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Overall Rating
3.91

Awesome: 32.5%
Worth A Look42.5%
Average: 15%
Pretty Bad: 3.75%
Total Crap: 6.25%

4 reviews, 56 user ratings


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Abyss, The
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by Charles Tatum

"A little waterlogged"
4 stars

Does James Cameron's groundbreaking film about underwater aliens still stand up twenty-five years after its theatrical release? I can answer yes and no after viewing the almost three hour special extended edition released on DVD a while back.

Bud (Ed Harris) is the leader of a motley crew of working stiffs on an underwater oil drilling platform. It seems those idiots in the military (Cameron makes his feelings for soldiers in uniform abundantly clear throughout this film) went and crashed a nuclear sub in a deep trench nearby, and the quickest way to rescue them is to use the platform. The platform designer, and Bud's estranged wife Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), is sent down to the platform along with a Navy SEAL team headed by the immediately unbalanced Coffey (Michael Biehn, turning in a nice performance). Above on the surface, a hurricane is blowing through, and international tensions with the Soviets are high. Coffey and Bud clash as to who is running the operation, which quickly turns from a rescue mission to a mission to survive mechanical failures, weather-related disasters, secret military agendas, oh, and some pretty, glowing space aliens.

I think we can all agree that Cameron's strength comes from his technical savvy, and not his screenwriting skills. Dialogue here clunks badly after lingering uncomfortably in the air when uttered. It's awful, I compare it to how a junior high schooler thinks grown-ups at work talk. Bud and Lindsey's bantering threatens to degenerate into "nanny nanny boo boo" insults and accompanying wedgies (the number of times she is referred to as a bitch is kind of shocking). The special extended edition of the film adds half an hour to the theatrical release, which means half an hour more visual marvel, and Cameron's annoying preachiness, breaking down the Cold War into its most simplistic ingredients. Cameron borrows from "2001: A Space Odyssey," "2010" (a huge debt to that film), the random "Twilight Zone" episode, and even the glassy-eyed look of wonder and amazement from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

The cast struggles with Cameron's dialogue, and seem to do best when left to their own devices (Lindsey's drowning scene, and Bud's descent into the underwater abyss). The shoot was a troubled one, according to some online research, and that is sometimes evident on the performers' faces. Some of Harris' expressions at his lines indicate disbelief. Biehn's Coffey is the most interesting character.

So why am I recommending this? Technically, the film is awesome. The widescreen is used wisely, and the film is epic in scale. Some of the special effects are a little iffy, this was CGI in its infancy, but the crystal clear cinematography and sound is perfect. Alan Silvestri's musical score is terrible (really? drums when the military killing machines are onscreen? are those bongos during the fight scene between Bud and Coffey?). The plot is a good one, I wish Cameron had taken a story credit and handed it over to someone who could flesh the caricatures out and made us care about the people going through all of these great action sequences (a mini-sub chase) and suspenseful set-pieces (the crane collapse).

In the grand scheme of Cameron films, "The Abyss" falls behind "Titanic," "True Lies," "Aliens," and his Terminator films. I will say this- it's light years ahead of "Avatar." Glub-glub.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1290&reviewer=325
originally posted: 05/21/14 10:09:23
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User Comments

8/20/17 Ed Riddick great actors, uneven screenplay, overlong 3 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell good movie better than terminator 2 or avatar IMHO 4 stars
6/12/14 Deez Nutz shitfuckshitfuckshitfuckshitfuck 1 stars
5/26/14 Richard Brandt Wildly uneven but still impressive. 4 stars
8/05/10 PAUL SHORTT FASCINATING SCI-FI WITH CLEVER SPECIAL EFFECTS AND A TENSE CLAUSTROPHOBIC SETTING 3 stars
12/27/09 randy todger incredible.the extended version is amazing 5 stars
6/01/09 Jeff Wilder Despite some weaker dialogue, THIS (not Titanic) is Cameron's true masterpiece. 5 stars
1/11/09 action movie fan good special effects, but dull overlong and silly plot 2 stars
11/10/08 .Totipe Seen it over 20 times, just love it. 5 stars
7/09/08 Bnorm Why isnt this movie more popular? Dull in places buy overall a very strong,fun experience 5 stars
6/22/08 Caiphn Was a solid film until the end, get's pretty ridiculous. 3 stars
7/01/07 fools♫gold Could be better, and not soul cares. Just cool. 5 stars
6/13/07 al smith one of cameron's best.very underatted.amazing 5 stars
11/14/06 Sugarfoot Overrated and dull. 2 stars
5/08/05 Ronin Cameron's typical. Means it's good :) 4 stars
4/25/05 Quigley could the bullcrap pile any higher? i think no further comment is necessary 1 stars
4/23/05 Indrid Cold Fantastic, original sci-fi/action. It does get a little silly at the end. 5 stars
2/07/05 Jeff Anderson THIS FILM KICKS TITANIC'S ASS! Great acting by all & Alan Silvestri's score is superb!!!!!! 5 stars
10/31/04 Steve Michaud Cameron's most underrated film is a spectacular, one-of-a-kind experience 4 stars
5/06/04 Mike at times it was too slow, but it has some really intense scenes - GOOD 4 stars
3/28/04 john expensive and ambitious - solid b movie with a trillion dollar budget 3 stars
1/31/04 Eric Should have focused on intriguing sci-fi rather than all the boring action scenes. 2 stars
5/10/03 Wolf I loved the original, have to check out the DVD now... 5 stars
4/29/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik Some dull spots, but generally great. 4 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper The original version released in theatres ended with a whimper. Director's cut is better. 5 stars
11/05/02 Nevz great flick 5 stars
9/07/02 Ramblin Wreck one of my personal favorites 5 stars
7/15/02 Calvert Directors Cut is magnificant 5 stars
3/14/02 Rockitman007 An greatly underrated movie! 5 stars
10/10/01 an everyday average joe this was a waste of time, money, and actul brain space 1 stars
10/09/01 Andrew Carden A Bit Too Slow Paced and Boring...Not An Exciting Sci-Fi Flick. 3 stars
9/03/01 Ray McCoy A pretty decent film with great lead performances and special effects 4 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Great Cameron film. The ending is a bit fucking shady though. 4 stars
6/20/01 Bada Bing Crosby Heard there was a sequel...called "Son Of Abyss"..ha, ha 5 stars
5/12/01 aa aa 5 stars
2/18/01 R.W. Welch Interesting most of the way but runs out of steam. 4 stars
12/24/00 bub Awesome movie, must see the DIRECTOR'S CUT!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/30/00 Kyth The movie *ROCKED* in the special edition. Theatrical release was cut to ribbons and sucked 5 stars
6/07/00 Taylor Cameron's most underrated film 5 stars
2/28/00 Jedi Another Cameron masterpiece 5 stars
2/25/00 Bozo Cameron's farts are more interesting than most other guys movies; this is no exception 5 stars
10/29/99 Mel P Sheer genius 5 stars
8/21/99 Olivia Neutron-Bomb James Cameron has the average scope and intelligence of a tapeworm. 1 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
6/25/99 David Keech Special Edition is much better than the original. Ed Harris is cool, as always. 4 stars
5/10/99 Beachlovr9 Excellent movie!!! 5 stars
2/19/99 charhas wow. Some of the technical touches were unecessary, but DAMN! what a flick 4 stars
1/24/99 donkey_dew Cameron Sucks. Well T2 was pretty damn cool. 1 stars
1/16/99 Shadow Raider Best of them all! 4 stars
11/26/98 Da Brain One of the best!!!! Only if you see the Special Edition 5 stars
11/17/98 Tom Ripley FA for the Special Edition; only JA for the theatrical cut. 5 stars
11/17/98 Gray Whitten Anyone who cares should see the Director's Cut...it makes things much cooler and clearer. 5 stars
11/16/98 Lord Of The Dunce Bored me. I know I'm in the minority, but I thought it was off the mark. 3 stars
11/15/98 Mike F It's good. 4 stars
11/12/98 WestEnd Letterbox version is a musy 4 stars
11/10/98 Silent Rob Just misses a F.A. If at all possible, see the longer version with the tacky tidal wave! 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Aug-1989 (PG-13)

UK
  13-Oct-1989 (15)

Australia
  14-Dec-1989 (M)




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