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The Abyss

tn_abyssTHE ABYSS is probly James Cameron’s most original movie. It’s not primarily based around people getting killed by a monster or a bad guy. It’s more like man vs. scientific challenge, trying to fix things, to not run out of air, to survive the pressure (both literally and figuratively) of being deep underwater. Okay, so Michael Biehn snaps from a bad case of the Underwater Blues, and they gotta fight him, but most of it is more problem solving and scientific analysis like APOLLO 13 or QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. And then it turns into CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. And a little 2001. But underwater, so it’s completely different. Water is different from space. You can’t drink space.

mp_abyssI don’t think I’d seen this since the ’80s, so it was cool to follow through on my vow to review all the James Cameron movies. I really didn’t remember much. Turns out it’s about a team of deep sea oil drillers roped into helping Navy SEALS check a downed submarine for survivors and bombs. Ed Harris leads the oil workers, Biehn the SEALS, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is Harris’s “iron bitch queen” about-to-be-ex wife who designed their submersibles and claims she’s only concerned about their safety. Also Chris Elliot (CABIN BOY, MANHUNTER) is in it.

In a way Cameron went into the abyss when he made this -he’s never shaken his worship of deep sea diving, of heavy duty equipment or of pushing past the boundaries of visual effects technology and movie budgets. Bill Paxton re-enacts some of this deap sea exploration stuff in TITANIC and again in real life in the Imax documentary GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS. Cameron is worshipful of macho engineer types, of technology (although he also fears it), and he helped popularize the cliche of the quirky science professional (guy with rat here, guy who looks like Harry Knowles in TITANIC, used by others in TWISTER, EXECUTIVE DECISION, etc.) He’s pushing cutting edge technology in the story (the submersibles, the breathing fluid) and in the making of the movie (the CGI water tentacle that led to the T-1000 that led to JURASSIC PARK). But like T2 and ALIENS the humanity shines through the cracks from beneath the pile of machinery. Through all the near-death experiences there’s the ongoing thread of Harris and Mastrantonio’s love-hate relationship, and it really ends up feeling like that’s what the movie’s mostly about. Come to think of it their devotion to each other in the face of watery death is a more three-dimensional version of the romance in TITANIC.

And the death feels like a genuine threat. I actually had a hard time watching the scene where she crushes her head against the ceiling and can’t escape from the rising water level anymore. They must’ve made her really do that. I don’t think they made her stop her heart (union rules prevented that) but the CPR scene sure is upsetting, with her limp, wet body being manhandled like that. It really looks like there’s no life in her, and makes you contemplate the horror of going through that with a loved one. How long do you do CPR before giving up? (I guess now we know to try Harris’s slap her and call her a bitch method of resuscitation before declaring anybody dead.)

So just the water adventure and relationships are enough, but you also have this matter of underwater aliens (SPOILER). The way they handle it is pretty great – they saw this amazing thing and they’re in awe of it. They don’t spoil it by talking too much about the larger implications, or turning it into some thing where they gotta hide it from the government or some shit like that. They do decide that they’re aliens, not Atlanteans or highly evolved super jellyfish. Or weather balloons. One guy describes it as an angel. I’m sure other people have interpreted them in different ways. They may be where we got our idea of sea serpents, mermaids, sea monkeys and Aqua Man.

By the way, I only remembered the part with the water tentacle thing – I totally forgot the luminescent jellyfish people. Now days you’d see that and just know it was CGI. This one I know can’t be CGI, so I don’t know how the fuck they did it. These are some topnotch creatures. They are not only the best water aliens in a movie (fuck off COCOON) but would even be in a high percentile when held up against land-based aliens.

With all that equpiment and lingo and everybody seeming to know what they’re doing, and the way it goes from accident to rescue mission to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and 2001 to heroic sacrifice and peace between worlds, I’d have to say this is a huge movie. But it rolls out so naturally, one problem leading to the next until he’s sitting at the bottom of that fuckin abyss, completely abyssed, nowhere left to go (he thinks). It doesn’t feel like a typical blockbuster structure trying to force excitement. It has that confidence I’ve talked about, where it convinces you to just hold on and trust that it will bring you places, and you do and you don’t regret it.

I like the writing too – the way it brings things up casually that come up again later. My favorite is when the bearded guy is bickering with somebody and threatens him with his fist, saying, “I used to call this ‘The Hammer’.” A good 90 minutes later there’s an incredibly satisfying punch that made me yell out “The Hammer!” But the movie has enough respect for us to not point it out.

And man, what about that bit where Harris throws his wedding ring in the toilet, then immediately regrets it and fishes it out? That turns his hand blue for the rest of the movie, so much later if the camera shows his blue hand it reminds you he hasn’t give up on his marriage.

This is a great movie filled with all of Cameron’s strengths and obsessions (technology, underwater, strong women, marital problems) and it never could’ve happened without the studio having faith in him and giving him a ton of money to do whatever the fuck he pleases. He not only had Final Cut, he also was Licensed To Go Hog Wild. But I have to admit, the suits were right about the ending. This was my first time seeing the director’s cut, and I’m afraid I draw the line at that corny DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL alternate ending. In the theatrical version the water aliens rescue Harris from drowning and, through questionable underwater technology, replay to him one of his text message to show that they’re repaying his willingness to die to save them. In the director’s cut they also show him a montage of war-related stock footage and a live news report about a giant wave about to engulf civilization. But then the wave peacefully subsides because they were so impressed by what he did.

In other words, “Man, I’m glad you came, because we were just about to destroy mankind to stop war! Don’t worry, we’re putting away the wave right now. No hard feelings, right?”

Was it a coincidence, just real lucky timing? Or was the wave plan a response to the submarine crash, like one of those international incidents? Or was it payback for Biehn putting that bomb there, and if so why weren’t they trying to do something about the bomb themselves? Seems like if they knew about the bomb they’d try to do something about it. But maybe I just don’t understand their culture.

I noticed a couple odd things on the credits. The first assistant director was Newt Arnold, the director of BLOODSPORT. The stunt coordinator was Dick Warlock, who played Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN II. The water tank they filmed most of it in was located at Earl Owensby Studios in North Carolina, same place where crappy movies I watched last month like FINAL EXAM and HOUSE OF DEATH were filmed.

Another interesting bit of trivia, the crew has one of those Garfield dolls suction-cupped on the window of their submarine or whatever it is. Those were real popular on car windows in the ’80s, but this was actually a little in-joke from Cameron. Alot of people remember that he had the rights to Spider-Man for a while, he was developing that and supposedly Leonardo DiCaprio was gonna star. At that time though he had his eye on an even more beloved work of comic strip art, the American classic “Garfield.” Cameron worked very closely with Jim Davis to stay faithful to the original strips in his script and storyboards, but I’m sure he also had a real Jim Cameron spin on it. Although I’m sure all that research is what led to the technology of AVATAR, they never quite cracked Garfield and gave up before it was finally made by a much more capable team, and motion picture history was changed forever.

That last paragraph was bullshit I made up, by the way, but all that about Michael Meyers and Earl Owensby and everything was true.

I don’t really know whether or not when you gaze into THE ABYSS, THE ABYSS gazes also into you. All I know is you should gaze into it regardless because it’s a good movie and we all could stand to gaze into some more good ones.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, November 14th, 2009 at 7:01 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

132 Responses to “The Abyss”

  1. Beautiful, beautiful piece of writing, Vern. I never tire of coming here. Thanks, man!

    SirV

  2. This is my favorite James Cameron movie. This is one that I showed Quinton and my other little brother Drew this summer, and they were both crying when she ‘died.’ The Director’s Cut is actually much, much longer then the theatrical, there’s a lot more small moments between the crew that makes them seem more like real people that have been together for months. I’m pretty sure that line you mentioned with “The hammer” wasn’t even in the theatrical. And definitely one of my favorite moments, where they are towing the sub and they are listening to the country music and singing, like they were cruising down the highway, instead of dragging an oil derrick across the bottom of the ocean floor.

  3. Absolutely love this movie. You’re right, it doesn’t even need aliens to be great. It was enough that Cameron had those dive helmets invented so you could see the actors’ faces and he built all those awesome dirigibles and used real liquid oxygen and made one of the most intense and realistic disaster scenes ever filmed when the crane falls on the lab and then the lab almost falls off the cliff. But that wasn’t enough of a challenge for him, so he had to go and invent photorealistic CGI, too.

    I’m not a violent man, but any of these anti-Avatar motherfuckers who want to call Cameron a hack are looking for a cockpunch.

  4. Man, what’s up with that picture, though? Ed Harris is sobbing his little heart out and that dude in the background is just laughing at him. What a dick.

  5. So I looked it up and the part with the rat in the breathing fluid was real, apparently. I always wondered how they did that. But how did they make it look like Ed Harris was breathing fluid?

  6. Count me in for this being Cameron’s masterpiece. Since it’s cool to hate him now (or it’s that I go to some British-based websites and they just don’t like him). I always point to this one when they go on their tangents about what an awful filmmaker he is (while defending Paul WS Anderson & (to a much lesser extent) Uwe Boll).

  7. Yeah, I don’t get the hate either.

    You nailed it geoffreyjar with the, “(while defending Paul WS Anderson & (to a much lesser extent) Uwe Boll).” It always seems that you get great filmmakers like Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spielberg (he’s made some crap but c’mon, should Indy 4 negate everything else the guy has done?) I’ve even heard shit about Scorsese…SCORSECE FOR FUCK’S SAKE! Heck, even guys like Richard Kelly and Gus Van Sant may not be batting 1000, but at least they try different things to maybe progress the medium.

    Then you get someone talking shit about the new Transformers movie and they’re all, “Give it a chance, man, It’s not even in theaters yet.” Seriously. What the fuck.

    I’m not the biggest James Cameron fan by a long shot, but the guy has made some damned fine action movies and to call him a hack is just plain ignorant. I just chalk it up to internet trolls either trying to start an e-fight or a film-snob that wants to look “cool” by trashing great movies and directors as if it will somehow impress everybody.

  8. I love this movie

    did you know that the set still exists in South Carolina?

    and Avatar is going to be awesome, fuck the haters

  9. Thing that always bugged me about The Abyss – when they find the aliens, Mary Elizabeth whatever just straight away announces that they are aliens from outer space.

    Since these creatures live deeper underwater than any human has ever been, and since they seem to pretty much keep to themselves unless there are bumbling humans that need saving, mightn’t they just be native Earth creatures who’ve been there all along?

    If they’re space aliens, how’d they get their spaceship past all the satellites and radars and whatnot, and what the eff are they doing down there anyway?

    Occam’s Razor, Mary Elizabeth, Occam’s Razor!

  10. I know the loss of the rights to GARFIELD was a big personal disappointment to Cameron, but I have it on good authority that once AVATAR has run its course and silenced the haters, he’ll finally be turning his attention to another project from that era that is sure to be his biggest technical and personal accomplishment ever. That’s right…ladies and gentlemen, I give you…James Cameron’s ZIGGY.

    THE ABYSS is unimpeachable for me, even with the Director’s Cut ending. I think Roland Emmerich has kind of inured us all to those big “spectacle” displays of disasters and buildings being destroyed and so on, so that it’s no longer “look how awesome that looks!” but “look how expensive that looks!” For me, at least, that giant wave was probably the last case of a large-scale fictional event being a bit breathtaking, before INDEPENDENCE DAY soured me on seeing such FX displays as merely a way to sell tickets. THE ABYSS just earns every emotional note it tries to play, and by the end, I’m willing to let that include a giant wave that stands still. That may have to do with the fact that I was twelve when this came out, but, hey, it turns me twelve again every time I see it, so.

    And what about that bearded dude trapped underwater when the bulkheads start closing? Man, that shit was scary. Almost as scary as the other bearded dude who came THIS CLOSE to drowning for real during filming.

  11. Whoa! I can only assume that you will review Titanic prior to Avatar being released and complete a two year old Striving for Excellence promise to me to review all Cameron’s films.

    Michael Mayket

  12. Griff – great link, thanks for that.

    Michael – A samurai always keeps his word. I am not technically a samurai but I grew up in a predominantly samurai neighborhood.

  13. I have to disagree on your take on the ending.

    In the short film, it sort of just fizzled out. They had built it up to some kind of pay-off with the aliens in the end, and then nothing (almost).

    But even worse than that, in the short film they somehow make it about the defusing of the bomb. The bomb has to be a non-issue for aliens like that, but still they make it seem like: “Hey, he saved us!”. Or alternatively: “Hey, he was a nice guy”, I guess. It’s kind of unsatisfying to have the aliens be so cruel that they wait in excitement to see if he can defuse the bomb without blowing himself up, only to then save him on the basis of him being a nice guy. Sure, I guess it could happen, but it sort of says “you have to make up an explanation that works yourself”.

    In the long version, at least they were badasses all along, and it sort of makes sense (to me, at least) that they would argue among themselves over whether to save him or not to the bitter end.

  14. Re-read my post. Clumsy wording. Obviously the bomb was an issue for the aliens, I just meant that as I took it, it didn’t pose any immediate danger to their ship, or they would have dealt with it.

  15. Vern – Ed Harris breathing the liquid thing was done in a really horribly ballsy way. They actually filled his mask with water, he had to hold his breath while pretending to breathe it in (While being dragged sideways by a cable, so simulate falling down the cliff), and then when they yelled cut, a rescue diver would swim up, open his mask, and give him a respirator. Keep in mind all this was done while they were like 100ft underwater. He’d have to hold his breath for over 2 minutes sometimes, and he almost drowned at one point. Its on the making of documentary.

  16. I remember reading that when the execs saw the first cut, they wanted to trim a good 15/20minutes out of it. Their notes basically focused on cutting down on all the crew inter-relationship stuff, whereas Cameron’s first choice (and what they ended up doing) was chopping that expensive (I can’t remember the budget, but it was a BIG number at the time) tidal wave sequence at the end.

    Good point about the romantic subplot in this working so much better than the one in TITANIC. And – it’s very on-the-money – but I love that bit where he tries to stop the door closing and it goes to that extreme close-up of the metal THA-THUNKing against his wedding ring…

  17. There is surprisingly little new crew-interaction in the director’s cut. Although, I used to know the original by heart, and back then I felt that the few relationship moments that had been cut should have stayed cut.

    I have to say, for me, Cameron’s theatrical cuts are examples of exceptional editing, comparing them to the director’s cuts. I think T2 is the most insane – he took out parts about the switching the terminator into “learning mode”, which I would have figured to be essential for the plot. Except, no one noticed in the theaters, because he managed to end up with a better flowing film that still seemed to make sense.

    And in The Abyss, I feel he cut away the only part which could be removed without destroying the mood of the film. But as I stated, I don’t think the cutting made a better ending. He just took a flawed “day the earth stood still”-ending, (very good comparison by Vern) and turned that into an even more flawed ending, in which the aliens still behaved with the exact same moral ambiguity.

    Either that, or they were actually waiting the bomb out in fear inside their ship, which is just a really bad ending.

    The long ending came close enough to being cool that I don’t think it’s just a hype that most people (who I know, only?) count it as an improvement on all accounts.

  18. Vern, here’s a few more links for you

    this are pic from 94 http://www.lysator.liu.se/~hakgu/ab-behind2.html

    and from 2001 http://www.snydersweb.com/destinations/abyssTripGround.html

    unfortunately after further research it seems that they finally tore it down in 2007 :(

  19. I prefer the long cut too. Like Mattman, I reckon you need to think of it in the context (as regards the state of vis. effects) of when it came out. Just the scale and realism in the effects. I’d never seen anything like it (The bit where the news chopper flies in front of the wave in a longshot always blew my mind for some reason). So that sense of awe went a long way to override any niggling questions or objections I might have had to the implications of the climax. I think it’s a total credit to Cameron that he chose to dump that for time, in order to preserve the human story.

    But regardless – I totally agree that the movie really belongs to the humans. The acting is great in it. I’m a huge Ed Harris fan, so I love to see him playing the romantic hero lead in a big budget movie. Pretty rare.

    Looking forward to the rest of the Cameron reviews.

  20. That’s one of these movies that I wanted to watch for years, but for any reason never found the time.
    Anyway, in case you are interested, here is a list of the differences between the theatrical version and the director’s cut:
    http://movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=728

  21. Good stuff Vern. I think The Abyss edges Aliens as my favourite Cameron movie; it’s definitely the one I’ve watched most. Look forward to the rest of the filmography. You already did Piranha 2: Flying Killers, right?

  22. I’m with doktor rock on the ending.

    Yes its corny, yes its Day the Earth Stood Still/Spielbergian weepy about how one couple’s relationship indirectly saves the world. But that’s kinda the point. Not everything has to be ironic. It works because as Vern pointed out, that relationship worked. If they can change, maybe we can too.

    And that moment of the aliens showing the ruthless nature of humanity, its a cliche but I dig how Cameron warps it by having the beings not talk at all. Just show film clips* from WW2, Atomic bomb tests, Vietnam, Holocaust, Tehran 1979, etc. If this was produced now, it would include Rwanda, Kosovo, Iraq, 9/11, and Sudan probably.

    Really, the WW3 threat also explains sorta the actions of Biehn’s Navy Seals. Sure the pressure gets to his mind, but with escalating deadly actions up on the surface, who knows maybe those shiney lights are like a Russian weapon or something. Not excuse those guys, but the WW3 stuff certainly gives perspective to them. But without it, they come off as your usual military-guys-are-all-always-psycho-violent nonsense cliche I sorta despise.

    *=Did they VHS or alien DVD copy those films? Whoever cut them, is a skilled alien editor.

  23. Yes, I did Piranha 2 a summer or two ago, and was surprised how good it was. I don’t really want to review his Imax documentaries, so the only thing I have left is something called “The Titanic” or something like that, another one about undersea exploration I believe.

  24. Okay, nobody agrees with me on the ending, but how about the part where one of the civilians (I forget which one) turns to one of the military guys and says something like “Looks like you guys are out of business.” Can I at least get an “oh jesus” on that part?

  25. One Guy From Andromeda

    November 15th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I for one agree with you on the ending, i think the long version is unnecessarily sweet. The real flesh of the abyss are the underwater scenes, the pressure, the human to human relationships, not the corny we judge humanity business. I like that in the original version the underwater guys (who i always imagined as highly evolved jelly fish) just decide to finally take a look at the surface world because they liked how cute the love was between those two humans.

    On a different note, guys you HAVE to watch the making of. It’s almost better than the movie. You can see the scars on the souls of every person involved in this thing in the interviews. Ed Harris apparently still is not over it and basically says that he never forgave Cameron for what he made him go through. And to see the sheer insanity and hardship of how they made this movie happen makes you appreciate it even more.

    Man, i love the abyss. I used to watch it all the time when i was younger, but now it’s been years. Gotta revisit that one badly.

  26. I think the director’s cut ending is an improvement, but yes, your “oh jesus” is justified. Like Bush Sr. wouldn’t have just nuked the whole area from space. (It’s the only way to be sure, after all.)

  27. Majestyk – I don’t think Bush Sr. would have done that. His son though…

  28. Maybe you’re right. Senior wouldn’t have done it, but then Junior would have invaded the area to get revenge and “finish the job.”

  29. Vern – you know you could complete your Cameron quest after TITANIC by reviewing STRANGE DAYS, that one he produced/wrote for Kathryn Bigelow. and what do you know, she shot an Oscar contender this year.

  30. Haha, everyone is free to cringe at most parts of this movie in my book – from the resuscitation sequence to the entire lazy ending with recycled text-messages and “they must have done something to us”. Especially the author of this sight! I actually remember being ashamed for making friends see the film during the line you (Vern) mentioned. It just seems like the end wasn’t finished, and no editing in the world could have made it great. But I still love it all! I think of the film as a sketch of the greatest painting, but one corner is still drawn in pencil and has details missing. And I guess some of those details are filled in with cheese.

  31. Yes that line is bullshit. Then again, this movie is Limits of Control subtle compared to something like The Day the Earth Stood Still. Jesus, that movie was pounding me in the temple with its message from minute one.

  32. I really wish this movie would come out on blu ray

  33. Brendan – You mean the (dumbass) remake, right? Or the original?

    If you mean the original…

    *sharpens knives*

  34. Whenever I hear “House of Death” I’m thinking “Bloodbath At The House Of Death” with Vincent Price. I can’t find that movie, anywhere. Great review, Vern.

  35. RRA-Yeah I meant the original. I wasn’t insulting the movie, it holds up relatively well (well not so much the robot guy) but I don’t think you could possibly call it subtle about the themes and ideas. Re-reading my post I sound kind of harsh, which wasn’t my intention. I didn’t see the remake because it looked…well it looked like a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves. No thanks.

  36. Wow, I didn’t think I’d be in a minority of one here, but I saw the movie as a teenager and didn’t remember too much of it. Then I saw it again recently and HATED it. I thought it was cliched unintelligent soulless dross. It’s way too long, the characters all speak in the same way (the geeky scientists speak and act exactly like the bloodthirsty marines), and considering it’s a movie about aquatic aliens in the midst of the Cold War, it’s got absolutely nothing to say. I can’t recall a single memorable moment or sequence in it apart from the very ending, which might’ve worked if the movie wasn’t so damn bad.

    The movie it probably reminded me of most was the original “Bad Boys”, but at least that one had two recognizable leads amidst all the ethnic stereotypes and faux-European bad guys. This one doesn’t even have that. I’m at a genuine loss to explain some of the praise for this dross – was there a bad remake made that I watched by accident instead of the “real” film?

  37. The Abyss may just be my favourite Jim Cameron film. I think it’s Ed Harris’ best performance ever. The making-of documentary is something to behold too. Good lord.

    “I’m not talking about The Abyss, and I never will” – Ed Harris, some years ago

  38. “The movie it probably reminded me of most was the original ‘Bad Boys'”

    What?

  39. Holy shit. Is somebody comparing Cameron with Bay? Is this really happening?

  40. Sometimes I wish there was a message board here because I wanna get Vern’s attention but don’t want to spoil a good discussion. Anyway, check out this trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obF3WzmW4YE This one looks like a keeper. I think you should review William Kaufman’s first movie, The Prodigy. The guy does seem to clearly be one of the few people that actually knows how to direct and edit an action sequence.

  41. Forget the Michael Bay comparison. He said, “dross”. Twice.

    Who uses that word? Really?

    Sorry, Paul. I’m just giving you shit. Actually, are you sure you aren’t confusing The Abyss with Mutant Chronicles? Now there’s a piece of dross if I’ve ever seen it.

  42. Bad Boys ? Are you talking about the Sean Penn one ? From 1983 ? Or the unholy shitfest with Smith and Lawrence ? I still feel sorry for them…..

  43. “I’m at a genuine loss to explain some of the praise for this dross – was there a bad remake made that I watched by accident instead of the “real” film?”

    I think you saw Sphere and got confused.

  44. caruso_stalker217

    November 15th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    What is a dross?

  45. And speaking of the James Cameron Hatred….. oh my god it’s true , then.I’ve heard a lot of comments lately , bashing him for that first AVATAR trailer ( I think it was good , but I also like the new one) , and that was it . But recently , on Italian forums and around the net , this comments are growing .Let’s analyze this .Over here 2 are the main currents of the Cameron hatred :

    1- He’s the director of Titanic , considered a girl movie , like , you know , Sex in the City .

    2-The more elitist minds hate him ( and Lucas ) for the groundbreaking special effects ( for some critics he’s the reason for the abuse of cheap CGI ) and for his big budget movies .

    I really don’t get it , it’s like when after “Ghost of Mars” a lot of people said that Carpenter had “lost it” or , even worse , that he was really lucky up until that point !

  46. CallMeKermiT – You know the ridiculously dumb Cameron backlash could backlash in itself if AVATAR is at least decent enough. Remember when the Net thought T3 would be dogshit, saw it and realized it wasn’t as bad as they figured it would, they kissed its ass. Now I think most agree that T3 is OK at best. at best.

    Then again, what you expect from the same nerds who cocksuck Zach Snyder and defend Bay with incredibly idiotic logic and nonsense with each new movie? Sorry for the Jim Cornette rant.

    Brendan – OK, I can understand that. Good pick in skipping the remake. Will Hollywood ever realize that in itself, people don’t give a fuck about the Environment? They could have learned from Steven Seagal.

  47. Ian – that quote reminds me of that (unconfirmed) anecdote where on THE ROCK, Bay* kept pestering Harris about how Cameron would shoot this and that. Despite you know, common knowledge about Harris’ hell on ABYSS. Anyway Harris finally, very nicely, told Bay to shut the fuck up with the Cameron questions. Bay did.

    *=Maybe that’s his fatal filmatic flaw: He wants to emulate Cameron, yet missed the point of why Cameron was terrific in the first place. Its not the FX or even the action, but the storytelling.

    Unfortunately, Paul W.S. Anderson has the same problem.

  48. caruso_stalker217

    November 15th, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t remember anybody kissing T3’s ass. I thought a majority of people kinda knew that it was a pile of dogshit.

  49. Yeah you always hear about these filmmakers talking about how much they admire Cameron and all the rest of that crowd, but then you watch the movies and it seems like they completely missed out on everything that makes those movies classics, or shit, what makes those movies worth watching at all.

  50. Whatever its faults as a movie, The Rock features a great Ed Harris performance. He owns that movie from frame one.

  51. caruso_stalker217 – When I meant “everyone,” I meant AICN.

    Brendan – Well yeah.

  52. So… what exactly DID make this movie worth watching? Sorry guys, I just don’t get it. To me it was a two-and-a-half-hour snoozefest featuring cliche’d characters, where every moment that could’ve been passable was ruined by idiotic melodrama (one of the few bits I remember was where the lead guy saved the token female’s life… it could’ve worked, but if you wrote down the dialogue of that scene you’d think it could be played by clowns.) Every bit of it was amped up to “eleven” yet none of it showed any intelligence or character whatsoever. It was like a Michael Bay movie with less sunsets.

    I’m not a Cameron hater, I’m really not. I sat through the entirety of Titanic and enjoyed it (which, despite some pretty justified railing against it now, is a far far better movie on just about every level than “Abyss” was.) I thought “Aliens” was a fantastic shoot-em-up, and showed just how a film like “The Abyss” actually should have been done. I can enjoy lots of Cameron’s films. I just thought this one was awful.

  53. Oh and yes, I was referring to “Bad Boys” starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. I didn’t know there was another one.

  54. caruso_stalker217

    November 15th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    “It was like a Michael Bay movie with less sunsets.”

    I… I think I’m gonna have to disagree with you there.

  55. I went on a self imposed media blackout before T3 , I wanted a completely free point of view. But a lot of people told me that it was horseshit , so I was pretty low on expectations when I finally got around to see it , and I’ve actually enjoyed it . Nowhere near the same league , the same planet or the same galaxy of the first 2 , but fun , with well shot action and some crazy sequences ( well , I still hate the “talk to the hand ” line , but maybe I don’t get it because I’m Italian. It’s that a common thing to say in America ?). Then again the first 2 where directed by Cameron , so this new “hatred” wave is even more annoying . And even if AVATAR is a monolith of excrements, that doesn’t change one single thing . Some people will say “I told you so” and go home with their little “hard” won victory , but the man will always have some of the best movies of the last 30 years.

  56. I don’t know, Paul, it just seems like you’re watching a different movie. If it didn’t work for you, I can respect that, but I don’t see how you can watch the devastating scene where Ed Harris pours his heart out trying to save the love of his life and call that “idiotic melodrama.” That’s actually just drama, and it’s what sets The Abyss apart from other major special effects extravaganzas.

  57. CMK,

    No, that “talk to the hand thing” was popular among kids in the mid to late 1990s. By the time it popped up in T3 it was hopelessly passe and as cringeworthy as you think it is.

    T3 was derivative but I really enjoyed the way it ended.

  58. What I like about the Abyss ? Vern pointed out some things : strong performances by the actors and attention to characters ( and I consider a lot of lines from a lot of movies a little over the top and corny , but that didn’t really bother me in the Abyss ). I also like the sets , old school sets and not greenscreen abused ones . Like in the Aliens movies and Outland , I love the craftmanship . Then I like some ideas that I’ve seen first in the Abyss , the fluid breathing and the design of the suit . I find the concept fascinating .Also , I don’t remember at the moment , but there’s a female African American with a cowboy hat obsessed with country music in the Abyss ? If there is , I also like that .

    And one more thing : life’s Abyss , and then you dive .

  59. CallMeKermiT – holy shit you reference OUTLAND! :)

  60. M. Casey : Thanks , but I still don’t understand the meaning , why it was considered fun . For example , the universal joke “pull my finger” ( and then fart ) , perfectly played by Michael Cane in Children of Man , is understandable by everybody , everywhere . I’m not sure , but I think Dante Alighieri used it in the Divine Comedy and there’s an ancient mural of “pull my finger” in a cave in Africa . It’s a sign of peace between men , an universal language . It’s not the same with “talk to the hand” , it’s too obscure and cryptic . In conclusion , T3 would be better with “pull my finger”.

  61. What I don’t get is why you picked Bad Boys. These two movies could not be further from each other in terms of content and plot and things like that, setting aside quality. Why not compare it to other sci-fi movies ? “It makes Event Horizon look like Aliens” or “It makes Short Circuit look like Robocop” or something like that. “The characters were better in Doom.” These…these are arguments I could vaguely comprehend. They make me weep blood I disagree with them so much, although that might be something else that I should get checked out, but I guess I could understand where you’re coming from better,

  62. Outland is fantastic , we need more zero-g man-to-man combat in every kind of movie , even romantic comedies.
    And zero-g exploding men . And the sets ARE fantastic .

  63. I believe Steve Johnson created the aliens in this film. I remember reading comments that they were a pain in the ass to make and overlooked because everyone focused on the water tentacle.

  64. Have you ever noticed how Sean Connery in OUTLAND with the blue police outfit looks like that WWF wrestler The Big Boss Man?

  65. For “Talk to the hand” to work, Kermit, you have to imagine that the person saying it is holding his (or preferably her) hand palm outward like a policeman stopping traffic. By saying “Talk to the hand,” s/he’s saying that you need to stop talking and direct your grievances elsewhere, because the person the hand is attached to doesn’t care what you have to say.

    It’s a stupid thing to say and was only ever kind of funny when someone attached “because the wrist is pissed” on the end. Even then, it was just about the lamest joke you could ever make by the time T3 came out.

    Great truck chase, though.

  66. RRA : Big Boss Man ! Now that’s some old school wrestling right there . I never noticed the similarities between them , but the next time I watch Outland I will look more closely. Peter Boyle was scary in that too , I always think it’s funny because he was the creature in Frankenstein Jr and in Outland is like a completely different person . Same thing with Taxi Driver . Man I miss the guy .

    Speaking of Outland and its sets , another movie with the same feel and good looking sets, but not as good , is Moon 44 . I always link the 2 movies , but I was never able to watch them back to back.

  67. I don’t know, CMK. By that point in the franchise I’m kinda surprised Arnold just didn’t rip a giant fart. Actually, now that I think about it I’m positive the scene would’ve been better that way.

  68. Mr. Majestyk : Thanks, and …..man. That’s lame and unfunny. The meaning eluded me for years , and now that I finally know it , I feel empty . I prefer “pull my finger” , that’s for sure .

  69. One thing I really like about The Abyss is that the main threat to the characters during the entire movie – the ocean – is actually believable, which to me sets this movie apart from more recent “disaster” flicks that pit scrappy heroes against threats that break the laws of physics and whatnot. Completely ridiculous sci-fi disasters can be fun, I guess, but when you have characters facing a believably serious situation, it makes you appreciate their plight even more.

    The real tension in The Abyss comes from knowing that at any moment the delicate, carefully balanced mini-world that the scientists have created under water could have the slightest thing go wrong, and they would all be dead within moments. Humans are not meant to live deep under water and the movie constantly reminds you of this. Not only in the submarine “drowning” scene (which is horrifying), but when Ed Harris’ character is descending into the trench – breathing isn’t even a problem for him anymore and yet he still starts to seriously break down mentally and physically because of the enormous pressure of the thousands of feet of ocean above him. His friends in the base look at his garbled text messages and can tell even without hearing him or seeing him that the ocean is winning. Great scene.

    It also makes you appreciate the underwater “aliens” more. Here we have a bunch of humans who, despite all their technology can’t even survive in a place on their own planet, and yet there are these other beings who thrive in it. Sort of exaggerated versions of anglerfish, tube worms, etc. who really do live in the cold, dark depths in real life.

  70. Oh, one other nice touch of “realism” (for what it’s worth in a sci-fi movie) I liked: when [SPOILER] the lab gets raised to the surface by the underwater ship, one of the crew mentions that the aliens must have done something special to their bodies on the way up since they should have died from ascending so quickly without de-pressurizing. As anyone familiar with diving knows this is indeed a VERY serious thing to worry about, but not necessarily something that everyone in the audience would have realized. So Cameron et al. put a deus ex machina in there, I suppose, but it’s better than having left the plothole of how the crew could have walked right out of the lab unhurt.

  71. I second that. Everything in The Abyss has a tangible quality that no other movie with this many special effects has.

  72. They feel like real people, and that’s what gives it that quality I think. If they had decked out the set with scientists or soldiers, that would have tipped the scales towards some of the goofier movies in this genre. But because the characters all look and act like actual human beings and they behave and react like rational, regular people.

  73. We buy the threats to the, and are more likely to give a shit, is how I should have ended that post. I suck at this.

  74. when used ironically, “talk to the hand, cuz the face don’t wanna hear about it!” also amuses me, but, yes, agree, in T3 – cringeworthy.

  75. I prefer the theatrical cuts of Cameron’s films over the special editions (see also: T2 and ALIENS). Leaner and meaner is almost always better, so I’m with you Vern that the theatrical ending is the superior one here. Finding out only at the end that the entire world was in danger feels like something air-dropped from some other movie that was going on at the same time. Everything in THE ABYSS felt so intimate and character-driven up to that point, even with all the nukes and aliens, and suddenly the scale of the film expands enormously for that one scene and it just doesn’t fit right.

    One thing I always thought was a great touch was that Lindsey was first one to see the aliens (without lapsing into a coma). You’d think the hardass “cast-iron bitch” would get the role of mocking skeptic for this kind of story, but instead her encounter melts her facade and reveals this sense of joy and wonder we didn’t suspect her character was capable of. On the other hand, I always thought it was a bit of over-simplification to give Coffey an actual scientific cause for his villainy. He says about the water tentacle, “It went straight for the warhead and they think it’s cute”. I could believe that would be enough justification in Coffey’s mind for his actions without the need to tattoo on his forehead during his first few minutes onscreen that he’s going to lose it.

    I second the notion that you should take a look at STRANGE DAYS, which I think is even more underrated than THE ABYSS.

  76. Nemuren – I think those SE cuts, at least for ABYSS and T2, are good in that instead of like most blockbusters worried about making some bullshit time limit and fearing people might have ADD, they are willing to have a pace but while also think and ponder about itself. Of all the Cameron SE cuts so far, only ABYSS is the only one that’s a different (better) movie as far as I’m concerned.

    And you’re right about that character. I’m sure if it was Bay or PWS Anderson or Boll or Zach Snyder, they all would have done the scientist=mocking skeptic bullshit. Because you know anyone smart or into science must be an atheist bastard.

    Anyway, I think Vern would like STRANGE DAYS. Sure the 1999-Cyberpunk stuff might feel dated, but you have a great awesome opening with a robbery shot POV. And to my surprise (I should have known better considering the crew), but Cameron/Bigelow/Cocks really take the concept and do everything you basically can with the practical, ethical, and criminal implications of that sci-fi tech on the streets.

    Its the anti-SURROGATES.

  77. RRA- Yes, it’s perfect how STRANGE DAYS has Lenny giving these lyrical sales pitches about the unlimited possibilities of “playback”, only to have Mace make the brutally accurate dismissal, “You sell porno for wireheads.” But, of course.

  78. Well I still don’t “get” the abyss, but I’m not gonna convert anybody and they’re certainly not gonna convert me. On the other sub-topic that’s been running here though…

    I also enjoyed T3 but thought it wasn’t a patch on the first two movies. “The Terminator” was a love story featuring some pretty biting social commentary on the role of the disenfranchised: the hero is an illegal alien, the villain a street hoodlum, and most of the movie is spent in back alleys, seedy nightclubs and motels. T2 kept the commentary but the point and the setting has changed to make it more a film about the abuse of power by those given too much of it: the villain is a police officer, the hero is a juvenile delinquent, and the action takes place in corporate offices and shopping malls. Not really sure what T3 was trying to say (not much, really) but it was a good spectacle. I hated the chase scenes though.

    Vern made the point in his review of T2 that the kid knew that his mother wasn’t his mother at the end because she was kind to him. In the extended DVD edition though, you can see the T1000’s leg melted to the floor (this is set up by another added scene, earlier on, of the T1000 malfunctioning and sticking to objects it “mimicked”). That’s why I have to disagree with the poster who said he preferred the cinematic releases to the extended DVD ones – I think it just makes more sense that way, without actually subtracting any of the impact from the scene.

  79. caruso_stalker217

    November 16th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    The extended version of T2 had too many unnecessary scenes that fucked up the pacing.

  80. Yeah, I agree that the director’s cut of T2 is a letdown. I remember reading the scene with Reese in the movie novelization and being bummed that it wasn’t in the movie. Then I actually saw the scene and realized that it just felt wrong. It was better in my imagination.

    It was nice to see Linda Hamilton running around in a nightgown, though.

  81. Each of Cameron’s SEs have one particular extended addition that feels like a miscalculation. THE ABYSS has its out-of-left-field DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL homage.

    In T2, the Kyle Reese interlude feels like soap-opera hokum. The SE’s explanation for why Sarah was desperate to escape at that moment was because the dead father of her child told her in a dream that her son needed her now. Seriously? The theatrical cut gives us less supernatural reasons: her request for a minimum security transfer was rejected despite her improved behavior, and a dude who looks a lot like the dude who hunted her in 1984 was just spotted in a mall. That, and the whole impending nuclear holocaust hanging over everything. She didn’t need any more reasons to bust out.

    The single largest addition to ALIENS introduces us to Newt before things went to hell and shows the moment the colonists first contacted the aliens. The whole thing feels redundant. We know what’s going to happen the second Ripley learns that LV-426 is now inhabited and that scene in the SE has us waiting for the movie to catch up to that knowledge. I also think it’s better that we meet Newt the same time Ripley does. It makes Newt a more compelling mystery. Who is she? How did she survive? Instead the special edition has us going, “Hey, it’s that girl from before!”

    I agree that tight pacing is the advantage of the theatrical cuts. It’s worth noting that the theatrical versions of T2, ABYSS and ALIENS still clock in at over two hours each, so it’s not like they were specifically tailored for ADD-addled viewers. The example was used of the T-1000 “glitching” while impersonating Sarah which allows John to see through its ruse. It’s an extra beat that’s not really needed. If I were to think about it, I suppose John figured it out in the theatrical cut because… of course the T-1000 wouldn’t be “nice” enough to warn him to get out of the way!

  82. Yeah I didn’t like the Newt-family shit in ALIENS. It felt like a bad hokey B-movie.

  83. It’s weird, because you want Cameron to be able to do whatever the fuck he wants, but I agree with you guys – whenever he has to cut shit out it makes huge improvements. So many of those things are better not explained.

    I kind of liked where you found out Ripley had a daughter who’s now died of old age, though. But it’s not necessary.

  84. Wasn’t the wedding ring/toilet scene from the ABYSS special edition cut?

    Vern – Loved that “letting Cameron do his thing” statement in your review. I take it as a not-so-subtle dig at the Internet for their silly AVATAR hatred. I mean lets see it before it rip it, ok? Hell PHANTOM MENACE had that at least.

    Though surely AVATAR will be better. Hopefully.

  85. Vern, I assume that when you say “Oh Jesus” you mean that the line about putting the military out of a job is very sappy and melodramatic and that it also is an incredibly ironic statement; ironic in that the water aliens are about to wipe us out because WE’RE too violent (way to think things through, James).

    In which case I will heartily give you an “Oh Jesus, are you f*cking kidding me?”

  86. “Wasn’t the wedding ring/toilet scene from the ABYSS special edition cut?”

    I’m certain it was in the theatrical cut.

    Anyway, cheesy DC ending aside, I think Abyss is in many ways Cameron’s most mature and cerebral work. I just rewatched the DC recently, and I thought it was a genuinely great movie until the last 5 minutes or so, when it loses it’s way a bit.

    In general I prefer Cameron’s 80’s work. The trio of Terminator-Aliens-Abyss beats T2-True Lies-Titanic any day in my eyes, even if the latter are good also. Cameron’s 80’s work just feels more personal, emotional and gritty to me.

  87. Kinda funny, Cinemax has been playing the shit out of this movie lately. I hadn’t seen it since it came out, when 13 yr old me waited with bated breath all summer to see it, and then saw it, and was REALLY disappointed. Don’t hate on 13 yr old me too bad, though, I was up for some ultraviolent sea monsters, which of course is not what “The Abyss” is about. It opens with a Nietzche quote, after all. And I remember the ending looked really fake, like a garbage bag on the ocean.
    So after reading Vern’s review last night, I clicked on the tube, and guess what was about to start?
    By the time it got to the end, I realized from the review that it was the director’s cut, and while I don’t remember the original (all I remembered before last night was Ed Harris’s wedding ring in the toilet and Mary Elizabeth’s boobies – like I said, I was 13), I did enjoy the end.
    Though I did give up an “Oh, jesus” for Vern when the guy said that line about being out of business.
    Also, re: “Aliens”, knowing Ripley had a daughter maybe wasn’t integral, but knowing it just makes the movie so much better. That they should have kept. The sentires were kinda cool, too.

  88. Yep, Cameron employs great editors (or maybe has just one good one) and his films are evidence that judicious editing is vastly underrated.

    I will probably be shouted down on this one, but I think DARK KNIGHT could have used about 20 minutes chopped out of it, including everything after the Joker was captured. We don’t need to see Harvey Dent fall off the building (SPOILER). By that time the real main attraction (Joker) is gone and we are just waiting for it all to be over so we can tell everybody how awesome Heath Ledger is. But no, they have to add another redundant cliffhanger that has very little suspense (will Dent kill the kid or not?? When was the last time a kid was killed in a movie???) (oops SPOILER) which is not only dull but it also kills off the guy who we had assumed to be the bad guy for the next installment of the series! What a waste (unless he really isn’t dead, spoiler?). Then to top it all off they have to show Batman brooding for a few minutes and finally riding off into the mist, yes he’s misunderstood and all alone in the world, blah blah blah. For me anyway it almost ruined all the good will the movie had built up over the previous two hours. Then there’s the cell phone radar red herring, zzzzz

    Cameron would have chopped all that crap out.

    In my humble opinion RETURN OF THE KING suffered from the same problem: inability of the director to just let go and stop the movie while everybody is still entertained. George Lucas had it right in STAR WARS. Death Star blown up real good? Check. Award ceremony for the good guys? Check. Roll credits.

    In ALIENS the sentries were rightfully cut. Yes they were cool but it wasn’t necessary to watch them slowly run out of bullets, complete with red LED counters. We get to watch that later on when Ripley is in the egg room.

  89. “I think DARK KNIGHT could have used about 20 minutes chopped out of it, including everything after the Joker was captured.”

    Thank you! Rainman, you’re my new hero. I’m gonna get you some motherfucking pudding.

  90. I can sympathize of sorts about the TDK ending, but you know what?

    That whole ending where Batman becomes a fugitive and shit, and Gary Oldman’s little speech to his boy….FUCKING AWESOME.

  91. I have to agree with RRA about Batman the fugitive and Gary Oldman’s speech. I’ll also add (though most may disagree) that the movie should have been an hour longer, at least.

  92. Hamslime might be onto something. I mean even the “long” movies today feel like they’re under the gun to get the shit done and run. I would rather prefer a movie comfortable with itself, no matter the length.

    I mean ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, that fucker is nearly 4 hours long. Yet that is never an issue during a viewing because its that fucking confident and well good.

    No TDK isn’t as good as AMERICA, but I wonder if maybe TDK would have benefited more if it had more time to stretch and flex out the Harvey Dent stuff. Maybe.

  93. Hah thanks Mr Majestyk.. I followed your name to your website and read your review of DARK KNIGHT just now and, well, we think alike it seems. Keep up the good work.

    After thinking about it… one Cameron movie that could have used some freaking editing is TITANIC. They could have at least cut out a couple dozen times the chick yells “JACK!” and Gilbert Grape yells “ROSE!”

  94. As far as the Harvey Dent stuff…. I thought DARK KNIGHT was a terrific setup for the next movie. They should have left Dent lying in the hospital, and then had an after-credits special surprise like they used to do all the time. You would see something like Two Face doing a Javier Bardem style coin flip on one of the gangster / cops who double crossed him. Just a 30-second teaser showing what a pissed off badass he has become, to set up the next movie where he would take his rightful place as the star villian. Now THAT would have been cool.

    But no.

  95. THE DARK KNIGHT does have the tendency to drag after the hospital explosion, but there’s still some really good shit after that. Like the way Eric Roberts says “Ramirez.”

    “It was Ra-meer-essthhh.”

  96. I read a post somewhere suggesting TDK should’ve ended with the shot of Batman standing over the wreckage of the bombed police station. Imagine: Rachel’s dead, Harvey’s severely burned, the Joker’s escaped, THE END, see you at the sequel! Have no idea how that would’ve gone over the general public, but my mind would’ve been blown at such a bleak ending/wicked cliffhanger for a big Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, it was for the best that Batman was able to apprehend Heath Ledger’s Joker onscreen rather than see a recasting a such a crucial juncture.

  97. Nemuren – That ending would have gone over like a lead balloon.

    Rainman/Majestyk/Others – You’re nice chaps, but I always kinda slightly detested when someone randomly says this needs certain # of minutes cut out.

    Why? Because WHICH SCENES EXACTLY needed to be axed? If you just cut shit randomly for that precious fucking running time…then the narrative quickly becomes a HIGHLANDER sequel in pure whatthefuckisgoingonitis.

    “, and then had an after-credits special surprise like they used to do all the time.”

    Yeah like X3 and DAREDEVIL! Yeha!

  98. The scene where she comes back to life is one of my favourite FX shots ever, it’s the way her skin seems to change colour when she is revived. Almost like you can see her life returning. I still have no idea how they did it.

  99. RRA, I wouldn’t have cut out shit haphazardly. I would have cut all of the Two-Face stuff. It was the Joker’s movie, and Two Face was just a distraction when he should have been a star.

  100. (By which I specifically mean Two-Face, not Harvey Dent.)

  101. Exactly. Cut all the Two Face stuff (every scene he is in after the hospital) and save it for movie #3. Especially the standoff at the end and his incredibly lame death. Cut the cell phone radar stuff, that added nothing to the movie except screen time. Yeah yeah moral crisis whatever. If you need Batman and Lucius Fox to have a moral crisis, think of something better than that. The guy has no problem running from the police and endangering dozens of innocent bystanders just because he wants to hide his identity.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think just about everything else about DARK KNIGHT is damn near perfect. But 20 minutes on the cutting room floor would have vastly improved the movie and probably turned it from a flawed, overlong, biting off way more than it can chew mixed success into a masterpiece on the scale of SPIDERMAN 2.

    I am not one to whine about long movies just because they are long. Hell, I think 2001 is a masterpiece and I wouldn’t cut a single second of it, even if Kubrick is just showing some guy walking across a room. (one of my favorite Vern quotes of all time)

  102. “If you need Batman and Lucius Fox to have a moral crisis, think of something better than that.”

    Like what?

  103. I think the Lucius Fox/Batman moral crisis is a good one, but like so many things in the movie, it gets shuffled off the stage almost as soon as its introduced. It was too late in the game to introduce an entirely new moral quandary into the mix. Batman had already proven that he could torture criminals for information and risk causing international incidents to do his job. Why was listening to cell phone conversations the dealbreaker?

  104. I like all the stuff you guys think should’ve been cut out. I especially disagree with leaving Two Face for the sequel – that’s exactly what the entire internet said would happen from the day BATMAN BEGINS was released until the day DARK KNIGHT was released. I’m glad they didn’t just do the obvious sequel set up pattern everybody in the whole world expected. Yeah, the Joker is central to everything, but the movie is about a group of people and how they all respond to the Joker and what it does to them, including Batman, Dent and Gordon. The moral dilemma about spying on everybody I think is crucial too because the movie is drawing parallels to the War Of Terror since the beginning, and it makes you question the whole premise of Batman – just because a guy is rich and can buy bat gadgets does that mean we should trust him to go as far as he feels necessary? Lucius teaches him that there’s a line.

    And any ending that gives me chills every time I would say should not be left on the floor.

    but could we take this discussion to the Dark Knight thread now, so this one can be used to discuss whether or not there was an effect used to make Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio look alive again in THE ABYSS as implied by Lupin 3?

  105. I used to think the “Candles in the dark” thing that she says was a little phony, over done, like no one really talks like that. But recently, I kind of ended my first real relationship, and thinking back on it, there were moments that were just like what Mary Mastrantonio described in that scene. Makes me tear up to think about now.

    She was actually a pretty good Maid Marian, come to think of it. She, Alan Rickman and “Fuck me he cleared it” carried that movie.

  106. “Why a spoon?”

    “Because it HURTS MORE!”

    Rickman can carry any movie.

  107. Rickman is one of the only actors to make Kevin Smith’s dialogue seem natural. I like Smith, but his dialogue always sounds like dialogue, except when Rickman says it and makes it sound like it came from the mouth of an actual human being, even though he was playing an angel with a penchant for showing off his smooth plastic crotch.

    He was also highly entertaining as the artist neighbor who was unsure of the definition of “work” in The January Man–which also co-starred Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s very pale breasts.

    Maybe Crash was right and everything IS connected…

  108. “Tell people you’re the Metatron and they stare at you blankly, mention something out of a Charlton Heston movie, suddenly everyone’s a theology scholar MAY I CONTINUE?” Ha.

  109. Mr. Majestyk/Everyone else who wanted a cut – OK you guys, you all went on and on about how if only TDK deleted 20 something minutes then it would be perfect but otherwise its painfully obvious.

    Then I see 2012, which kept going on. And on. And on. And on. By the 100th drowning/run over/smashed person we’re supposed to give a shit about (but we don’t), I realize that whatever flaws TDK might have…

    There was a point to it. And it basically worked.

  110. And speaking of PRINCE OF THIEVES, thats a movie when you watch it again, you realize its on this side of being pretty shitty.

    Kinda an Emmerich/Bay/Snyder production of the time in that it was highly liked (or tolerated your definition) but now who quite cares if any about it? Forgotten like a bag of stale cookies.

  111. Mr. Majestyk: Or maybe CRASH is right and our advances in technology only serve to retard us emotionally.

  112. Those 20 minutes that some people wish were cut out of TDK are in fact exactly the minutes that make TDK the best superhero movie ever made, the best movie of 2008, and a genuine masterpiece. It also has one of the greatest endings ever conceived and left me to breathless when the credits rolled in.

    *everything* in the film builds up to the final decision Batman makes, and the following speech Gordon gives. The film is *about* that decision and the events that lead up to it. The ending is the reason why the name of the movie, “The Dark Knight”, can only come up after the movie, not before it. Because nobody in the audience is going to understand what the name of the movie truly means, until the very last minute.

    The whole purpose and essence of The Dark Knight is to show what it truly means to be a hero. Joker blackmails and puts Batman into a situation where he has only two options:

    a) Keep his anonymity and stay as a Batman. But if he makes this choice, the people he is supposed to protect are going to die.

    b) Reveal Bruce Wayne is Batman, which means he can’t be Batman anymore. Joker won’t kill anyone, but in the future Batman can no more protect the people he is supposed to protect.

    Even capturing Joker would be only winning half a battle, because in the future *anyone* could again force Batman face the same choice Joker gave him.

    So Batman only has two choices in his life, and he can’t pick either one. EXCEPT that the existence of Harvey Dent might allow him to pick option B after all. Batman couldn’t protect people anymore, but Dent could take his place. Unfortunately, the story shows how even the bright hope for Batman, Harvey Dent, can be corrupted and destroyed.

    And so Batman is again left with two choices, and he can’t pick either one. But then, at the very end of the film, he realizes there is a 3rd choice:

    c) In the minds of people he protects, he must not be a hero, but a villain. He must be hated, feared and despised. Only that way nobody can blackmail him ever again, because he will be someone who at face value doesn’t care about the people. And now nobody can ever again compromise his position as the protector of Gotham City.

    …It’s a brilliant ending, and an unpredictable yet perfectly logical solution to the moral dilemma the film presents. It’s not just a deconstruction of superhero stories, it’s a deconstruction of *heroism*. And it’s a sad, tragic, majestic ending.

    Now, I know some people just don’t care whether a film has a theme. I get that, often I don’t care myself. But the theme in The Dark Knight worked for me because it was not only intellectually satisfying, but also *emotionally* powerful. The film went the extra mile, and for the last two minutes of the film I was completely blown away, followed by the appeareance of the film’s title, which made shivers running through my spine.

    Great, great stuff.

  113. Besides, option ‘b’ won’t guarantee the Joker won’t go on to kill anyone anyway. (As I think maybe Alfred hinted at.) He could easily just start a new plot.

    Which, incidentally, also could happen anyway with option ‘c’. The Joker is still alive and won’t be fooled by the popular notion of Batman being blamed for murdering various hoods plus Dent.

  114. Actually, I like pretty much everything about “Prince of Thieves”, including Michael Kamen’s score (the aptitude of which I regard as nothing less than a miracle, considering the nearly uniform weakness of his scores in other movies), except for Costner’s painful attempts at acting. (Well, and except for most of the ‘added’ scenes spliced into the DVD. Does anyone know how to get hold of a theatrical cut widescreen version on DVD? Will it be available for the blu-ray?)

  115. Sabreman – I guess what bugs me, among many things, about PRINCE OF THIEVES was just the “hero’s” characterization.

    Lets just say I have indigestion usually when a hero goes all rebel and shit when he loses everything*. What’s so noble about that?

    As gay (very happy) as the Errol Flynn ROBIN HOOD was, that hero loses everything after he decided to stick it to those Norman fuckers. John Irvin’s ROBIN HOOD was OK, but I did like that one had the hero start that whole story because as a conquered Saxon, he’s sticking it to the foreign continental trash ruling his country.

    God knows what the Ridley Scott version will do.

    *=And in rhetorical pre-emptive strike, STAR WARS don’t count. Skywalker already was tempted to join, he just didn’t want to leave his poor uncle and poor aunt alone. You know, Stormtroopers with their occupation policies cause more hurt than help in the long run regarding possible insurgents and innocent civilians.

  116. I don’t think the ending of The Dark Knight necessarily DEconstructs heroism. If anything, it reconstructs it.

  117. I fucking love this movie. I love James Cameron.

  118. Man, what a coincidence! I was just looking for a way to buy weather balloons directly from China without having to deal with a middleman!

  119. James Cameron hasn´t made a watchable movie since True Lies and even that wasn´t very good. But it seems that he´s got hybris and I hold him solely responsible for this whole stupid 3D-craze that Hollywood has. Can anyone reallly defend why 3D makes movies better?? It was bullshit when it was new and it is bullshit now… haven´t we learned something?

  120. Just got my ass kicked by THE ABYSS for maybe the sixth or seventh time in my life and am pleased to see a good review and lively discussion of the film on my favorite sight, cuz I was looking for somewhere to gush.

    To me, ABYSS is of a rare breed in that it’s a huge-scale special effects extravaganza, but one that’s made for fucking Adults. It’s one of two qualities it shares with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, the other being that both films have a rare extended cut that’s rewarding for long-time fans of the picture: one that lends greater depth to the thematic concerns of the original, and fleshes out character and scene with so many little moments that it feels like the same larger-than-life experience you* had when you* watched it as a child.

    Also:
    -It has a ridiculously ambitious concept that’s introduced with extraordinary degrees of fluidity and elegance. There’s not a moment of laborious-feeling exposition to be found; each expository line also builds character and each character building scene also develops the scenario.

    -The scene where they explore the sub is so taughtly orchestrated and immersing that I never fail to forget during it that it’s also a film about aliens. Which never fails to be awesome because it’s the part where the aliens first show up!

    -Lindsey is a fucking awesome character. Everybody calls her a bitch and you see they are somewhat justified. But later when they figure out that Coffey brought the warhead onto the rig, she marches over and confronts him about it, and precisely the qualities that were making everybody (including you*) call her a Bitch suddenly make her the hero of the moment. (Of course, the movie is so superbly operatic about it that her stubbornness allows her to literally come back to life in a later scene).

    -Coffey and the other SEALs are awesome and good evidence of why this isn’t a Bay or Emmerich film. Those guys love having 1-dimensional evil Military or Gov’t hardasses who bullheadedly follow orders even when it’s idiotic to do so, or whatever. Coffey has plausible reasons for making the decisions he makes, PLUS he’s suffering from this horrible combination of claustrophobia/cabin fever and having to try to make mission-critical judgements at the same time. Meanwhile his men don’t openly mutiny, but they neutralize his weapon etc. Again, good adult characters participating in adult drama.

    -More off-the-chain set-pieces than any one film has a right to have, but they’re so varied that you never become numb to them. A lot of people neglect to mention the superbly timed sequence where the crane falls, JUST misses the rig, teeeeeeeeeeeters….and starts to drag them into the Abyss.

    -The resuscitation scene is so balls-to-the-wall, dangles you so far off the edge, that it’s basically pointless for movies to attempt such a scene anymore.

    I would defend the DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL stuff as well, but I also see where the dissenters are coming from. But all in all, this film embodies much of what I love about the movies. It’s larger than life in every department: the world, the people, the ideas. Unfortunately the world-building was the only thing Cameron continued to excel at in my opinion… I mean Avatar is just stuffed with condescending stereotypes of Emmerichian Authority figures, noble savages that just need a white guy to come and be better at their culture than they are, etc.

  121. *And by you, I mean me.

  122. Odd. I, too, just watched THE ABYSS this afternoon. Phenomenal.

    And fun for a Cameron fan, since you can pick out all his little auteuristic tics and proto-AVATARisms (SEAL Coffey = Colonel Quaritch in a lot of ways) and ALIENS carryovers (mechanized claws; somehow incorporating a standard but well filmed action movie vehicle chase into a film set in a place where car chases really aren’t supposed to happen).

    Maybe this websight has gotten to me, but I immediately thought of ON DEADLY GROUND when the NTIs showed the news & war footage.

  123. Oh yeah, and though I agree with the lovefesting here and with some of the complaints, I would say the only thing I would change about THE ABYSS is the music. Some of the score is a little cheesy, makes for a letdown in the badassness.

    Admittedly, all of the slightly annoying cheesy music happens during the cheesy parts, so it makes sense. But for my cynical tastes, it would be cooler and more timeless if it didn’t turn into some Spielberg-John Williams shit every time Cameron wants to convey a sense of wonder. And I’m so damn impressed by & immersed in THE ABYSS’s sound design (and all of Cameron’s awesome movies’ audio experiences) that it makes the cheesy parts more jarring.

    But it’s a small complaint, and I’m aware that really I’m wrong to even mention this because it’s always wrong to 2nd guess a movie 23 years after it was released and because I’ll probably change my mind on this once I get older and my ears aren’t in a cycle of wanting everything to sound badass & gritty.

  124. man, I haven’t seen THE ABYSS in so long, is it on blu ray yet?

  125. Well, there is one other thing we could do to improve THE ABYSS.

    Maybe Cameron will go George Lucas and make some tweaks for the blu ray next year.

    via http://niccageaseveryone.blogspot.com/

  126. Yeah wait, why is The Abyss not on Blu Ray? It’s on Amazon in about EIGHT DVD editions though. Any thoughts as to which is the best? That making-of that you guys speak of with Ed Harris holding his breath – which edition is that on? Because it really does sound like a must-see.

    Also, does anyone know how much “Captain” Kidd Brewer Jr is in the making-of? He was something of a local celebrity here before his passing and I’m kind of fascinated by his story.

  127. I don’t think it’s ever been issued in 16X9 on DVD, on any of those 8 editions neal mentions. If you ever see it on HD TV channels, it’s either in full-frame or letterbox.

  128. WHERE IS THE ABYSS BLU-RAY?

    Also, this film comes across like Lawrence of Arabia compared to today’s ‘blockbusters’.
    Jim Cameron’s masterpiece.

  129. James Cameron On Why ‘Avatar’ Needs Three Sequels and Details on an ‘Abyss’ Blu-ray Release

    SAN DIEGO — While promoting the 30th anniversary DVD/Blu-ray release of “Aliens” at Comic-Con Saturday, director James Cameron explained why his “Avatar” series needs the sc…

    Old news, but it is coming out sometime early next year on Blu.

  130. Don´t care about Avatar. I do care about getting a decent anamorphic release of THE ABYSS.

  131. I don’t care about it either, but the article contains this tid-bit

    “Finally, given the excitement around what he’s in San Diego to promote, as well as 3D theatrical releases of “Titanic” (2012) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (this October), going back to the well of his successes is a business prospect not at all lost on Cameron. On that note, he has some good news for fans who have been clamoring for a Blu-ray release of “The Abyss.”

    “We’ve done a wet-gate 4K scan of the original negative, and it’s going to look insanely good,” Cameron said. “We’re going to do an authoring pass in the DI for Blu-ray and HDR at the same time.”

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