I have always admired James Cameron as a film-maker - his directing is always artistic and insightful, his writing as thought-provoking as it is original and creative. He brought us a Sci-Fi with The Terminator, monster movie in Aliens, later a romance in Titanic. And then there is The Abyss, which is as different from any of his other projects as it is humanly possible to be.
The Abyss is one of those rare movies that is extremely hard to review. It's not because it's just so good there's nothing to say, or it's so bad there's nothing to say - in truth if it were either of those things I could comment on just why it was those things. But here, The Abyss is such an odd film that relies almost entirely on audience members to figure out for themselves just what the heck is going on, that it is hard to tell how others will interpret it.
If I was honest, I would have to admit that I came to this movie in completely the wrong way. Given Cameron's previous works, I had anticipated a full-out horror based underwater where strange creatures are discovered. What I received was something far from this - a character-driven tale with very little supernatural elements, almost all supernatural details are incidental to the story and characters.
Like all of Cameron's films, The Abyss has a strong cast that help make the more dull moments more bearable. To be truthful, The Abyss is an almost laboriously slow movie to begin with, with the first thirty minutes crawling achingly by with nothing much actually happening. Sure, it sets the movie up, but it would've been nice to have a little action a little earlier on. But I suppose I am being naive in that. Luckily, the interaction between two leading actors Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as the soon-to-be-divorced couple keep things at an interesting level, with Mastrantonio handing in a top-notch performance as the cool-as-ice, but still likeable, gutsy heroine of the movie. And the way that her character - and the couple's relationship - develops throughout the film is interesting to watch.
The special effects - always ground-breaking in Cameron movies - are phenomenal; notable scenes being when a large, water-composed, tentacle-like being reaches throughout the underwater ship; and then a final confrontation between Bud and the other beings. Another great thing is the action sequences, which are almost all emotionally tense as well as involving. A scene in which one character must die in order to save another was particularly horrific, and his/her revival scene was one where I almost tore my lip as I bit down with my teeth.
The ending to The Abyss is undoubtedly the most bizarre aspect of the entire film. We are left with extreme unanswered questions, but surprisingly this works to the movie's advantage. Instead of the magic and mystery being reduced to boring fact, it remains right up to the closing credits, and the viewer is left feeling breathless - and only mildly confused.
A thought-provoking sci-fi with a twist, this movie will stay with you for a long while after it has ended and keep you wondering just what it was that you saw. Nothing like The Abyss has ever been created since.