Plot: A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species – The Abyss
Director – James Cameron
Released: October 1989
I had vague memories of watching this film as a child which all came flooding back after watching Underwater, prompting me to track down a copy and see if the nostalgia I felt was justified or is it just Close Encounters of the Third Kind but underwater.
I’m not going to pretend that the plot is overly special, just like any late ’80s/ early ’90s big-budget sci-fi, it’s filled with cliches and characters with next to no development. And just like in Close Encounters, you know the aliens aren’t much of a threat and unlike with Underwater, the pacing is rather slow for the majority of the film. However, for the time the effects work well and still hold up well enough not to distract from the film, not only this but the practical work, models and sets continue to look good even in HD.
Although the action takes a while to happen, acting was solid enough to keep you watching and hoping that your patience would pay off, though I would have liked more of this time devoted to developing the characters to more than paper-thin stereotypes, which you didn’t overly care about when the events start happening in the second half of the film.
Of the performances, Harris is head and shoulders above everyone else in the cast, in places seeming as though he’s the only one having fun in the role, Mastrantonio, on the other hand, was clearly trying but was let down with strange writing decisions and clear chauvinist attitudes towards having a female boss. Biehn was as good as he could be as the military-type, but once again his character was lacking and his break with reality didn’t massively make much sense.
When it comes to the ending, I would suggest watching the directors cut as this gives you slightly more understanding of what actually happens and why, though neither leaves you feeling completely satisfied or fully know the course of events that lead up to that point, maybe this was a conscious decision from Cameron, but to me, it feels rushed and unfinished.
Overall, when it comes to The Abyss I would forgive you for thinking of it as a mixture of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and The Day The Earth Stood Still, maybe so and some might say this isn’t a bad thing. As a spectacle, it’s a nice watch and good for passing the time, if you want anything deeper (Excuse the pun) you might as well watch the films it borrows from.
If you liked – Sphere, Waterworld, The Poseidon Adventure