James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge

deep1I watched this because I stumbled upon it somewhere in the depths of Amazon Prime’s still rather clumsy interface; turns out I watched this so you don’t have to: my loss, your gain, its one of THOSE reviews I suppose.

I don’t know what it is about James Cameron: he’s made some of the most popular films of our generation, whether it be films I don’t particularlly like (Aliens) or films that I recklessly adore (The Abyss), his films are still a huge part of the cultural zeitgeist, and then, of course, there is Titanic, which is something else entirely, but yeah, he’s one of the most successful and popular directors working today. He’s one of those directors who, if he’s working on a new movie, you sit up and take notice. Hell, he was almost single-handedly responsible for all those expensive cinema visits watching 3D films over the last decade and all those 3D TV’s sold. Its a wonder we can ever forgive him.

Its just that, somehow away from his movies, he’s so instantly irritating; just the sight of him bugs me. I don’t know why; maybe its suppressed jealously of the Man on Top of The World. Its not that I’m belittling his achievements (my last paragaraph hopefully explained that) because hell, his record speaks for itself, and I’m sure he is possibly a very nice guy at heart. Ruthless, maybe; I just have the feeling a Very Sweet Guy would never be able to get a James Cameron movie made, and maybe thats a part of it; he reminds me of Nick Nolte’s character in The Thin Red Line, who I always describe as “one of the worlds biggest bastards” but I suppose that gets the job done.

He seems something of a geek; you can tell that just from the films that he makes and the tv shows he’s been involved with, and I imagine that if he sat me down to tear me a new one about this post we’d possibly end up having a very pleasant conversation about our favourite movies. I don’t know what it is: possibly its my introvert Englishness at odds with his loud brash Americanness (is that such a thing?)  but my God he winds me up whenever he looks at a camera and opens his mouth. And God help me, this documentary has him on camera a lot, and yes he does open his mouth volumously, so yes, it was quite an experience.

Yet I love The Abyss. How can I have such an inherently instinctive irritation regards a guy who made one of my favourite movies? I know there are many issues with The Abyss. yes it is very flawed and yes it features toe-curdling dialogue that makes George Lucas seem a veritable poet, but when I saw it at the cinema many moons ago and later the improved DC edition on VHS way back when it was an engrossing experience like few others.

This documentary, with Cameron taking a brand-new submersible on a record-breaking attempt to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, should be right down my Abyss-loving alley. Well, maybe heres the thing-  while I watched this thing on Amazon Prime, this doc has been released on Blu-ray. Cameron hasn’t deemed it worthy bothering to authorise a Blu-ray release of The Abyss, like ever, in all the years that HD format has been out, and yet he managed to deem this doc worthier of the effort. I can see and hear The Ego playing with his expensive toys in his pursuit of a deepsea dive into the unknown, and yet… Bud Brigman’s dive languishes on non-anamorphic DVD in horrible SD? For the last several years I have refused to rewatch The Abyss because, hell, I’m making a stand for HD (and now 4K-UHD), I’ve had enough of this film in SD and I’m not going to bloody take it anymore, thankyou. I can imagine Cameron pulling me to one side “well, f–k you Smithy, here’s a movie about me on Blu-ray instead. Have you seen the 3D version?”

Here’s another thing- spoilers be damned, when Cameron eventually suceeds and hits rock bottom, as it were (“The Ego has landed” I think he announced, but I possibly misheard him) we find NOTHING. Its like the surface of the moon down there, only darker, obviously, and Cameron’s excitement at discovering a, er, hill, is almost endearing, its so funny. At least Bud found an alien city. WHICH WOULD LOOK BLOODY GREAT IN 4K UHD, JAMES (just saying).

4 thoughts on “James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge

  1. gregory moss

    Hey Ian. I actually caught this in the cinema in 3D and found it pretty engrossing – despite the fizzer of an ending. But yeah, I know what you mean – Cameron’s smugness can be kinda’ irritating at times. But hey – he’s James Fucking Cameron and he dived on the Titantic and went to the bottom of the ocean on his birthday. Just to pick up on a couple of things. As far as I know – he remastered The Abyss for hi-def ages ago – but it was Fox who refused to release it on BD (along with True Lies) – I heard it had something to do with a falling out with Rupert Murdoch. So you can’t really blame him for that. And just a minor nit-pick – he’s actually Canadian – not American. But that’s neither here nor there. But I agree completely – I think The Abyss is perhaps his greatest fim (despite it’s flaws) – and absolutely deserves to be seen in hi-def. Perhaps now that Disney owns Fox – this may have a chance of happening. 🙂

    1. Hi Greg, hope you are well mate with everything going on. Thanks for your comments, interesting that it may have been Fox causing the nixing of the BDs of Abyss and True Lies; I had assumed that the never-ending greed of the studios meant they naturally would race to bring stuff out and make more money (some of those guys would sell their grandmothers for a buck), but that some contract clause from Cameron was stopping it. I figured if anyone had such clout it’d be Cameron, whatever his reasons (I always figured it was like Lucas never allowing the original cuts of Star Wars etc to be released- total batshit craziness that I’ll never understand).

      Still, it seems reasonable he could annoy the Big Guys enough that they pull the plug on a revenue stream. Life-styles of the Rich and Fabulous, eh? Now that Disney own Fox maybe things will change, but then again, Disney seems to be turning away from physical media (especially regards catalogue titles) and pushing Disney + so who knows, maybe The Abyss 4K will hit Disney + and never appear on physical home media. Its like The Abyss is cursed, and the irony is it is possibly Cameron’s best film (its certainly my favourite).

      Anyway, cheers again and stay safe.

  2. It’s mad that The Abyss hasn’t been released since a non-anamorphic DVD in 2000. They haven’t even done the old “reissue the same thing in different packaging” trick since 2007. Considering how many films have been recycled in new (if barely different) editions in all that time, it’s crazy. There’s probably a whole generation of cinephiles who are barely aware it exists — it’s practically a lost film. When (I hope it’s still “when” not “if”) it finally comes to HD/UHD, it might be in a for a major reappraisal.

    Though I was just checking those dates and apparently the 1080p version of the theatrical cut has been on HBO since 2014 and Netflix since 2017, and that’s how all the Young ‘Uns watch stuff nowadays isn’t it, so… maybe not.

  3. Pingback: The 2020 List: April – the ghost of 82

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