THE GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS
(directed by James Cameron, 2003)
***+ (out of 5)
> Accomplished director James Cameron became so fascinated with the great doomed ocean liner after filming TITANIC, that he decided to collect a team of technicians to go down to the ocean floor and explore the wreck themselves, using submersible video-bots “Jake” and “Elwood” to capture stunning 3-D images of the tragic scene. Now on DVD, gone is the 3-D element, but most of the images are stunners nonetheless.
. Tireless explorer Cameron invited actor Bill Paxton along for the journey, who becomes a kind of everyman through whose lens we view the expedition. Although Bill is a clearly likable guy, this motif doesn’t work as well as the great director thought it would, due to his folksy “gee whiz, aw shucks” manner that makes him seem a fish out of water (unintended pun) next to these scientists and experts. His observations, while authentic and honest, also feel trite and obvious.
. Though often fascinating to watch, this documentary doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s just a snapshot of the expedition really, and the real drama lies in viewing the actual scene that so many of us have visited in our imaginations so many times, and in the occasional scary glitches that threaten to strand Elwood, and then Jake inside the carcass of the deceased ship.
. There is a terrible coincidence that caps the film, as the venture is coming to a close on September 11th, 2001, and the terrible events of that day seem to cast a pall on the whole project, providing some potent and unexpected perspective on the tragic loss of life on April 15th, in 1912.
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