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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Abyss Part 1
The Abyss Part 1
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 21, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie: James Cameron's "The Abyss" is a pleasure for me to watch. Although the director may be more famous for the technical achievement of "Titanic" and the action of "The Terminator", the sheer awe that the world of the film creates is greatly more impressive than many other sci-fi thrillers that have followed it. Yes, there are some things here and there I don't like about the movie(the dialogue occasionally is a tiny bit thin), but they're washed away by the ability of the performers involved to completely involve us in the fate of not only each of their characters, but the story itself, as well.

The story revolves around a team of underwater oil drillers(lead by Ed Harris in a riveting performance) that finds out that their rig needs to be used by the Navy to run a mission to investigate the sinking of a U.S. submarine. What first seems like a pretty routine mission begins going very wrong, very quickly as neuclear warheads rescued from the sunken sub become part of the equasion. While the team is underwater, a strange being makes its presence known and one by one, the team begins to believe that they are not alone.

I loved "Titanic", and I praise James Cameron for what he was able to accomplish with that film(and he's a brave guy for wanting to go back into the water after the problems of this production), but for some reason I simply find "The Abyss" more entertaining. Once the film really begins to get intense, the tension that the film builds is enormous - and it's because we care about these people. These are great performances. I can't say I've seen every movie Ed Harris has ever been in, but I must say I've never seen a better performance from him. Yes, the dialogue is a little thin at times, but Harris takes every word and makes you absolutely believe in what he's saying. This is a gigantic picture for its time, and although the supporting cast is excellent, Harris must carry the picture, and he does a remarkable job at it.

Although this was a very tough production(we find out exactly just how tough in the 1 hour documentary included), James Cameron did a phenomenal job under those conditions. This DVD includes not only the theatrical version, but the special edition director's cut, which includes an additional 28 minutes that add greatly to the story. Viewers can choose to watch either cut with the click of a button on disk one.

The DVD

VIDEO: Yes, this is non-anamorphic and certainly, that is a dissapointment, but in this case, it's not a major one. Visually, this is an incredible looking movie, and images comes through looking pleasingly crisp and impressively sharp. As for colors, "The Abyss" is really...blue. Blue is certainly the dominant color, and colors in general look very natural. The underwater footage is outstanding, and is rendered very, very well on this DVD edition.

A little grain here, a little softness there is really all that I found noticable on this edition. Shimmering and pixelation never appear, and the print used is in perfect shape, with not a scratch to be found. This isn't as good as the film could possibly look - but I still think it looks very good. The fantastic cinematography was done by Mikael Salomon, who later went back into the water for his directorial debut, "Hard Rain".

SOUND: The audio quality is absolutely fantastic on "The Abyss" creating a full-throttle ride during some of the more intense action sequences. The great Alan Silvestri score fills the room stronger than most scores I've had the pleasure of listening to - this is rich, clear audio that heightens the experience. Surround use is frequent and effective, as well, bringing the viewer even further into the underwater environment. There are also many instances of deep, strong bass. Dialogue remains a solid element as well - sounding clear and easily understood. [Unable to display image]

MENUS: As incredible as the "Bond:Special Edition" menus were, these are not only stunning, but completely take us into the environment. We come up into the subbay, where different choices turn the viewer around the bay to different sections. Viewers highlight different sections and with almost every choice, some sort of animation appears, taking us into another section or even through a door or back down into the depths. What's also great are the little details, from the "Abyss" posters on the wall of the trailers section, to all of the movement throughout - the ease of navigation through all these menus is very easy, and wonderfully entertaining. To be honest, I spent more than a half an hour just playing with these menus - they're that much fun to work with. The animation for these menus is so smooth it's stunning.

EXTRAS: Where to begin? I think I'll break the extras section down by disc.

Disc One

Summary: Although there aren't many extras to be found on the first DVD since it does also contain the movie itself, there are still some additional features on note.

Text Commentary: Throughout a great deal of the movie, viewers can turn on this subtitle feature to gain an additional layer of detail into the making of the movie. While the movie is playing, the subtitles offer comments about many of the scenes, giving the viewer additional facts about the effects or how the scene was filmed, among other details.

Cast/Crew Bios: In the personnel locker, we get in-depth cast/crew bios.

Review Continued in PART 2

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