Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) Poster

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A Very Sea Worthy Experience
osubeav2116 April 2003
Watching Ghosts of the Abyss on the big screen simply took my breath away. The photography was simply majestic, and will leave you in awe. If you are a hard core Titanic buff, you will recognize a little of the footage from another documentary that Cameron did at the same time as Ghosts. The 3-d effect is pretty interesting, but probably a bit overrated. This would have still been a fantastic documentary on the big screen even without the 3-d effect. It does make it very interesting though. They go into parts of the ship never seen before so it was very good. I left wishing it would have lasted about 2 hours longer. Even 90 years later the ship still has the power to take your breath away. I would rate this a 10 for people that truly love the Titanic, but maybe only a 7 for those do not. I left this movie feeling that James Cameron really has a love for the ship and really believes in what he is doing, and not that he just did it to make a buck like some have suggested. A must see for any fan of the Great ship.
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Great Slideshow; Just O.K. Film
critic_at_large8 June 2003
If this were James Cameron's slideshow of his ocean vacation, we would all agree he did a great job. Unfortunately, this collection of nice pictures doesn't work well as a film. Moreover, the incredibly high technology that enables remote cameras to drop two miles to the sea floor without imploding is not matched by state-of-the-art 3D imagery. To fit in their sardine cans, the 3D cameras used for this film had to be very, very small, and they had to use extreme wide-angle lenses. The result is that, notwithstanding the IMAX format, the scale ends up feeling small. There are a number of shots of the giant, four-story tall engines that powered the Titanic, still intact at the bottom of the ocean. Amazing! These things should take your breath away. Somehow, they don't in this presentation. You just don't get a feel for their size. Also, the blue/red 3D technology borrowed from the 1950s is not in the same league as the new polarized 3D technology used in, for example, the most recent Space Shuttle IMAX film. Disappointing. Also, Bill Paxton was not the right choice (yes, I get the whole "life imitating art" thing, but he added exactly nothing to this film). Rod Serling's narrations for the Cousteau films were interesting because, well, he was Rod Serling, but also because he had interesting things to say. You didn't hear Rod saying "look at that" or "wow" or "I can't believe we're really here." Finally, a crew member describes seeing an object on the ship that really brings home the humanity of the tragedy. Do we get to see the object (I am not identifying it here so as not to spoil this part of the film)? No. A waste. Now the good: the computer graphics are terrific, the reenactions are good, and the lighting, expert commentary, and photography are engaging enough to remind us of how many souls were lost in the Titanic disaster, the heroism and cowardice along the way, and how terribly sad and unnecessary the loss of life really was. Worth seeing, despite its flaws.
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Now He's Really "King of the (Water) World!"
Ralph Michael Stein14 April 2003
Director James Cameron scored, against all odds (and his swarm of nervous auditors) a huge success with "Titanic." Not as artistically strong as several predecessor films about the legendary disaster it rocked the box office boat as new generations of Titanic enthusiasts and curious folk flooded the theaters.

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!!

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How did they do that ...?
dkennedy330 November 2003
A fascinating blend of present-day remains, and the grandeur of the ill-fated ship on its maiden voyage over 90 years ago. The ghosts refer to the super-imposed figures of that bygone era, who give us a glimpse of what it would have been like to travel on the Titanic back then. With all the effects of 3-D working to their advantage, and the eternal intrigue surrounding the sinking, you are nevertheless left awestruck at the ability of the producers to put this film together from over 12,000 feet below the ocean surface. I found that feeling never left me for the duration of the film, even when I made an involuntary movement to catch a rope thrown at us to more fully exploit to wonders of 3-D. This is undoubtedly an above-average film of this type, and worthy of at least 8/10 from me.
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Good, but could have been great
C H4 May 2003
Nicely done, but no shock and awe here. I can't give it more than a 7 out of 10 for Paxton's progressively more melodramatic narration and Cameron's too-heavy reliance on the computer gimmickry, but neither hurt it so much as to take away the effect of seeing Titanic up close and personal. My only other complaint was that Cameron somehow managed not to take full advantage of the IMAX-sized screen. I kept waiting for some soaring shots of the various sides and parts of the boat, but it seemed like he always had the camera right up against them where you couldn't get a full measure. I kept thinking, "Dammit, man, back up." And the CG overlays really did start to irritate me a bit. I wanted to see the boat, but often as soon as the CG effects wisped away, it cut to something else. Overall I guess I thought it a little too cluttered technically and not enough lingering over the human touches.

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....
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The mystery of history is a noble teacher
jmbwithcats10 September 2005
Experiencing the ship firsthand and her mysteries, histories, details respected and moralities still teaching, it's a love, an awe inspiring and sad tale of Bibilical proportions.

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.

Good movie.

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.
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Karen Louise Demmy19 April 2003
As a big Titanic buff I was more than excited about the prospect of seeing more Titanic footage. I really had this movie built up in my mind and was so disappointed by it. Much of the film was wasted, in my estimation, of the process of getting to the Titanic rather than actually seeing it. Also, when you did have the image of the Titanic on the screen it was obstructed by two squares of other images......Cameron and Paxton viewing what you are TRYING to see. This was very frustrating to me. The 3D images were really good and that part was the positive side of this film.

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!
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The Titanic brought to life - again?
Psi18 August 2003
Rating: **** (out of *****)

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.
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daniel-stilgard18 March 2008
This documentary are very fascinating and interesting, because they have found so much fact about Titanic, passangers and the crew.

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.
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A good film for those interested in the subject matter.
SmileysWorld9 February 2005
The story of Titanic is one that has fascinated me for many years,so this was a must see for me.The idea of getting never before seen looks inside this long ago lost mother of all luxury liners was very exciting indeed.This film is not for the average movie goer,it is for people like me who could sit for hours and watch footage of underwater ship wreckage and never get bored.Upon looking at the new footage,it brings back the excitement I remember feeling upon learning of the ship being found in 1985.My only regret is that I did not live the 3D experience of this film in the theater.Unlike other certain documentaries with their political agendas and made by that certain guy from Flint,Michigan,this one you can watch and not get angry,providing you are interested in the subject matter.A good film.
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Decent, but not the quality I'd expected from Cameron
melbad16 February 2005
I didn't get the chance to catch this in 3D/IMAX, so I can't praise or condemn it from that standpoint. But I did catch the DVD, and the regular theatrical version was bested by the extended version (both on the DVD). The theatrical version has a very annoying multiple-screen, compressed-presentation that is not presented in the extended version. Now the multiple images may have played well in IMAX (but I doubt it), but on a TV (even a big one), it's cluttered and frustrating to watch. Thus, the extended version is more "watchable." That said, the extended version also adds a bit more substance to the piece, although I must admit that I have no idea why Cameron made this film. It doesn't really bring anything new to the game, nor does it seem to have any flow or direction. And yes, Cameron does once again present himself as the pretentious jerk we've all heard he is (one moment is how he refers to piloting the robots as being just like flying a helicopter--no doubt we're impressed he knows how to fly a whirlybird). But only Cameron could get a film like Titanic, or this documentary, made in the first place.

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!!
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Exploration = Desecration
chowjoe7 July 2004
Yes, the moment the shadowy wreck first looms into view sent chills up my spine. But what else was there to this mindboggling waste of time and money?

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.
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psycho_boy_tyler17 April 2003
Yes, it could be said that this is Cameron at his pretentious best, using one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century as one of the greatest cash-cows of the 21st. I'll even admit to a certain disappointment when I discovered what this project was about, many months ago. C'mon, Jim, I thought. Find something new.

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.
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andyibook80019 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I did not get to see this in the IMAX theater setting, but at home via VoD. It was not presented in 3D, and it was 4:3 format which kind of annoyed me as my TV is 16:9. I have watched many movies, both fiction, and true to life/documentary about tragedy and historical ironies and such. This one takes the cake. I saw "titanic" in the theater, and i've even seen "a night to remember". Heck, i once saw a movie called "raise the titanic". None of them come close to the raw emotions this documentary will evoke. The one scene that really got me was the final sinking sequence of the stern from "titanic" overlayed with the tragically long series of quaint old photographs, each one representing one, two, a family lost. Even as i think about it now, and even though i know there have been worse losses of life at sea the irony of this story and its place in history make it both unique and quite potent. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who has ever wondered about Titanic and her fate, and the fate of the people she carried into history.
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James Cameron and his crew made an extraordinary expedition, but failed to bring the audience along with them.
Holitao7 May 2003
James Cameron returns to the infamous Titanic site sunk deep in the North Atlantic, armed with some high-tech equipment. For the most part, "Ghosts of the Abyss" is a bore, and could have been cut short by 20 min., which is what normal Imax films run. Initial site of the Titanic is breathtaking, lying massive under the deep sea. Beyond that, the film offers not much more and focus is directed towards two submerged remote controlled robots, to help them peer into insides of the Titanic. Far as 3-D experiences go, we are only limited to outside view and once inside, smaller windows show up in 2-D. The length of the film and 3-D film format is not warranted here, except for hype effect, for they do not reveal anymore insight. James Cameron and his crew made an extraordinary expedition, but failed to bring the audience along with them.
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The ship is great, the rest isn't
dbborroughs18 July 2004
One should see this film in an IMAX theater to get a real sense of scale. Other than Titanica no one has ever witnessed the the scale of the ship short of diving on the wreck. Its a magical experience.

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.
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Jacques Cousteau is rolling over
David Ferguson13 May 2003
Greetings again from the darkness. I was very excited to see this as I have always been fascinated by the Titanic. A few minutes into this, however, it struck me that this might be nothing more than a tax deductible vacation for multi-millionaire James Cameron and his sidekick Bill Paxton. The available technology had me wondering what wonders the great Jacques Cousteau could have delivered to us were he still alive and working. My only real complaint with the "movie" is that we really didn't get much insight into the scientific discoveries and data that this ship full of scientists was able to gather. Mostly it was close-ups of Bill Paxton saying "Would you look at that?". I will say the Titanic visuals are quite creepy and fascinating and the subtle overlays were pretty effective in showing the viewer what section of the ship we were seeing at a given time. Just wish we had been provided with the payoff - what was the value of the trip?
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A Must see Documentary by Director James Cameron!!!
adonis98-743-18650318 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
James Cameron and Bill Paxton, director and actor of the 1997 film Titanic, travel to the final undersea resting place of the ill-fated ship of dreams. Ghosts of the Abyss is one of those documentaries that is actually neither boring or uninteresting it's slow paced as it should be but never actually boring. Seeing Bill Paxton narrating and going down there under the Sea to see this Beautiful looking ship and it's just breathtaking i don't know how James Cameron took all this shots and made an actual film but even tho i'm not his biggest fan anymore i respect the man for his dedication and the same goes for the late and great Bill Paxton he is terrific and everything that comes from his mouth is so humble, the shots that this film has are amazing they really are they explore every inch of Titanic from start to finish and as they said there's still 'life' to it. The soundtrack is even dramatic and fits with the tone perfectly and there's even a scene where one of the crew members tells the date and he says 'it's September 11th, 2001' that was a chilling scene because we all know what happened that shocking and tragic day and you see the sadness in the faces of the team but even knowing something like that they kept going. The last shot of the movie where Titanic basically says 'Goodbye' with that rainbow covering the see above was very beautiful but also sad in the same way. There are no words to describe this film it's a documentary sure and it's not really my kind of thing but it's easily one of the better ones i have seen in a long time probably ever. (A+)
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Totally recommended!
Luciana Guillen27 April 2010
Loved it! It was such a great investigation, very immersed in the topic, they took all the details and explained the whole thing, in my personal opinion, really enjoyed the explanation accompanied with graphics, very great! I'm a really TITANIC history freaky, so I can tell that for anyone who wants to see a really accurate investigation with all the details that any ''fan'' wants to know, here is the place, this is the documental. As the TITANIC movie was, this one from J.C is such a work of art... it's the ''forensic facts'' as the old Rose said once in TITANIC movie from 1997. Also you'll love how the investigators are pretty interested in how was the disaster step by step, and recreate the whole thing again and again, also easy to follow, and nice graphics. A really good work!
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wolfentertainment17 September 2007
When I first heard about this, I was intrigued, I had been interested in the Titanic long before the movie came out and underwater exploration of the shipwreck had always been fascinating to me. I finally got my hands on the DVD of this documentary and well I was blown away by the stuff they showed from INSIDE the ship, it was a pity that they didn't show more, because they could've easily omitted parts where they were on the Keldysh and the poorly recreated scenes from the ship.

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.
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Awesome achievement. Revisiting the Titanic.
Michael O'Keefe27 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Made especially for IMAX 3D theaters, GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS is a labor of love for writer and director James Cameron. Cameron along with his friend and actor Bill Paxton and a well designed crew of history and marine experts goes back to the sight of the wreckage of the legendary Titanic. This is a groundbreaking cinematic achievement that lets you experience the exploration of the entire ship...deck by deck; room by room. This great ship lays naked with some of its remains still well preserved. Lead glass windows, water bottles and dishes are found mostly undisturbed and in the condition at the time of the Titanic's historic sinking. The Titanic serves as a tombstone for nearly 1,500 souls, who lost their lives close to a century ago. As you watch two revolutionary robot subs peep deep in the remains of this majestic ship; you realize it is all witnessed by the ghosts of the abyss. Even on the small screen this documentary is a site to behold.
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visually stunning, but don't look for Jack and Rose
len-265 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is quite good, but it's not for everybody. The main story line is "going to see the Titanic". If that doesn't interest you, don't see it. If that would bore you after ten minutes, don't see it.

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.


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.
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