Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
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Personally fascinated by the tale of the doomed April 1912 maiden voyage of the era's seaborne tribute to Mammon, with its unsolved mysteries - technical and human - Cameron dives to the wreck site in this 3-D stunning documentary, "Ghosts of the Abyss."
RMS Titanic's grave was discovered by Robert Ballard, the foremost maritime archeologist working today. Using the then latest technology he first located the wreck and then filmed it with "Alvin," a submersible of amazing capability. But today ""Alvin" is to underwater exploration and technology what a typewriter is to a PC. Basing his expedition on a Russian research vessel, Cameron takes to the depths and launches "Jake" and "Elwood," two camera-equipped robots that can be guided from the mother ship's two submersibles through the interstices of the sprawling Titanic. These robots can and are guided through spaces no person could maneuver in, even at shallow depths.
Cameron's intense nature masked by good humor comes clearly across as actor Bill Paxton narrates much of the film. Paxton doesn't seem to be acting as he seeks multiple reassurances from the Russian crew man operating the descending sub that there are ways to escape if something goes wrong.
"Jake" and "Elwood" capture scenes from the ship no previous expedition could. At one point the viewer is staring up front at a bathroom mirror with water jug and glass eerily standing exactly where the stateroom's occupant left it before the collision. The grand staircase is gone but its cavernous space is superimposed by scenes from Cameron's feature film, creating an almost scary sense of reality. Period music accompanies the changing scenes which alternate the brief life and long interment of the grand vessel.
This was a scientific expedition with microbiologists on board to assess the continuing and inevitable reduction of RMS Titanic to dust. But the bulk of the film deals with the evidence of life on the ship during its short journey and the story is told with verve.
This is a 3-D film that fully and beautifully exploits the medium and it's a deep sea outing for the whole family.
All that said, is there anything negative about "Ghosts from the Abyss?" There sure is: whatever the cost of 3-D cinematography it's a near crime to limit the end result to a mere 60 minutes!!
As for the 3D, I thought it did increase the impact some, more than being a mere novelty, but I agree with Roger Ebert that Ghosts would have been a perfect showcase for Maxivision 48. Someday maybe true film fans will unite....
The mystery and history of the Titanic is fascinating and evocative; nearly Biblical. The largest liner, the ignorance to think it could never sink and the arrogance of not putting on enough lifeboats due to aesthetics, I'm just glad in this day and age we have life rafts which take up so much less space we will never run into a shortage of life rafts problem ever again.
Paxton is great as always, and a documentary setting brings out the explorer within, and is respectfully and well made. Learning about the stairway floating out allowing for easier access to the interior of the ship for example I did not know about.
QUESTION: Anyone know why they were not supposed to go into C deck? They seemed to have a very good, albeit unspoken reason for this.
I see nothing wrong with Cameron's love for the Titanic story, it's a near mythical experience and I find it truly a learning experience and a marvel.
Soon the sea will claim the ship utterly, and the Titanic is a teacher of morality, of a past, and the failings of modern man, and the mystery of history in heart of exploration and awe.
The Titanic will always have something to teach us, and that is important.
The museum pieces are important because it allows for the memory to be respected and a teacher to future generations.
That we can put a name to artifacts assures their memory lives on.
There was no disrespect, in fact quite the opposite.
In short, I feel James Cameron is more in love with himself than sharing the Titanic with the audience. Next time (and I would guess there would be a next time) PLEASE let the audience see ONLY the Titanic!
James Cameron's journey down undersea into the heart of the Titanic gets the IMAX treatment, with Bill Paxton as the narrator. The words "into the heart of the Titanic" may scare off some people, but don't worry, there's no wooden love story here. Instead, we get a fascinating, well-prepared and detailed documentary about the Titanic and some of its passengers, underlining how many of the ship's elements have stood the passage of time. Unfortunately (in my opinion anyway), it's a little pretentious, not always involving and sometimes self-indulgent. But I still highly recommend it to those really interested in either the history of the Titanic or the 1997 film, and also to general audiences who are looking for something a little more innovative than what we get in cinemas these days.
It is also fascinating when they shoot the real Titanic on the see bottom.
James Cameron has made a brilliant documentary about Titanic. It is both fascinating and captivating film which show how the pass-angers and crew made their best to survive the disaster in 15 April 1912.
Ghosts of the Abyss is a film you must see and will to imprison your heart.
Titanic sank in North Atlantic about 100 years ago.
Wouldn't it have been funny to see Cameron and Robert Ballard both on this project? Talk about egos clashing, that would have been great!!
Bill "Mr. Erudition" Paxton's embarrassingly vacuous comments? Unfinished thoughts and pronouncements from that motley crew (What rock, uh, wreck, did these people crawl out from under?)? Then there was the shameless co-opting of 9/11 for dramatic value. And worst of all, there's the bumbling, near-vandalizing of what the filmmakers purport to view as hallowed ground. I cringed whenever the 2 robot-cams raised dust (or is it bacteria or some other form of oceanic life as the marine biologist claims?) squeaking their way through some small opening that real scientists would probably leave unbreached. The climactic moment when they send Bot 1 back to retrieve Bot 2 reached the height of sheer lunatic insensitivity when the rescue rope got caught on something and Cameron panics he may have lost his second robot baby... instead of worrying about how he might be desecrating this relic he so worships. How self-serving can this scumbag be? And what did we learn from this crummy excuse for a movie that we didn't learn from that tearjerking behemoth 6 years ago? There was a recent news story about how the discoverer of the Titanic wreck was bemoaning its exploitation and vandalizing. Now I know who he was referring to.
Until I saw it.
Within the first five minutes of this hour long tour of the great ship, you realize that this is not about an egotistical filmmaker, but instead it's completely about the legacy and grave of Titanic. Cameron's minutes of screen time can practically be counted on one hand. What's awesome is sitting in that IMAX theater and watching the the bow of the ship, silhouetted by a massive lighting chandelier, tower over the audience.
The movie is as much about the ship as it is the experiences of those on the dive. "Titanic is a stage where God said, 'You have two and a half hours to act out the rest of your life.' Will you be a hero or a coward?" From the humorously tense Bill Paxton on his first descent, to the debates on board the Keldish, it's the emotion of the dive that comes to the foreground more than anything.
This is the closest any of us will probably ever get to the real Titanic, and it does feel as if you could just reach out and touch it at parts. It feels longer than an hour, but I was hoping it would be longer still - I didn't want it to end.
"You may leave Titanic, but Titanic never leaves you."
Now we have some idea of what that means.
As a movie its odd. First off it was shot not on IMAX film but 35mm and blown up so the film is very grainy. Much of the non-Titanic stuff was shot badly for the IMAX screen. We see close ups that are too close and the camera moves much too fast. There is also the over use of multiple images which give us too much to look at, frankly its too much to take in. Cameron is a great filmmaker who needs to rethink his use of the format.
There seems little point to the film other than being a 3D Imax exploration of the wreck. This isn't a bad thing, but seeing it as a 2D Imax film it kind of loses its reason for being.(I understand that the DVD has more material)
That said if you have the chance see this IMAX. Its over powering to see the scale of the ship and to understand that people walked and died in this very spot.
As an awesome IMAX experience 7 out of 10, though try for 3D rather than 2D.
All in all, this was good and showed some stuff I haven't seen before, but if you really want to see better footage of the shipwreck inside and out I'd recommend other documentaries that are in the same line as this one. But yet it was still interesting, light-hearted and mind blowing to see the condition of the ship itself.
On the other hand, if watching incredible visually stunning footage of the Titanic does interest you, then this is your movie. The occasional overlay of old photographs is very helpful for understanding what we're looking it. I wanted this movie to go on longer.
My only criticism is that I disagree with some of Cameron's interpretations of historical events.
(WARNING, MINOR SPOILER AHEAD)
For example it is a fact that one single passenger reported overhearing a conversation between Captain Smith and Bruce Ismay in which Ismay insisted that the ship go faster. But does that mean the conversation actually took place? Cameron describes the conversation as fact. In reality, we don't know.
In summary, I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in simply viewing the Titanic in its underwater grave.