the net guide for creative
DOWSE Guide to the
by Tony Lee editor of
135 minutes (15) 1989 CBS/Fox
Director: James Cameron
review by Tony Lee
After the excellence of The Terminator and Aliens, there's no doubt
everyone was expecting big things from James Cameron, so maybe this will disappoint
some viewers. Although I admit, that it frankly just isn't up to the high atandards
of those two earlier works, The Abyss is still a great SF movie.
The basic plot is a combination of elements from Close Encounters Of The
Third Kind, 2010 and Cocoon - with the civilian crew of an oceanic
oilrig, going to the aid of a stricken American submarine. They find the wreck of the
USS Montana with the help of a team of Navy commandoes, and while searching for
survivors, the rescuers encounter some weird and wonderful aliens.
Orson Scott Card's book of the film is more then just a straightforward
novelisation, and I would highly recommend you read it before, or even after seeing
the film - as he does flesh out the main characters very well.
Acting honours in the movie, go to Michael Biehn as the psychotic leader of the
military men, trapped downbelow, with his finger on the button. But, it must be said
that this is very much a director's picture. The visual effects are magnificent
overall (winning a well-deserved Oscar), and providing a phenomenal climax to a
superb technological showcase. And a special mention goes to ILM's amazing computer-animated
water-snake! These remarkable images are further enhanced, by the best underwater
photography you will probably ever see.
Despite a ghastly sentimental reconciliation scene, between Mr and Mrs Brigman (Ed
Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), The Abyss is generally a tense and exciting
thriller. There are some moments of terror when natural or manmade catastrophes threaten
lives, and scenes of positive wonderment at the appearances of the quite unusual aliens.
For those who saw it in the cinema, this video version has the added attraction of the
infamous 'drowning rat' sequence [this scene was actually cut from the final release -Ed].
A perfect movie for those who enjoy the big spectacular shows.
originally published in Strange Adventures #16 (May 1990)
The Abyss - Special Edition
164 minutes (15) 1992 Fox
Director: James Cameron
review by Michael Hamilton
This fully restored version of James Cameron's science fiction epic, unleashed here
in a11 its widescreen glory, is available to collectors at last, in the form which
"fulfils the original goals of the script", according to its writer and director.
I don't know, maybe it's just me - but I couldn't help thinking that some of the
scenes put back in here should have remained on the cutting room floor. Surely we
could have been spared further grisly details about the Brigmans' marital problems?
And is the 'One-Night' character's ghastly, Country and Western singalong really
Clarification of several minor niggling character puzzles are welcome but the
Brigmans' true confessions try our patience, threatening to drag this drama down to
sudsy depths. The patched in 'news' clips (courtesy of CNN - who else?), offering
public views on imminent nuclear armageddon, leave the first hour more closely
imitating The Hunt For Red October or 2010, than 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And though the anti-nuke message is driven home by the alien's sledgehammer ultimatum
of a global tidal wave sequence - those same ILM effects, add a whole new malign
dimension to the first contact equation. Yes, these previously cut opticals are an
awesome spectacle, and imply an order of otherworldly science and technology (yes, I
know the 'water tentacle' sequence suggests that NTI science is far in advance of
earthly know-how but, compared to the developed technology required to manipulate
the world's oceans and raise waves to wash away cities - we're really talking
planetary weathercontrol here - the alien's 'seawater probe' just seems littte more
than a laboratory experiment!), apparently "indistinguishable from magic", to borrow
a quote from Arthur C. Clarke. Such that, this fresh version of The Abyss, now
fully deserves its easy identification with the grander themes of 2001, instead of
just running a parallel course to the flying saucer mysticism of C.E.3.K.
It's an important distinction. For as has been observed by the more astute critics,
Kubrick's 2001 offered us aliens-as-gods, while in Spielberg's CE3K, made a
decade later, humans meet with the ETs as equals.
But the NTI's are seen here to have a dark side. Although still angelic in
appearance they're no longer quite so benevolently Spielbergian. By threatening to
wipe out aggressive humanity, reluctant to voluntarily disarm, the NTI's moral
position has shifted radically - an interstellar stride to the right. Like the dire
warning from beyond the 'Stargate', transmitted through HAL at the climax of 2010,
the aliens of The Abyss declare their superiority to Man in highly persuasive
terms. The fairy tale is suddenly over. It's time to grow up and "put away childish
things" - of which Man has countless megatons. In short then, The Abyss Special
Edition is undoubtedly an improvement upon the hastily edited first release. It isn't
perfect. But overall I prefer it to the premiered version. The notorious 'drowning
rat' sequence remains conspicuously absent (that footage has clearly been doctored
for this widescreen format), and I still have some misgivings concerning the value of
those extra scenes revealing further character trivia (writing dialogue is Cameron's
major weakness). But on the whole, this makes better sense second time around.
originally published in Strange Adventures #49 (August 1993)
to Movies on Dowse index.
dowse your start page
- Search the
- Get your free