MOVIE PAGE PICK: THE ABYSS
Ed Harris Bud Brigman
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio Lindsey Brigman
Michael Biehn Lt. Coffey
George Robert Klek Wilhite
John Bedford Lloyd "Jammer" Willis
Christopher Murphy Seal Schoenick
Adam Nelson Ensign Monk
J.C. Quinn "Sonny" Dawson
Kimberly Scott Lisa "One Night" Standing
Capt. Kidd Brewer Jr. Lew Finler
Leo Burmester "Catfish" De Vries
Todd Graff Alan "Hippy" Carnes
Richard Warlock Dwight Perry
Directed by James Cameron. Screenplay by James Cameron.
1989. Running time: 145 Minutes.
"Never make a film with children and dogs," Alfred
Hitchcock once warned. Had the great director lived any longer Im sure that he would
have added: "And dont film anything on water . . ."
Ask Steven Spielberg.
Hell tell you anytime of the day. Filming on water (or underwater that matter!) is
always haphazardous. On the first day of filming the mechanical shark they used in the
film sank straight to the bottom of the ocean. Things went from bad to worse from there
on: the film went mega-overbudget and Spielberg thought that he would never work in
Hollywood again. Then the film proved to be an enormous hit and Spielbergs career
was cemented. But obviously he declined to do the sequel. Films on water - even when they
go way over budget - arent always bombs at the box office. Ask Kevin Costner. Even Waterworld, one of the worlds most expensive movies ever made
eventually got its money and in the end, with video sales, television screenings and the
non-USA market, somehow even managed to generate a small profit . . .
Ask James Cameron. After his The Abyss he would probably have
told you that one should never ever film anything on water. But no doubt he ignored his
own advice and went on to make Titanic. The rest is movie history: although the
film cost a whopping $200 million to make, it rewarded its investors handsomely by
becoming one of the ten biggest box office hits of all time in less than a month.
Unfortunately Cameron wasnt as lucky with The Abyss. Costing a fortune to
make the film was never really the big hit that its producers were hoping it would be.
That doesnt make it a bad film. The first thing
that strikes one about The Abyss is its sheer professionalism. Not merely on
director Camerons part but on the part of the actors as well. While it is a special
effects movie, not for a moment does it overwhelm the films characters. One seldom
says to oneself: "Wow! Look at the special effects!" Instead one gets drawn into
the story and its characters pretty quickly. Sure, some bits veer into overwrought
melodrama same as happened in Camerons later Titanic, but unlike that film
the love story element in The Abyss is much more convincing maybe because Ed Harris
and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are better actors than Leonard de Caprio and Kate Winslet.
However, in the end the films star is director James Cameron who does his stuff
superbly: The Abyss delivers some real thrills as did his Terminator
and Aliens. A fantastic creature made out of seawater is a taste
of the advanced "liquid metal" terminator in Terminator 2 -
Judgment Day. Perhaps he does too good a job because ultimately The Abyss
disappoints because it never delivers on its premise. The film builds up to something that
it cant deliver. Suddenly it stops being a suspenseful underwater adventure and
turns into Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Yet, as Leonard
Matlin said of the film: it remains "a fascinating one-of-a-kind experience."
James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page