The second IMAX effort (see also "Ghosts of the Abyss") from director James Cameron ("Titanic"), "Aliens of the Deep" has Cameron once again going on an undersea expedition, but this time, Cameron takes a series of scientists down in order to try and explore creatures that live in the deepest areas of the ocean, near heat vents that provide a great deal of benefits for the creatures that exist around them. Some of the scientists along for the ride are from NASA, and have come along for the ride to study what live in some of the most remote areas of the sea so that they may possibly be prepared to one day study creatures from space.
The various crew (including Cameron) head down in four different subs, and proceed to find some stunning sea life and even some impressive rock formations. Although the crew do the same thing that Bill Paxton kept doing in "Ghosts of the Abyss" (they don't respond with details about what they're seeing, but instead offer a chorus of "ooohs" and "ahhhs". Given that these folks actually are scientists, I was expecting a little more.)
They do encounter some very interesting creatures, however: there's one bizarre, gross-looking fish that actually seems to have feet; a fish that looks like an incredibly dazzling new gourami and an amazing jellyfish-looking creature. Later on, one of the subs gets too close to the black, super-heated water of one of the "chimneys" on the ocean floor, and has to make a quick escape, as we're told that the water is hot enough to melt the windows of the sub. White, shrimp-looking creatures (I'm guessing shrimp) gather around one of the hot vents and eating bacteria. Later on, the shrimp become very curious about one of the subs when it gets close to a swarm.
I'm not sure what the change was between "Ghosts" and "Aliens" (both films use the same cinematographer), but "Aliens" is considerably more pleasing to the eye technically. Colors seemed deeper and richer, and the amount of depth and detail to the image was certainly stronger. The subject matter is certainly different and locations are different, obviously, but technically, this just looks like a slicker movie.
The movie played theatrically in 3-D, and I'll venture a guess that it was as irritating as "Ghosts of the Abyss" was in 3-D. The 3-D presentation of that film was completely unnecessary, and there's absolutely no reason why this film would need to be, either. It's a gimmick, and it gets in the way of some really remarkable imagery. The film has some other issues, as well, including a couple of primitively animated sequences that, while trying to illustrate a point, look out-of-place. Another issue is that the narration and some of the dialogue sounds written, which is a problem with many IMAX features, as the dialogue can sound corny instead of being genuine, natural observations. Finally, as he did in "Ghosts of the Abyss", Cameron spends a bit too much time focusing on the crew instead of focusing on the subject matter.
Flaws aside, "Aliens of the Deep" does succeed in its main goal - giving the audience a sense of awe about what exists in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet.
The DVD edition includes both the original, theatrical 47-minute edition that played in IMAX theaters, and the extended 99-minute edition of the film.
VIDEO: "Aliens of the Deep" is presented in approximately 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Aside from a few murky (which can't be helped, due to the conditions) moments, this is a mostly dazzling transfer. Sharpness and detail are remarkable, with only the occasional soft or murky moment. The picture also often shows good fine detail and solid depth to the image.
The presentation is nearly free of flaws, with only a couple of minor artifacts in a scene or two. No edge enhancement or print flaws were spotted. Colors remained striking throughout the show, looking bold, very well-saturated and without any smearing or other concerns. Black level looked solid, and flesh tones were accurate.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation remained fairly front-heavy, simply due to the fact that there aren't that many opportunities for surround use, aside from some specific sequences where the surrounds kick in with some more distinct discrete sound effects. During the underwater sequences, which are a large portion of the film, there's some slight ambience in the rears, but not much else. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp, clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: Previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Aliens of the Deep" isn't without some issues, but the film does have some great moments where fascinating creatures and underwater landscapes are brought into view. Buena Vista's DVD is short on supplements, but offers excellent audio/video quality.