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The Abyss

A 1989 science fiction film directed by James Cameron.

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Deeper than Pandora, better too

  • Oct 2, 2010
  • by

What was your first impression?

The very first time I saw this movie I thought it was great until the end.  Then it fell kind of flat.  But then came the *Special Edition* which is 25 minutes longer and has a completely different ending.

Plot summary?

A US nuclear sub is lost in very deep water under unusual circumstances.  Unfortunately a hurricane is coming into the area and a stop gap method is used to attempt a rescue.  An experimental underwater oil drilling rig with its crew is sent after the sub.  But they aren't trusted to do it without supervision.  A Navy SEAL team is sent down to hold their hands and wipe their noses.  They find the sub however none of the crew survived.  But during the search one of divers sees something that causes him to panic and something else knocks out their electricity temporarily and things go down the tubes into the crapper from there.

The SEALs receive orders to make another trip to the sub.  But while they are gone the storm gets worse and the rig needs to unhook from the ship on the surface.  By the time the SEALs get back the seas have gotten really rough and they can't get the rig disconnected from the surface.  A crane on the ship breaks loose and begins falling toward the rig.  If it hits them they are dead.  Of course death is not allowed to be that simple in a really good movie.

This is a really good movie and I am not going to tell you any more.  I would suggest that you not waste your time on the theatre veraion which is 146 minutes.  Theater owners do not like long movies because it means fewer showings per day which mean less money.  But this movie was seriously sabotaged by cutting out that extra 25 minutes.  Thank the  techno-gods for DVDs.

Now how good is this flick.  I would say this move is like a 2001: A Space Odyssey underwater but with characters that are far more interesting and acting that is much better.  There is no HAL.  You have to make do with Big Geek and Little Geek and a rat.  The Abyss is a match for 2001 in the realism of the technology and the dueling submarines are absolutely unique.  OOPS!  I wasn't supposed to tell you anymore.

What's the bottom line?

If you miss this then you have missed one of the top five REAL Science Fiction movies in existence.  Not that quasi- and pseudo- science fiction that so many people think is science fiction these days.

Here is a hint of what you will see:

Oh, I forgot.  There is a novel version of this which I have heard has more back story on Bud and the Queen Bitch of the Universe.  I haven't read it though but written by David Brin it could be good.

{{{  I read David Brin’s wonderful adaptation, which had the rare distinction of being written in parallel with the film, with the first chapter actually being given to the actors by the director as background for the characters! Brin’s novelization satisfied my curiosity, but left more questions as to why that part of the story wasn’t included. Then I saw the special edition he released in ‘92, most of my questions were answered—a *much* more satisfying ending, with my questions about the alien’s motivations answered.  }}}

Deeper than Pandora, better too Deeper than Pandora, better too Deeper than Pandora, better too Deeper than Pandora, better too

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October 04, 2010
Great review - this may be my favorite James Cameron movie, and for all the reasons you go through.
October 04, 2010
Thanx, glad you like it. Once the newness and coolness of Avatar's special effects wear off I'm pretty sure I'll like The Abyss better too. The subjects and acting are just more real and gripping.
October 04, 2010
I suppose this is loose lips again. But when you think about it The Abyss is about the same thing as Failsafe. .
More The Abyss reviews
review by . December 19, 2008
"The Abyss" is the most thought-provoking, imaginative, and beautiful science fiction film that I've ever seen. Master filmmaker and craftsman James Cameron brings us another thoughtful sci-fi epic behind "The Terminator" (1984) and "Aliens" (1986), two films that played brilliantly with Cold War-era paranoia and here, he brings us something that could possibly be the director's most introspective piece.    The film begins with the sinking of an American nuclear submarine that …
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About this movie


The Abyss is a 1989 science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron. It stars Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn. The original musical score was composed by Alan Silvestri. It was released on August 9, 1989 in the United States.

Underwater scenes were filmed in the containment building of Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant an unfinished nuclear power plant near Gaffney, South Carolina, in the United States. It took seven million gallons (26.5 million liters) of water to fill the tank to a depth of 40 feet (12 m), making it the largest underwater set ever. The depth and length of time spent underwater meant that the cast and crew sometimes had to go through decompression. Filming was also done at the largest underground lake in the world—a mine in Bonne Terre, Missouri, which was the background for several underwater shots. B movie maker Earl Owensby of Shelby, NC, provided facilities for set and production.

The official novelization of the same title was written by Orson Scott Card. As it was written concurrently with filming, Card's insight into the characters was often added to the script and to the actors' portrayals.

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