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THE ABYSS (1989) 
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Post THE ABYSS (1989)
Click here for the review of The Abyss (1989)

Part of the "1980s" series.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:52 pm
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
This is sadly the one Cameron film that I haven't yet seen completely. I started to watch it years ago in some class back in middle school but never finished it. I actually own all of his other films (except Titanic). Now that this review is up, I need to put this on my must-see list - and I'll be sure to stick with the extended cut so that I don't have to feel the bitter disappointment that many others have felt as a result of the theatrical version.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:53 pm
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
Did you guys know "The Abyss" recently celebrated its 20th anniversary on August 9th? Hard to believe the movie is now 20 years old.

I'm glad James talked about the notoriously difficult movie shoot for this movie. Of course making movies can be tough, but outside of "Apocalypse Now" there hasn't been many extremely difficult shoots as "The Abyss".

One of the best scenes in the movie is, as James mentioned, when Bud drags Lindsay back to the surface and desperately tries to revive her. The performances of the actors are what sell the scene even though you probably knew she would be revived.

"Fight! Right now! Do it! Fight goddammit! Fight! Fight! Fiiiiight!"
Gotta love it when Ed Harris says that in his desperation.

One thing that really improves the movie with the extended version is, as James mentioned, the scene near the end where the aliens threaten to use the tidal waves to wipe out all the humans. However, the aliens spare the humans because of Bud willing to sacrifice himself to stop the nuclear device and because of his love for Lindsay.

This movie gets a raw deal from Cameron fans and moviegoers, but thankfully the director's cut helps give the film a new life. The extended version is one of the few director's cuts that actually improves on the movie and doesn't insert footage to just make a quick buck off a movie. I've seen both versions and the theatrical cut definately feels inferior and inert. The extended version is able to make the movie breathe and feels more well-rounded and complete.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:42 pm
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
It's crazy that this movie (along with "True Lies") has yet to get a proper DVD release. I mean the version that's out there right now is non-anamorphic for Pete's sake. I mean what is this? 1999?


Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:59 pm
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
My favorite Jim Cameron movie

I bought the VHS, the laserdisc, the box set laserdisc for $100, the DVD and even a video projector because of this film.

It's a brilliant combination of science fiction and spiritualism. Ed harris as always is splendid.

Now where for the love of God is the Blu Ray?

Rob


Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:18 pm
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
James,

If you're giving the extended version 3.5 stars, what would you give the theatrical cut? Just curious.

Also, how would you rank Cameron's big six?

The Terminator
Aliens
The Abyss
Terminator 2
True Lies
Titanic


Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:27 pm
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I saw this many years ago...the extended cut and all I thought was it just a bunch of random scenes strong together by sheer force of obligation. It's not bad or anything I just didn't really care.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:36 pm
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
ck100 wrote:
It's crazy that this movie (along with "True Lies") has yet to get a proper DVD release. I mean the version that's out there right now is non-anamorphic for Pete's sake. I mean what is this? 1999?


I know. This film has been repackaged and rereleased countless times, and all with the same non-anamorphic transfer! :evil: :evil:

Here's hoping it gets a Blu-Ray release soon to fix that...


Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:57 am
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I'm sorry to disagree, but I think The Abyss is, quite simply, a bad movie. Yes, it had groundbreaking special effects, and good performances by Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. But almost everything else about this movie was awful, including:

1. A terrible, embarrassing performance by Michael Biehn, chewing the scenery as the frothing out-of-control Navy Seal. If you don't have a credible villain, your movie is in real trouble.

2. The drowning scene. OK, let's kill the chick, then revive her miraculously. The problem is, in addition to the total absurdity of this scene, there's no tension. Did anyone actually believe that our hero wasn't going to save the girl, even after she's dead?

3. Speaking of deus ex machina, what about Ed Harris descending to the bottom of the abyss? OK, we need to get our hero six miles deep in a pressure suit to meet the aliens. Let's invent Miracle Fluid X (untried in humans before, naturally), that turns Ed into a human bathysphere, able to survive pressures of thousands of pounds per square inch. Give me a break.

4. And worst of all is the last scene. Due to the miraculous intervention of the aliens, the wrecked oil rig is lifted up from 1000 feet deep to the surface in a couple of minutes, where our heroes blissfully walk out into the bright sunshine and greet the new day. Unfortunately (unless they're using another version of Miracle Fluid X), they'd all be painfully dying from pulmonary embolism from their rapid ascent without decompression.

For me, that was the last straw. I had had enough; no Directors Cut could save this monstrosity.


Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:22 am
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
slksc wrote:
I'm sorry to disagree, but I think The Abyss is, quite simply, a bad movie. Yes, it had groundbreaking special effects, and good performances by Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. But almost everything else about this movie was awful, including:

1. A terrible, embarrassing performance by Michael Biehn, chewing the scenery as the frothing out-of-control Navy Seal. If you don't have a credible villain, your movie is in real trouble.

2. The drowning scene. OK, let's kill the chick, then revive her miraculously. The problem is, in addition to the total absurdity of this scene, there's no tension. Did anyone actually believe that our hero wasn't going to save the girl, even after she's dead?

3. Speaking of deus ex machina, what about Ed Harris descending to the bottom of the abyss? OK, we need to get our hero six miles deep in a pressure suit to meet the aliens. Let's invent Miracle Fluid X (untried in humans before, naturally), that turns Ed into a human bathysphere, able to survive pressures of thousands of pounds per square inch. Give me a break.

4. And worst of all is the last scene. Due to the miraculous intervention of the aliens, the wrecked oil rig is lifted up from 1000 feet deep to the surface in a couple of minutes, where our heroes blissfully walk out into the bright sunshine and greet the new day. Unfortunately (unless they're using another version of Miracle Fluid X), they'd all be painfully dying from pulmonary embolism from their rapid ascent without decompression.

For me, that was the last straw. I had had enough; no Directors Cut could save this monstrosity.



Oh yeah, the DC has a real ending.


Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:38 am
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I suppose I should address some of these points...

slksc wrote:
I'm sorry to disagree, but I think The Abyss is, quite simply, a bad movie. Yes, it had groundbreaking special effects, and good performances by Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. But almost everything else about this movie was awful, including:

1. A terrible, embarrassing performance by Michael Biehn, chewing the scenery as the frothing out-of-control Navy Seal. If you don't have a credible villain, your movie is in real trouble.


THE ABYSS doesn't have a "true" villain in the classic sense. Biehn was more a catalyst. The scenes in which there are direct confrontations are among the weakest. And credible villains can be overrated - they're often among the most boring.

slksc wrote:
2. The drowning scene. OK, let's kill the chick, then revive her miraculously. The problem is, in addition to the total absurdity of this scene, there's no tension. Did anyone actually believe that our hero wasn't going to save the girl, even after she's dead?


Actually, the first time I saw the film, I thought she was dead. Thought the scene was incredibly tense and well directed. As for the medical feasibility of the situation, I am told by a doctor friend that this kind of thing, while risky, could work. It's certainly more plausible than the concept of aliens hiding in an abyssal trench.

slksc wrote:
3. Speaking of deus ex machina, what about Ed Harris descending to the bottom of the abyss? OK, we need to get our hero six miles deep in a pressure suit to meet the aliens. Let's invent Miracle Fluid X (untried in humans before, naturally), that turns Ed into a human bathysphere, able to survive pressures of thousands of pounds per square inch. Give me a break.


Can't speak to the specifics of this working at 2 miles deep. But Fluid X was not untried in humans (at least in the movie). In fact, the SEAL who administers it to Bud says that he has undergone it. And the fluid is real, although (at least in 1989) it had never been tried on humans. But the rat really underwent the procedure (causing the SPCA to come down on Cameron and the scene to be edited in the U.K. version). So when the rat is breathing water on screen, it was breathing water in real life.
[/quote]

slksc wrote:
4. And worst of all is the last scene. Due to the miraculous intervention of the aliens, the wrecked oil rig is lifted up from 1000 feet deep to the surface in a couple of minutes, where our heroes blissfully walk out into the bright sunshine and greet the new day. Unfortunately (unless they're using another version of Miracle Fluid X), they'd all be painfully dying from pulmonary embolism from their rapid ascent without decompression.


The movie adresses this. Lindsey comments that they should all be dead but that the aliens did something to them. I have no problem with this. If you can accept that an alien race traveled across the stars, can control water, and hides out several miles below the surface, believing that they can protect a body from the devastation of rapid decompression isn't a stretch.

slksc wrote:
For me, that was the last straw. I had had enough; no Directors Cut could save this monstrosity.


Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:08 am
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I think The Abyss has the worst script in the history of bad movie scripts


Mon Aug 17, 2009 11:44 am
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
It's been years since I last saw this, but all my memories are pretty good. Based on James' review I realised that I never actually saw the theatrical version, only Cameron's supposedly superior cut.


Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:05 pm
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I purchased a used VHS copy of The Abyss in 1990. I watched it countless times and so when I finally viewed the Director's Cut - probably when FOX released their Widescreen VHS collection in the late nineties, all were packaged in plastic sleeves with the movie's poster against a golden background - I was thrilled by the new footage and extended scenes. James Cameron has always produced must-own Director's Cut which he would release a year or two after the theatrical cut. Sadly - that gap between a Theatrical Cut and Director’s Cut will never exist again. Filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Zack Snyder have scenes for the Director’s Cut in mind even in the earliest stages of pre-production. Imagine the hype, excitement, and enthusiasm if the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings were only released now in 2009.


Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:22 pm
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
James Berardinelli wrote:
I suppose I should address some of these points...


I have a policy regarding science fiction films: always give one free pass for an otherwise-unbelievable story point. But once the deus ex machinas and sloppy screenwriting start to build up, there's a point where I can't take any more. While none of these points in The Abyss may be fatal flaws by themselves, their cumulative effect was enough to ultimately ruin the movie for me. That certainly occurred by the end of the movie when the guys walked unharmed out of their ruined rig. Cameron had already used up his free passes on me; the lame statement that "the aliens did something to them" was just not going to cut it at that point.


Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:25 pm
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I have no problem with that ending. The aliens can control surface tension and the diffusion of gases. Hence, no bends.

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Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:08 pm
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
So, even with the extended edition would the Abyss still be his 'worst' (or another way to say it would be lowest ranking quality movie) or would that be True Lies? All his movies are better than most put out today but the top ten mindset stills exists... :)

I really never warmed up to the Abyss. I skip it whenever it is on TV but I always stop to watch part if not all of True Lies if I stumble across it.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:50 am
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Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
ardendulou wrote:
So, even with the extended edition would the Abyss still be his 'worst' (or another way to say it would be lowest ranking quality movie) or would that be True Lies? All his movies are better than most put out today but the top ten mindset stills exists... :)

I really never warmed up to the Abyss. I skip it whenever it is on TV but I always stop to watch part if not all of True Lies if I stumble across it.


I like True Lies more than The Abyss too


Fri Aug 21, 2009 11:43 am
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
I don't believe The Abyss is his strongest but I definitely feel that its a very well made movie and that I view it the same as James, as primarily a love story. The US vs USSR tension is secondary with the aliens coming in as a mediator on that conflict.

I also felt the end was a little cheap, but not so much that it destroyed my enjoyment of the movie. I believe they could have done a little better on the ending, but the entire ride to the end was extremely good for me.


Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:37 am
Post Re: THE ABYSS (1989)
The best cinema experiences I have had in my life were when I managed to avoid all trailers and news regarding a film.

Since I was already a diehard Cameron fan in 1989 [owing to Aliens and The Terminator], I made sure I knew nothing about the film before seeing it. I was blown away and had one of the five best cinema experiences of my life [Raiders is clearly #1]. At the time, I didn’t even have a problem with the ending [although I now prefer the director’s cut].

I often wonder, in general, how different one’s perspective while watching a movie is when one has a relatively clear understanding of the plot prior to viewing the movie.

As an example, juxtapose Ebert’s review of “A Perfect Getaway” with James’. It appears that James knew it was a thriller with a twist while Ebert had no idea what the movie was about prior to viewing it.

BTW James: I had asked you several years ago if you planned to review this film ... thanks for taking the time to do so.


Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:28 am
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