“Ghosts of the Abyss” IMAX Review

Ghosts of the Abyss

Director: James Cameron
Starring: Bill Paxton, James Cameron
Running Time: 1 hour, 1 minute
Theatrical Release Date: April 11, 2003

Plot Summary
Academy Award winning director James Cameron journeys back to the site of his greatest inspiration – the legendary wreck of the Titanic. With a team of the world’s foremost historic and marine experts and friend Bill Paxton, he embarks on an unscripted adventure back to the final grave where nearly 1,500 souls lost their lives almost a century ago. Using state-of-the-art technology developed expressly for this expedition, Cameron and his crew are able to explore virtually all of the wreckage, inside and out, as never before. With the most advanced 3D photography, moviegoers will experience the ship as if they are part of the crew, right inside the dive subs.

Film Review
Yeah, so I’ve been fascinated by the sunken wreck of the most infamous ocean liner disaster in history since the third grade when I first read of its discovery. Why, you ask? I have no idea.

Does that remark mean I’ve since seen the light. Not exactly. There’s something about that deep sea resting place that intrigues me. Could I ever venture there myself? Well, not without soiling my shorts with each foot my sub descends. This intense and vulnerable feeling was shared by actor Bill Paxton as he made his first real-life trek to the bottom of the ocean to gaze upon the grave site. In an unscripted and pure reality adventure, a crew of Titanic historians lead by director of the 1997 theatrical phenomenon, James Cameron, sought out to further explore the ship. The mission was plain and simple but the execution dangerous and risky, and the outcome?

For those enchanted by the disaster that happened one chilly night in April in 1912 on the icy sea, this unique documentary will be right up their alley. Ghosts of The Abyss may seem trite or cliche to some, but to others, an hour of amazing imagery and meaningful discoveries. But in this film, Cameron makes use of 3D photography that allows the viewer to really feel like they’re venturing into the submarines with the crew or gliding across the actual deck of the sunken Titanic. Cameron’s use of two specifically designed bots (affectionately named Jake and Elwood) allows the human eye to see parts of the ship that have not been seen since the ship went down 91 years ago. The visuals are breathtaking and the film engaging.

Ghosts… is not without its share of problems though. While none of them are so bad they really hurt the film, they’re enough to leave the appreciative viewer literally starving for more. The mere hour-long running time is just enough to get our appetite going, but the documentary ends prematurely without a real 100% satisfaction guarantee. I left feeling great I saw it but I wanted to see more. Unlike Cameron, we did not see everything those bots see or everything they saw when they peered out their sub portal windows. I felt more needed to be covered and that a lot of the film felt as if it were focusing too much on the expedition itself and not enough about the expedition’s subject matter. However, an interesting tidbit about the expedition is that apparently the bots took three years to develop and the film was made in 2001 (explaining why Cameron hasn’t made a film since Titanic in ’97). In fact, the audience is given a first-hand look at how the crew reacted to the news of the September 11th tragedy and how it ultimately affected their expedition.

That aside, it was just wonderful to finally get a look at the inside of Titanic. While it got too visually involved when Cameron began using video insets and multiple pictures to show different views of parts of the ship. On the other hand, when he used cool yet eerie overlays of reenacted 1912 footage to show how life on the ship would have looked before the wreckage, it was used sparingly and in a way that added to moments.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Ghosts of the Abyss. It wasn’t perfect and it’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a fantastic site for the IMAX theater setup and if the Titanic has ever been intriguing to you, then you won’t want to miss this one on the big screen.
John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/27/03)

Parental Guide: Content Summary
. Sex/Nudity: None.
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 “J-sus”, several uses of “Oh my G-d” and “My G-d”
. Alcohol/Drugs: None.
. Blood/Gore: None.
. Violence: None.

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