STARRING: Ed Harris, Mary Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmeister, Todd Graff, Kimberly Scott

1992, 164 minutes, Directed by: James Cameron

abyspec1.jpg (11883 bytes)Description: Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some "issues" to work out, are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on earth, and the petro-techies have the only submersible craft capable of diving down that far.

Perhaps the only thing that counts against The Abyss is its ending. But that was maybe the price the movie had to pay for its own success: the film was brilliant at sustaining tension and interest until the last ten minutes or so in which alien creatures in true deus ex machina-style  appeared to solve the story. Audiences felt cheated: imagine James Bond or Indiana Jones being saved from certain death by UFOs that happened to be passing by and you get the idea . . .

It was as if the writers has written themselves into corner very much like those Greek plays of old and literally needed a god in a box to sort out the various plot entanglements at the end (hence the term deus ex machina - literally, god from a machine, i.e., the stage machinery used to lower said deity unto the stage.)

Many visitors to this site have told me that I should watch the special edition version of The Abyss because it includes almost half an hour's extra running time mostly concerned with the end of the movie.

"Still not the ending the movie deserved, but The Abyss definitely stands improved . . ."

So I checked it out. Well, to be honest, the aliens still happen to save the day - the closing shot is the same, but the extra footage does clarify some issues. No doubt the footage was dropped so that the film would fit into the normal two hours’ screening time at cinemas without necessitating fewer screenings per day or unusual screening times which would have translated into smaller revenues. This was before director Cameron's three hour long Titanic became the biggest hit movie of all time - ironic when you think about it . . .

Now, half an hour's extra footage may seem like a lot, but The Abyss remains pretty much the same movie.

All that is new is a subplot explaining the aliens’ motivations, some extravagant special effects sequences (that reminded me of Deep Impact) involving giant waves and well, the movie’s underlying message.

The movie’s message? That’s not much? I can hear you exclaim. Well, its message - that we should be nicer to one another for a change - is hardly new, and to be honest was handled more cleverly in director Cameron’s own Terminator 2. Aliens coming to save us is as old as The Day The Earth Stood Still - made back in 1951! And it feels a bit odd tucked in at the end of the end of the movie - pretty much the same as a similar sequence in The Fifth Element.

Does that mean that The Abyss - Special Edition isn’t worth checking out? Not in the least: the added sequences clarify a lot of plot holes and issues and the ending no longer seems as abrupt.

Unlike Blade Runner - the Director’s Cut it is still not the ending the movie deserved, but The Abyss definitely stands improved.

It's a pity that this wasn't the version that we first got to see back in 1989 when the movie was originally released . . .

Watch Trailer / Clip:





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