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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Abyss Part 2
The Abyss Part 2
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 21, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Continued From Part 1

Disc Two

Summary: Here's where the action is: an immense wealth of not only documentary but text and other forms of extras. The special edition features on this disc are separated into a number of different areas that are available for browsing: "Personnel Lockers", "Imaging Station", "Mission Components", "Operations", "Documentaries" and "Trailers".


"Under Pressure: The Making Of The Abyss": Easily one of the very best documentaries I've ever seen included on a DVD release, this documentary not only shares plenty of interviews, but takes us on the set frequently to experience what the crew had to go through to make this movie. I've heard before many times about how rough this production was, and all of the problems that went on - but never did I have any idea of just how hard it was to make this film.

The documentary at first shows the very basic steps that had to be taken to start the movie - finding a location to film all of the underwater sequences, and getting everything together. While everything starts off going according to plan - it slowly begins to fall apart. "Under Pressure" was definitely a fitting title for the environment that the set had become. I really don't think I've ever seen a documentary that lets us go this far into the production before - we are shown details into the specific requirements that had to go into building these sets - the construction effort and amount of equipment needed is absolutely immense.

...And then the problems begin. Filtration and other tank failures begin - causing shooting to pretty much come to a halt. It's here that we begin to see the frustration that the cast and crew had to deal with as they waited, with the future of the film being unknown. Cast and crew begin to suffer from fatigue and stress, as well as some scary moments. But like how Harris carries the film with his performance, we see Cameron leading the cast and crew and carrying the production with his dedication towards getting the movie completed.

Interviews with Ed Harris as well as much of the rest of the cast and crew lead us through and give us a fascinating look at how everyone involved viewed the experience of making "The Abyss". What all of these artists had to go through to complete this movie is incredible to watch - and this documentary takes us into it all in outstanding fashion.

Featurette: Although this smaller documentary is overshadowed by the 60 minute "Under Pressure", it still offers some very good interviews with the director himself, and gives some good looks at the story and production. This documentary lasts about ten minutes.


Trailers: In the trailers section you'll find the teaser trailer for "The Abyss", the theatrical trailer and an additional trailer. Also included in this section (although slightly hidden) are trailers for "Aliens" and "True Lies". Also hidden in one of the other sections is the teaser trailer for "Strange Days".
Shooting Script: In this section, you can read James Cameron's entire shooting script for "The Abyss". I'd like to give this disc a compliment in this and other text areas, and I'll do it in this section. It's a simple thing, but it's pleasing - the text is farely large, and very easy to read, which makes it a pleasure to click through.

Pesudopod Multi-Angle Sequence: This section allows viewers to take a look at a scene in the movie from four different perspectives, using the angle function: 1. Final Version ; 2. Storyboards ; 3. Original Dailies ; 4. Working Cut - Temp FX;. What I enjoyed looking at most was the 4th version - I found watching the rough cut and the temporary FX to be fascinating. All in all, I think it's a very cool feature that shows the viewer every step of the way towards the final version of a scene.

Deepcore Building: Using time-lapse photography, we get to see the construction crew hard at work building the Deepcore set. Although watching in time-lapse photography takes away from some of the detail, I still think it was a joy to be able to watch this extremely talented crew of people build this massive set from scratch.

Visual Effects Reel: This is a 20 minute Reel that was put together for the Academy Awards nomination process. The reel starts off with the message: "this 20 minute reel contains 159 effects cuts". It's really quite cool to see how the filmmakers made this presentation for the awards process, but even cooler is the fact that while the viewer watches it on this DVD, there is descriptive text on the bottom of the screen that tells us exactly how the effects were created.

Montana Bridge Set Flooding: This feature is a "behind-the-scenes" look at how the production was able to flood the submarine set of the Montana. This section only lasts a tiny bit less than a minute, but still, it's amazing to see the amount of water used.

Photo Gallery: To call this a massive photo gallery would be an understatement. It's broken up into no less than 17 sections, including: Cast and Crew, Deepcore, the NTIs, Costume Design, Flatbed, The Wave, Training and Underwater, Cabs One and Three, The NTI Ark, ROVs and Video, NTI Scout and Manta, Publicity and Marketing, The Montana, The Pseudopod, All Images, Benthic Explorer, Fluid Breathing and Deep Suit. What I chose to go to first before looking at the rest was the Publicity section - since I'm currently studying marketing with the hopes to be in the film business sometime down the road. I've enjoyed similar sections from some of Universal's "Collector's Edition" titles, and enjoyed this one as well. What we get here is concepts for the poster and other marketing artwork. This is not only posters, though - this is hats, pins, shirts - absolutely everything having to deal with the promotion of the movie. The entire section is an example of a photo gallery that's well set-up and easily navigated through.

Crane Crash Shoot: Another "behind-the-scenes" look, this time at the shooting of the miniature for the crane collapse sequence. The camera doesn't get too close on this scene, but you can still easily see what's going on. This section lasts for about 30 seconds.

Surface Unit Shoot: This featurette takes a look "behind-the-scenes" at the work that the surface crew did in, according to the menu, Westport, Washington. This section is also fairly small, running about 30 seconds.

Engine Room Flooding: This section takes a look at the flooding and filming of the USS Montana Engine Room miniature.

Minature Sub Demo: I didn't quite get how it worked, but it's really pretty cool - this shows how the miniature subs incorporated footage of the actors.Unfortunately, this is another short section, and I would have liked for it to have gone into more detail because what it did show looked fascinating. Runs about 30 seconds.

Motion Control Timelapse Montage: Another fairly short sequence (about a minute in length) goes into detail about the filming of the Montana search sequence.

Storyboards: Here's another section where this disc absolutely is stunning in presentation. This section allows you to view all of the 773 storyboards that were created for the film and laid out in story sequence. Amazing. And again, I'll compliment the producers of the DVD on another way this disc provides easy navigation - I don't know why, but this disc seemed to move quicker to the next storyboard when I clicked than most discs that offer similar extras like storyboards do. The sheer size of this section and how well it's laid out is simply wonderful.

Video Storyboards: Another section that I found really quite entertaining to watch was this one - this is a montage of "video storyboards" that director James Cameron made for "The Abyss" and it's really wild to see shots being set-up in rough form like this. A little longer than some of the other short features, this section lasts about 2-3 minutes.

Original Treatment: With this section, you can view the original treatment of the story submitted by James Cameron.


Note: The next section - "Details" can be found in the mission components section - the first three are instantly accessable, the last three are accessed by pushing up on your remote once you arrive on the first menu.

1.Deepcore Details: This section is a mix of analysis about the set as a part of the story, as well as a great many details about how it was made. Between text notes are photographs of the set itself as well as the crew at work. You'll also find blueprints, concept art and drawings of every size and sort about this particular part of the movie. Sections like this are a reason why I love this disc. These are the kind of supplements that answer every question anyone could possibly have - they just hit each and every detail.

2. Pseudopod Sequence Details: Again, this is an "everything you wanted to know" section, giving the viewer a wealth of text notes as well as storyboards and concept art about this sequence.

3. Cab One Details: Notes and storyboards.

4. The Wave Details: Another text/pictures mix, this section talks about the "wave" sequence being cut and then restored, as well as offering plenty of details about how this section was created through special effects. There are some great photos of the crew at work filming the scene, as well as photos of the final sequence.

5. Benthic Explorer/6. Cab 3: Includes plenty of facts, storyboards and photos.


Operations
"Operations" is another very well done mixture of text and photography (as well as storyboards, etc), only this time, the subject is focused more on the making of this movie as well as the process of filmmaking in general. The first three sections of notes are more general, focusing on the "writer/director and screenplay", "the production team" and "the design team". These sections are, of course, where you'll meet and find out more about the people behind the making of the movie. Text notes are incredibly lengthy in each section, detailing not only the jobs that people were responsible for, but the problems and various tasks that they had to solve during the production.

The next section focuses on the process of storyboarding scenes for a movie - again, this section keeps up the level that the rest of the sections have set - it goes into every little detail about the importance of storyboarding and e xactly how they're done - step by step. Also in this section is a massive memo from Cameron about his thoughts and concepts of the special effects.

The next section down presents the details of the original ideas about the characters and how they would interact, and then goes into analysis of exactly how the film's cast was brought together, and how their characters were developed from there.

If you go down further, you'll find more sections. First off is a section that goes into detail about costume and costume design that tells all about the requirements that costumes had to have to be able to be used during a shoot like this. There are text notes and lots of pics and concept art. The next four sections in this section also deal with "production" - "training for the production", "filming underwater", "ROVS and Video in "The Abyss"" and "Production Chonology".

Keep going downwards and you'll find yourself in the "post-production" section, where there are different sections focusing on "Editing, Sound and Music", "Publicity, Advertising and Marketing", "The Restoration", "Closing Commentary" and "Acknowledgements and Credits". I found both the "Restoration" and "Marketing" sections to be particularly interesting.

To wrap ths section up, I have to say that I found the level of detail on these text/image sections to be breathtaking. Going into each one was like opening a volume of the history of this film. I don't think there's any questions these sections don't answer.


Drill Room: There is a selection in this room that the viewer can make to go through the additional features in order, one by one. If you would like to go through it that way, it offers that option - if you would rather go through the menus to find all of the features(that's the way I did it because I think the menus are fantastic), then you can do that too. I think it's amazing that this disc can offer either option so easily.

DVD-ROM: Storyboard access, web links, etc.

Final Thoughts: Wow. I am simply amazed at the job that Fox has done with this unbelievable two disc set - it's so massive that there were times where I thought I was finished looking around and at that point, I was pleased with the amount I'd seen...and then I would find more, and more and more. There is what seems to be an almost endless amount of features packed onto this disc, and there are probably more hidden that I didn't even find. It becomes one of those things where as much as I've talked about in this review (and this is really about the longest review I've ever written), it doesn't begin to describe how big this set is.

Although a lot of the additional materials are not video - but text, pictures and storyboards - there are simply such a massive amount that it's breathtaking. And the amount that are all included are put together in such a way that's not only easy to navigate, but fun, as well - the menus are amazing as well - and add to the feeling that there's always something around the corner that you may not have seen yet. And the fact that all of the text sections show text in nice big text that's easy to read is wonderful. It makes all of the information a pleasure to read.

Yes, I wish this would have been anamorphic, but I think that the picture quality is very good as is. Not as good as it could be - but very close. Audio is excellent - no complaints. I think that there have been some fantastic sets out there, especially the 2 DVD special edition of "A Bug's Life". I think this disc offers more to the viewer, though - the extra features are an incredible batch of many kinds of extra features that take a very, very long time to go through. I think everyone involved in the production of this disc has done a magnificent job - Fox has produced a great

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