GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS is a captivating documentary, in 3-D of all things. Director James Cameron of TITANIC fame, which got less than stellar reviews from MOVIEGUIDE®, has created a documentary of the exploration of the actual ship, 12,500 feet deep at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This documentary was much more compelling than another Academy Award winning movie screened the same day.
In producing this movie, Cameron had a lot going against him, including the lack of a script, a dedication to factual accuracy, and his decision to make his movie in 3-D. Although the 3-D is much better than the previous attempts, it still has those blurry moments when you’re trying to adjust the ill-fitting glasses properly.
Cameron overcomes many obstacles by bringing along Bill Paxton, who looks at the world as an adolescent would. He is perfectly cast as the Everyman accompanying these sophisticated scientists. On the way down to the Titanic, he says, “Golly, we’re touching the legend.” When he sees it, he says, “My God! My God!” He worries about the little submarines under such pressure and even gets seasick, though the camera cuts away as he opens up a paper bag. He makes stupid comments, like comparing the submarine ride to astral projection, and profound comments. For example, when talking about how people on the ship reacted to the crisis, he says, “It’s almost as if God said, ‘You have two and a half hours to act out your life.'”
Since they were filming on Sept. 11, 2001, the poignancy of the sinking of the Titannic comes home to them in an incredible way. The question that Mr. Paxton raises, and everyone discusses, is what would you do? One of the Titanic’s officers, Murdoch, single-handedly saved two-thirds of the survivors through his courage and self-sacrifice. The ship’s band kept people at peace, knowing that they were about to sink into the abyss. Others, however, were not as courageous. There are the men who posed as women to get on the lifeboats, and the corporate representative who had talked the company into limiting the number of lifeboats and who took a precious seat in a lifeboat and survived.
The scientists have a spirited discussion about what they would have done. One of them takes the position that you should just look out for yourself. The others represent other views. But, the movie concludes that self-sacrifice is required of everyone under those circumstances. Thus, the movie emphasizes a moral, heroic point of view, which is clearly James Cameron’s point of view.
Of course, there are harrowing situations in the movie. One of the batteries goes out on their remote camera unit. Bill Paxton asks what happens when a battery on the mini submarine goes dead. His mini sub mate replies that they could jettison it, but it would be a hard decision because the batteries cost $250,000 each. Paxton asks if he can write him a check. Of course, if they do jettison the battery, the question arises if they would survive the quick trip to the surface?
The camerawork and editing make this an extraordinary movie. Once in a while, a documentary comes along of this caliber. It has some minor flaws, but it is the type of movie many viewers will want to see again and again. MOVIEGUIDE® commends everyone involved in this project.
Please address your comments to:
Michael Eisner, Chairman/CEO
Buena Vista Distribution Co.
(Walt Disney Pictures, Caravan, Hollywood, Miramax, & Touchstone Pictures)
Dick Cook, Chairman
Walt Disney Pictures
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Phone: (818) 560-1000
(BB, Pa, H, L, V, N) Moral worldview with several other viewpoints represented by different crewmembers, including brief New Age and humanist views; one obscenity and seven exclamatory profanities; threats of violence and discussion of violence; no sex; men in swimming trunks; and, nothing else objectionable.
GENRE: Documentary/Undersea Exploration