Ghosts of the Abyss

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Rating: G

Starring:
Bill Paxton as Himself
James Cameron as Himself
Lewis Abernathy as Himself
Dr. Lori Johnston as Herself
Don Lynch as Himself
Ken Marschall as Himself
Charles Pellegrino as Himself
Tava Smiley as Herself

Special Features:
Includes original IMAX 61-minute version and expanded 92-minute version

“Reflections From the Deep” Making-of feature including unseen footage and interviews

“The ROV Experience” Multi-angle feature of different camera angles made during the dives

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
THX Certified
English, Spanish, and French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 88 Minutes

Synopsis:
This documentary is James Cameron’s first directing project since “Titanic” in 1997. It was originally presented as a 3-D IMAX film. It is now presented in 2-D format on this DVD. The original 61-minute version is included as well as an expanded 92-minute version.

In this film, Cameron leads an expedition to the site of the Titanic wreckage. With Bill Paxton acting as host, the group of scientists, biologists, and historians thoroughly explore the wreck with submersibles and remote operated vehicles (ROV’s). ROV’s specially designed by Cameron himself, nicknamed Jake and Elwood, go deep in the interior of the ship to see what remains of the elaborate decorations inside. Along the way they discover eerie artifacts that belonged to the famous passengers.

As the wreck is explored, images of the original passengers and crew are superimposed over the rusting hull to help you visualize what everything is. The expedition takes a rather poignant turn when Cameron and crew rise to the surface to the news of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

“Ghosts Of The Abyss” is rated G.

The Movie:
You’d think that James Cameron would be absolutely sick of the Titanic, yet he still manages to make this documentary of the wreck an interesting adventure. The rusting ship is still an incredibly dramatic setting and this film makes it even more enthralling with the use of 3-D technology. Unfortunately, that 3-D effect is not present in this DVD version.

The 3-D effect was what made this film mainly worth watching. After the Titanic hype of 1997, there isn’t much left to learn about it. However, the 3-D effect made it feel like you were actually at the wreck site and floating above the hull of the ship. It was the next best thing to being there. There’s amazing footage of the bow of the ship rising up out of the dark. There’s cool footage of the bridge of the ship. It’s all really neat stuff.

Now on the DVD the 3-D effect is totally removed and it hurts the presentation quite a bit. In its place we are offered up a 92-minute special edition. This version of the film shows more of the Russian ship. It also shows a little more exploration of the Titanic itself (and answers the question of where Paxton and the divers peed). The most significant addition shows that the ROV’s had more problems than initially shown in the original version. You see that it takes three dives and several tricks to actually get it out. In the end, the extra footage doesn’t make up for the loss of the 3-D effect, but it’s better than nothing.

As for the general content of the film, there’s as much time spent on the preparation for the journey as there is at the wreck itself. You get good looks at the Russian vessel the expedition uses, the submersibles, the ROV’s, and more. You get a real sense of being a part of the adventure.

I also like Bill Paxton, but he didn’t make a very good host. He has some funny moments acting nervous as the submersible he was in descended, but eventually his comments became redundant as he waxed poetic about the beauty and tragedy of the ship.

The final result is one of the better documentaries about the Titanic. You can tell James Cameron has been having a lot of fun making this and it really shows on the screen. I’m interested to see what he comes up with next. However, “Ghosts Of The Abyss” is a movie that must be seen on the big screen with the full 3-D effect to be fully appreciated.

The Extras:
As already stated, both the original cut and the special edition are included on this DVD set. That’s a nice bonus feature. Here are the two other extras that are part of the second disc:

“Reflections From the Deep” – This feature goes into the making of the movie. It is broken up into a few segments that can either be watched individually or all together. They each highlight a different aspect of the film. One discusses the “Zodiac Cowboys”, the guys who must attach the cable to the submersible when it returns to the boat. Another discusses Bill Paxton and his fear of diving. A third gets heavy into Jake and Elwood, the two ROV’s designed by James Cameron and his brother for the dive. Then there’s one on the Russian crew, another on the September 11th tragedy, and more. All together this is a little more in-depth than your standard “making of” video. It also has footage shot behind the scenes and footage not seen in the film.

“The ROV Experience” – In this feature your screen is made to look like the interior of one of the Mir submersibles. As Cameron and Paxton dive to the Titanic, you have your choice of video monitors from which you can watch it. They include the interiors of the submersibles, the exteriors, and the cameras from the ROV’s. Hitting your arrow buttons switches between the views. They show footage from the scene where they lose one of the “bots” in the wreck (as seen in the movie). Being able to change views is a fun gimmick and it gives you a sense of what a real dive might be like.

The Bottom Line:
While not having the 3-D effect hurts the presentation, this is still one of the more interesting documentaries on the Titanic. It’s also interesting to see what James Cameron has been up to since becoming King of the World.

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