Aliens of the Deep

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Rating: G

Starring:
James Cameron as Himself
Dr. Anatoly M. Sagalevitch as Himself, MIR chief pilot/Keldysh expedition leader
Genya Chernaiev as Himself, MIR pilot
Victor Nischeta as Himself, MIR pilot
Pamela Conrad as Herself, Astrobiologist, JPL
Dr. Arthur ‘Lonne’ Lane as Himself, Astronomer/planetary scientist
Dr. Jim Childress as Himself, Marine Animal Physiologist, UC Santa Barbara
Dijanna Figueroa as Herself, Marine Animal Physiologist, UC Santa Barbara
Michael Henry as Himself, Marine Animal Physiologist, UC Santa Barbara
Kevin Hand as Himself, Planetary Scientist, Stanford University/SETI Institute)
Maya Tolstoy as Herself, Marine Seismologist Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Loretta Hidalgo as Herself, President Space Generation Foundation
Kelly Snook as Himself, Planetary scientist, NASA
Dr. Megan McArthur as Herself, NOAMA Astronaut, NASA
Dr. Tori Hoehler as Herself, Astrobiologist, AMES
Charles Pellegrino as Himselft, Science observer
Dr. Michael Atkins as Himselft, Science observer
Christina Reed as Herself, Science coordinator & science observer
David L. Dubois as Himself, Senior reserch assistant, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Dr. Ricardo Santos as Himself, Science observer for the government of Portugal

Special Features:
Includes original IMAX 47-minute version and expanded 99-minute version; both versions in 2D only

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 47 Minutes (Theatrical Version), 99 Minutes (Extended Version)

Synopsis:
This film was originally released on IMAX 3-D Screens. The following is from the DVD cover:

“Take a once-in-a-lifetime journey with Academy Award®-winning director James Cameron (Best Director, Titanic, 1997) in Aliens of the Deep, and make contact with another world. This incredible underwater adventure gives you extraordinary glimpses of unbelievable creatures that live in an alien world in the deepest depths of the sea. Could these alien life forms be clues to life in outer space? It’s an exciting exploration you’ll not soon forget.”

Aliens of the Deep is rated G.

The Movie:
Like most IMAX movies on DVD, they aren’t quite as impressive when they’re on the small screen. This is doubly so for Aliens of the Deep which was originally presented in 3-D. Take away the novelty of being immersed in the film and all you have left is a documentary that must stand on its own. Aliens of the Deep is partially successful at that.

This movie is most exciting when the bizarre animals of the deep are shown. You see angelic looking jellyfish, shrimp that swim in 700 degree water, large squid, strange crabs, and more. (Unfortunately, you are rarely told what the animals actually are by the scientists.) You also see the infamous tube worms. I work in the oil industry in my day job and as we lay deepwater pipelines, we are required by the government to go out of our way to avoid tube worms. I have no problem with that, but I had to cringe as I saw James Cameron and his crew picking and prodding these critters that the government goes to great lengths to protect. But being familiar with that environment, I also know that Cameron’s documentary barely touched on all the interesting animals down there. I wish he could have shown more. The movie also shows thermal vents where ultra-heated water is cooked by magma where the earth’s crust expands. It’s amazing to see how much life thrives around these extreme environments.

Cameron spends a fair amount of time showing the scientists, their equipment, and the crew. I was really interested in the submersibles and the ROV’s. I was also especially familiar with all the technical glitches and mechanical failures that can go on despite the best planning. But in his effort to show more of the people behind the science, he takes away screentime from the thing people really came to see – the animals. It really drags at some points in the movie. It doesn’t help matters that these PhD students and scientists make inane comments as they see the strange sea life. Comments like, “That’s the bomb!” don’t sound very intelligent coming from a NASA scientist.

The other focus of this documentary is making parallels between deep sea exploration and space exploration. They discuss extreme environments and how life could form in similar ways on Mars and the moons of Jupiter. This discussion is accompanied by computer animation of robots designed to explore other planets. It’s interesting stuff. But the movie advertisements show animation of the explorers finding an alien on another planet. It’s a bit of fantasy that is shown in the last minute of the movie, but the ads would make you believe that most of the film is about this imagined adventure of finding life on other planets.

The Extras:
Besides the extended version of this movie, there are no bonus features on this DVD. Still, nearly 50 minutes of extra footage is a pretty good bonus.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re into documentaries, deep sea exploration, space exploration, or if you’re a fan of James Cameron, then you’ll want to check out Aliens of the Deep. It does drag at some parts, but the scenes of deep sea creatures and space exploration are quite interesting. It’s too bad it is hurt by not having the IMAX 3-D effect.

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