Friday, June 20, 2014

Must-Watch Sci Fi Movies: The Abyss (Extended Cut)

Directed By: James Cameron
Produced By: Gale Anne Hurd, Van Ling (Special Edition)
Written By: James Cameron
Starring: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn
Original Release: 1989

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)

The Abyss (Special Edition)Synopsis: The movie opens with an American submarine encountering a strange object moving very quickly through the depths of the Atlantic. The object causes the submarine, which is carrying multiple nuclear warheads, to crash. The military then commandeers an underwater drilling platform headed up by Virgil "Bud" Brigman (Ed Harris) to assist in the recovery of the downed submarine which rests at the edge of a deep undersea trench. Military personnel are sent down to work with the crew of the platform and tensions run high. To make matters worse, the designer of the drilling platform, who is Bud’s estranged wife (Lindsey Brigman played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), is along for the ride. In their attempts to survey the submarine, they encounter an apparently benign alien presence and attempt to communicate with it, though the paranoid Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn) frightens it away. Meanwhile, above the ocean a hurricane is moving into the area and tensions are running high between the American and Soviet governments. Through a series of mishaps between the crew of the drilling platform and the military personnel, an armed nuclear warhead plunges several miles down into the depths of the trench. Bud  must then go on what appears to be a one-way mission to disarm the warhead, but once at the bottom he again comes face to face with the aliens.

Why Is It a Must-Watch Movie?  The Abyss is James Cameron's big screen triumph as it delivers a riveting, well thought out, speculative fiction tale that also adds a level of drama rarely seen in sci fi cinema.

Review/Comments: You may think that you have seen The Abyss, but if you saw the version originally released in theaters what you actually saw was one of the greatest injustices in the history of cinema (apparently self-inflicted by Cameron himself, though). That was an edited version that cut about twenty minutes out of the masterpiece that James Cameron originally created. As it turns out, those twenty minutes are as crucial to the film as the smile is to the Mona Lisa. The original edit of the movie deserves only two and a half, maybe three stars. The additional twenty minutes moves the rating up to a full five stars (highest rating).

In the version originally released, Bud disarms the warhead yet appears to be trapped at the bottom of the abyss. Then the aliens, who we have learned almost nothing about, show up to save the day. They take him and the others from the platform back up to the surface and all is fine and dandy as a bright new day shines. I remember seeing this in the theater when it first came out and when the movie ended, I thought it was just at the intermission because there was no way that they could end the story like that. But they did, and I did not realize until years later when the director’s cut made it to DVD just what a phenomenal movie Cameron had crafted. The twenty plus minutes sliced from the original release focused more on the mounting tensions between the Russians and Americans and gave a lot more info on the aliens. This footage also contained the gut wrenching scene where the aliens launch enormous tidal waves as a threat to destroy all of the world’s major cities. Without this crucial footage, the movie is just not complete.

There are many reasons to recommend the fully restored version of The Abyss. Technically, it has few peers. It gave us a rare hard science fiction movie that is scientifically accurate, and that was brought to life with virtually flawless special effects (in the pre-CGI-Overload era). The story is very engaging as it unfolds slowly and smartly and takes many twists and turns, and the aliens and their importance are kept a mystery until the end. And the movie also has something often missing in Science Fiction, drama. Both movies and television in the genre often tend to be overly intellectual or overly melodramatic. The Abyss, in contrast, delivers a dramatic story through and through. The scenes between Bud and his wife (particularly when he tries to revive her after she drowns and when she talks to him as he descends into the depths) are among the most engaging I have ever seen in any movie. The film also has a serious social message behind its action, and Cameron managed to deliver it with much more finesse than he did with the overly derivative and self-righteous statements in Avatar.

Not surprisingly , the movie did poorly at the box office upon its original release. But since its revival on DVD, fans and critics have realized what an important piece of Science Fiction cinema Cameron actually created. If you have not seen the full version of this movie, then it’s time that you give this one a spin and enjoy one of the all-time great films of science fiction or any genre.

Read About More Must-Watch Sci Fi Movies:

So many science fiction and fantasy movies and so little time. Metropolis, King Kong, War of the Worlds, Fantastic Voyage, Star Wars, The Terminator, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Inception . . . Plan 9 From Outer Space . . . and so many, many more. Where to start and which ones to watch? Well that's what this book is here to help you with. It may not cover all science fiction movies, and not even all of those mentioned above, but it gives you a heck of a good start starting point. This book begins with 1927’s Metropolis and then treks through 24 more genre films ending with 2009's Moon to give you an extensive look at some of the best of the best of science fiction and fantasy cinema. Each entry includes a synopsis, review/commentary, cast and crew information, as well as a few nuggets of tidbits and trivia relating to the films. Whether you are new to the genre and trying to figure out where to get started or a grizzled veteran who has logged many hours in the cinema watching sci fi, 25 Must Watch Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies is sure to entertain. And even if you have already seen the movies covered in the book, there's a good chance you could walk away knowing a little bit (or maybe even a lot) more about these films than you did previously. A great primer for science fiction and fantasy cinema and a fun read as well!  

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