like the non-vampire scenes in TRUE BLOOD you have to endure all the frivolous side plots involving forgettable characters and even more forgettable characters’ relatives who are merely there to stretch out the allotted time until the plot refocuses on the building of the Titanic once again.
Since the over $2 billion grossing film 15 years ago, TITANIC: BLOOD & STEEL is definitely the most ambitious fictional storytelling surrounding the true historical elements of the ship. Ironically though, much like the components that led to the ultimate demise of the grand vessel, this miniseries’ strong foundation is weakened throughout by unnecessary and irritating melodrama that begs for anyone to find something controversial in its obvious political affiliation. Perhaps instead of burying the subject matter that contained an inherent charm inside of 634 minutes of mostly artificial historical angst, it would have been more prudent to encapsulate the construction of the Titanic by giving a simple 3-hour tour. Nothing bad ever happens on those.
Video: 1.78:1 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4: Since this series was shot 100% digitally, the image is crystal clear with the full effect of detail and sharpness that a Blu-ray has to offer. Also the special effects that recreate 20th Century Belfast are quite remarkable, especially for a television series budget, and come across quite beautifully on the discs.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: The audio compliments the high quality video very nicely. Dialogue is at the forefront and easy to understand even with the heavy score coming in and out of sequences. And even in scenes with bustling crowds and sound effects, the intricacies of individuals do not get lost.
Making of Titanic: Blood & Steel (9 min): A featurette that focuses on the making of the miniseries, including interviews with some of the cast and showcasing the special effects. It’s just interesting and short enough to give it a watch.
The Visual Effects of Titanic: Blood & Steel (4 min): This is the featurette that should’ve been given much more substance. Again, the special effects are quite remarkable in this series and most of them are so seamless that you would never know they existed at all. It would’ve been nice to get some more in-depth information on the motion capture and green screening used in the series.