Monday, August 29, 2011

The Abyss. B+


I saw The Abyss with my brother in a small, closed in space on an old VHS played through a 22 inch television. For a movie whose claustrophobia is something to relish, the setting was ideal. The movie itself was more impressive than it was good, and while I left it with the sense that I was glad I'd seen it, it didn't give me anything to hold on to and embrace. I feel like Cameron never quite knew what he wanted the movie to be. It was as if his concern with the technical aspects of the film invaded his mind, leaving little room for story. The Abyss starts out as an extremely realistic, almost docudrama underwater adventure. Then Cameron's love of traditional Hollywood entertainment seeped through when a couple of crew members are vilified to add some excitement. And then of course there's the underwater aliens that are impressive to look at but never fully realized. That being said, the movie is an incredible technical achievement, and because amazing set pieces and special effects are Cameron's trademark, the movie is still a vast success. It almost makes it more enjoyable to know that the production was disaster (bad conditions, over-budgeted, and behind schedule-combined with the director's fastidious perfectionism) and then to see Cameron's vision have such a smooth transition to the screen. Cameron loves producing different versions of his movies, not to declare any of them "the official product," but simply to give the audience as many options as possible. I saw the original cut of The Abyss, which was actually the one Cameron wanted for its theatrical release. A few years later he released a longer cut, which I hear is better and really cleans up some of the mess involving the aliens. Could a good movie really be a great one, just a longer cut away?

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