James Cameron may be considered one of the most trying Hollywood directors. Not only does he enforce 15 hour, 7 day work weeks, but he has a similar “Steve Jobs” mindset where he tries to bend reality. An excellent example being the abyss’s $4 million budget extension?
The film even shows the stress and tension the crew were under as a result of Cameron’s madness. So much of the tense sequences were not necessarily acting.
Much of the film’s love story is based around director Cameron’s actual relationship with producer Gale Anne Hurd. Some even consider this film to be the botch on Cameron’s near-perfect-record.
The acting was questionable in some scenes and the characters’ emotions were far from believable, but there is something about this film that I liked. It’s difficult to describe. Saying I liked the sheer claustrophobic danger puts it lightly. It reminded me of the Poseidon Adventure mixed with some Titanic elements.
The most critical part of the film has to be the ending. It was a riveting nightmare for the first hour or so, but after that it turned into an array of over-the-top special effects and crappy acting. The film did win an Oscar for best visual effects, but I felt that they only killed the human element.
The Abyss is about a United States nuclear sub, during the height of the cold war, that witnesses some type of supernatural activity that knocks the sub off course and into an underwater mountain. After the military hears about this, it becomes a nuclear warhead rescue mission.
Because of the tensions between the United States and the Russians, the warhead removal was planned so they wouldn’t fall into communist hands. Instead of just sending a military team, the military contracted members from an underwater mining rig.
The leader of the rig, Bud (Ed Harris) is your typical rugged and dirt covered, blue-collar worker who always looks after his men. Although he is in the process of getting a divorce, Bud is accompanied by his soon-to-be-ex-wife and lead scientist, Linda (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).
Apart from Linda, the military also sends a team of so-call elite Navy Seals, under the command of Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn) which you can only image will disagree with everything a scientist does. When the team descends to the destroyed submarine, they not only find the nukes, but they encounter the unknown.
As for most of James Cameron movies, the military is usually represented as incompetent, stupid and overall, illogical. In this film, they are the ones who botch the entire plan (also seen in Aliens, Terminator, Avatar).
“The Abyss” takes the side of the scientist. Michael Biehn’s Navy Seal head-honcho character is your typical meathead who always thinks with his gun and rank rather than logic and science whereas Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio represents the intelligent scientist who uses logic rather than force.
Overall, it was a good movie, but it doesn’t touch Cameron’s other films; both in the box office and popularity. In fact, the film was actually banned in Britain due to a scene involving a rat breathing (successfully at that) while submersed in fluid. The British, combined with the American Humane Society, found the film “Unacceptable.”
If it wasn’t for the cheesy acting and clichéd dialogue, I would have liked this film more. And if you do make it to the ending, it will make that 2 and a quarter hour film seem like the biggest waste of time…as if you fell into an abyss.