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Mostly a watery anti-war movie. (mostly)
August 11, 2014 7:48 AM   Subscribe

"Twenty-five years after its release, The Abyss remains an oddity in director James Cameron's filmography. But the fact that it's an oddity seems like an oddity. The underwater sci-fi epic, about a team of commercial drillers who stumble upon a deep-sea alien civilization, wasn't a flop by any means. It made more money than The Terminator and came very close to matching Aliens at the box office. It holds a higher critical rating than Avatar and Titanic (according to the almighty Rotten Tomatoes, at least). And yet it has utterly failed to reach the same levels of cultural saturation as Cameron’s other works."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (119 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
I own this on laser disc. I also no longer have a laser disc player. That is all.
posted by Fizz at 7:53 AM on August 11 [11 favorites]


I've always felt that what did in The Abyss was that it was a spectacular, tense action thriller for about 95 percent of the movie. One of my favorites. Then the ending. I'm sorry, but the end of The Abyss just sucked. "Downright embarrassing" is pretty much spot on.

I remember its release was pretty significantly delayed and there was all this talk that the studio had made Cameron cut a lot of running time, and when it just sort of deflated and lay there at the end, I suspected that the cause was studio interference. That they'd ruined it by making him cut out the much better, more consistently great, original ending.

Then there was the director's cut, and nope. The studio was actually right. The material they made him cut didn't really need to be there, and that was Cameron's original ending.

Fantastic movie, but really weak ending and that's what people remembered.
posted by Naberius at 7:57 AM on August 11 [9 favorites]


I always get it mixed up in my head with fellow deep-sea thriller Leviathan, which came out a few months earlier.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:58 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I was going to say what Naberious mentioned - that the ending was such an out-of-left-field thing that there were a couple of reviews that gave the movie two separate ratings - one for the first 95% of the movie and a separate one for the ending. I worked in a movie theater as my summer job when this was out and even the ushers were ragging on it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Aaaaaaaaand now I see that the article also mentions this too. Heh.

I'll just be over here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:01 AM on August 11


I loved the first 95% and hated the last 5% for exactly the reason Naberius describes. Damn, what a letdown that ending was.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:02 AM on August 11


I love every inch of this movie, ending and all.
posted by echocollate at 8:05 AM on August 11 [13 favorites]


I stumbled across it on TV this weekend and watched it until the ending was getting close and then I went to do house chores.
posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


My god, the practical effects in this movie are so good. I seem to recall that Ed Harris almost had a nervous breakdown on set... sorry Ed, but it was worth it.
posted by selfnoise at 8:09 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


My favourite Cameron film, by a long way, even the original release version. His trope of 'nasty military-industrial complex vs the alien hippies' wasn't overdone back then, the SFX were great for the time, and the casting and acting were spot on. Plus as a coastal child I love anything in film to do with the sea. What's wrong with the ending anyway?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:10 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I'm confused as to why the ending was "out of left field." Aliens were hinted at, then shown, then alien city-sized spacecraft appears from benthic depths.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:11 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I love the Abyss. Yes, it's flawed. The end is a mess, just terrible, but the good is so good. I don't think that the issue with the ending is the treacle, but that is surely part of it, it is that the effects (both in the NTI, and then the wave/surface stuff) are just not overwhelming enough. And then I think things that he did to try and repair it end up making it worse.

I didn't HATE the ending, I was sad for it. Cameron did so much great stuff in this movie, and to not be able to stick the landing is just tragic.

Then there was the director's cut, and nope. The studio was actually right.

With the ending, maybe, insomuch as they identified that the ending didn't work. But the studio cut basically all of Lindsey and Bud's back story, all the crew comradery, and basically everything human, without which the movie is an exciting but distant thing with a terrible ending. When you know and care about the people, and their relationships, the excitement is much more present and then there's still the unsuccessful ending.

I dug up my DVD of this just last week. 25th Anniversary, and no Blu Ray? You're killing me over here.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:11 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


This movie also features the ne plus ultra "DON'T YOU DIE ON ME!" scene in all of cinematic history, so much so that even though it was hardly new when The Abyss did it, every subsequent example of this trope feels like a parody or a ripoff of this one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:12 AM on August 11 [31 favorites]


My biggest problem with the ending is that the practical set of the alien city on the surface utterly fails to even touch the wonder of the city as depicted under the depths. In fact, it actually feels deserted...dead even. And tiny.

I get that CG of the era had its limits, but, good grief, that above-the-waves city set was a HUGE disappointment.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:12 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


As a kid, I remember really liking the movie, especially the drowning-reviving bit after the fight between the little subs, and I have to say that the novelization (by Orson Scott Card, whom I have reservations recommending) was actually really good and IIRC is the only novelization I've ever read that doesn't change any of the lines from the movie itself, while still adding a layer of characterization that wasn't in the film.

Also, the visual of Coffey watching the pressure fractures grow on the glass of his sub, and then the anti-climactic *schlup!* implosion were really memorable as a way to dispose of a villain.

Also also, I think this movie started Cameron's obsession with the deep sea, which will be, I think, how he ultimately goes down in history.
posted by gauche at 8:14 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


I'm with you, GallonOfAlan. It's a kooky ending but the SF nerd in me (which, full disclosure, comprises about 95% of my total volume) was totally on board for the whole thing. It's definitely my sentimental favorite Cameron film, even as I allow that Terminator 2 is the superior work, if only because the gap between its reach and its grasp is much narrower.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:15 AM on August 11


The ending of The Abyss is pretty awesome. It was one of Chris Elliott's first on-screen roles besides Cabin Boy.
posted by Nevin at 8:15 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Heh, when somebody's getting all antsy in my house, I still say "Keep your pantyhose on!"

And the scene where Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio drowns.

"Here's MIRV!!!"

And the wedding ring that saves Bud's life.

And "Love you wife."

I kinda love this movie, even with the crazy ending.
posted by Archer25 at 8:16 AM on August 11 [10 favorites]


Also, that orange water-breathing crap still gives me sympathy retches.

Good movie, but c'mon, Aliens is the best Cameron movie, right? One of the five or so perfect action movies
posted by selfnoise at 8:16 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Also also, I think this movie started Cameron's obsession with the deep sea, which will be, I think, how he ultimately goes down in history.

I see what you did there.
posted by Fizz at 8:16 AM on August 11 [10 favorites]


DirtyOldTown, I quote from that scene at every opportunity, like when my car's check engine light comes on or my juicer is on the fritz.
posted by echocollate at 8:17 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I first saw The Abyss in the fancy home theater of my parents' friends house. Complete with giant salt-water aquarium behind the stuffed leather couch. It was AMAZING to my young, impressionable mind. And there is a lead science lady who has a temper and doesn't take crap.

I haven't seen it in many years, but now I want to watch it again.
posted by jillithd at 8:17 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Such a fine film. I fell in love with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

Don't forget that the water tendril was Cameron's prototype for the T-1000 in T2.
posted by lhauser at 8:17 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I think the way the strong female heroine is reduced to a fawning wifey at the end was more troubling to me (and many women I knew) than the underwater angel saviors bit. Years later I read an article about Cameron and his wife breaking up during the making of The Abyss and wondered if the ending of the film was some kind of weird wish-fulfillment fantasy of the director's.
posted by aught at 8:17 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I've always felt that what did in The Abyss was that it was a spectacular, tense action thriller for about 95 percent of the movie. One of my favorites. Then the ending. I'm sorry, but the end of The Abyss just sucked. "Downright embarrassing" is pretty much spot on.

Never judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its ending.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:17 AM on August 11


Might be worth distinguishing the theatric and Director's Cut releases... the ending is much more fleshed out in the Director's Cut because of the "tsunami" scenes. The aliens choose between exterminating and meeting with humanity, and the protagonist makes the difference. Solid trope.
posted by anthill at 8:18 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I always get it mixed up in my head with fellow deep-sea thriller Leviathan, which came out a few months earlier.

Ditto, but with Sphere.
posted by fight or flight at 8:18 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Endings are invariably the most important part of any work tho
posted by Quilford at 8:19 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


...ugh.
posted by notyou at 8:21 AM on August 11 [12 favorites]


Archer25: "And the wedding ring that saves Bud's life."

True story - when I saw this as a teenager, I asked my Dad how come Bud's wedding ring was so incredibly strong. He told me it was titanium. I said to myself, if I ever get married, I'm getting a ring like that. Just in case I ever need to stop a sliding pressure door.

I'm now married, and of course I now have a titanium wedding ring. Haven't been on a flooding caterpillar-tracked underwater oil rig yet, but you never know.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:21 AM on August 11 [32 favorites]


Never judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its ending.


I disagree. I'm more in the Paul Newman camp. Newman once heard a rant by screenwriter William Goldman about how the most important part of a screenplay is the first fifteen minutes, (roughly the first fifteen pages). "And the most important part of a movie," Newman said, "is the last fifteen minutes."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:22 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


This movie also features the ne plus ultra "DON'T YOU DIE ON ME!" scene in all of cinematic history, so much so that even though it was hardly new when The Abyss did it, every subsequent example of this trope feels like a parody or a ripoff of this one.

Totally, but as compelling as a leading man's desperation must be emoted for the tension to work, there must also be a supporting actor to have sufficiently earned an audience's sympathy to say,

"Forget it, man. She's gone."
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:22 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I always get it mixed up in my head with fellow deep-sea thriller Leviathan, which came out a few months earlier.

Ditto, but with Sphere.


I only saw Sphere once, and it was so bad I still wonder if it was a dream I had and not the actual movie.
posted by selfnoise at 8:24 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I will like every god damn personal Abyss anecdote in this thread if I have to. YOU get a like. YOU get a like. GROUP HUG.

I know what I'm watching tonight.
posted by echocollate at 8:24 AM on August 11 [14 favorites]


Never judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its ending.

This makes no sense. Maybe you're making a joke?
posted by aught at 8:25 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Why can't we even get an anamorphic DVD of this yet? That's crazy.
posted by heatvision at 8:25 AM on August 11


Man vs man
Man vs woman
Man vs himself
Man vs society
Man vs nature
Man vs machine

. . . and
Man vs alien
 
posted by Herodios at 8:25 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I highly, highly HIGHLY recommend reading the book adaptation of the The Abyss, as it explains so much about the aliens and the characters. I happened to read it before see in the movie and to teenage me, it made the movie ending make a lot of sense.

I can't remember Cameron's exact words, but he especially had or influenced the book writing that it did explain more of the details of the characters and motives of the aliens and it just works incredibly well.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Gauche said: " I have to say that the novelization (by Orson Scott Card, whom I have reservations recommending) was actually really good and IIRC is the only novelization I've ever read that doesn't change any of the lines from the movie itself, while still adding a layer of characterization that wasn't in the film."

I was just going to say that very thing. I had just taken a writing class in college with Card (and it was a great class, despite my current misgivings about him), and snatched up the novelization the second I saw it. Great example of a novelization.
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 8:27 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


But what if Bud's fingers/hands got smashed, and the ring can't easily be cut off and he loses a finger.

I actually loved that element of the scene, especially since its coupled with character fishing it out of the toilet and receiving a blue stained hand as a result.

My biggest question was how did the underwater drill platform end up on the alien city? The city rose up from the trench, but the platform was on the sea floor NEXT to the trench. Did it get sucked over onto it? WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE.

I'm a sucker for the turn that one human's self sacrifice and love is what not only saves himself, but in the director's cut, the world. Or even, it suggests to the aliens that humanity is worth coming into contact with.

Also, we call them aliens, but do we know they're aliens and not just another intelligent race that evolved deep under the sea? Does Virgil tell us they're aliens?

If I was told I had to choose only one James Cameron movie to take to the island to watch, it might very well be the Abyss.
posted by Atreides at 8:28 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


DirtyOldTown-- I disagree.
I mean it in the sense that writers/directors often work with multiple endings from which they choose...that there is a best ending, and that it matters, is certainly true. But, that a well structured story can support mulitiple endings is intriguing. After I've decided a movie, or novel, has fulfilled its form beyond my prior expectation, I can view/read it from any section and go in either direction or jump around and be fascinated by "how it works". Since movies/novels are now so extensively marketed, a modern audience should be very suspicious of "endings".
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:30 AM on August 11


So, I haven't watched it since I was nine, but Cameron swung and missed at a Close Encounters ending here, right?
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:31 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


One other quote I forgot to add:

"Hot Rods of the Gods"

That's what I say whenever I see one of those "aliens" shows on tv.
posted by Archer25 at 8:31 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


It was one of Chris Elliott's first on-screen roles

"There! Look! Look! There!"
 
posted by Herodios at 8:35 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


how did the underwater drill platform end up on the alien city?

Hippie, you think everything's a conspiracy.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:38 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Chris Elliott actually talked about that on his Nerdist podcast - he said that it just sort of felt right to be giggly and excited when he saw an alien, rather than all scared and intimidated, and Cameron asked him aside after the first take and he thought he was going to get in trouble but instead Cameron told him that that was awesome, keep doing it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on August 11 [9 favorites]


I also remember reading an interview with Chris Elliott, possibly in the AV Club, where he talked about how Cameron didn't really know who he was when he cast him, and later he didn't understand why audiences laughed so much when he was on screen.

It's been a while since I read it, but I think he said that Cameron got a little pissed about it? Because the audiences would be laughing at everything he said even when it was supposed to be a dramatic moment. I may have made that part up, though.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:43 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I'm more in the Paul Newman camp. Newman once heard a rant by screenwriter William Goldman about how the most important part of a screenplay is the first fifteen minutes, (roughly the first fifteen pages). "And the most important part of a movie," Newman said, "is the last fifteen minutes."

I think it was Wes Craven who said, "wow 'em in the beginning, wow 'em at the end, and it doesn't matter what you do in the middle".
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:43 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Chris Elliott has a podcast????
posted by Nevin at 8:44 AM on August 11


Chris Elliott actually talked about that

Oh yeah, his performance is fine.

It's just that he had that and like two expository lines about what's on the sonar screen.

That's just a few words up the ladder from being MAN #2. I don't even recall if his character was named, but the fact that it was Chris Elliot made me hang by thumbs and call if I got work.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:45 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Chris Elliott has a podcast????

No, Chris Elliott was a guest on Chris Hardwick's podcast.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on August 11


To me there has always been something just a step off of great when it comes to this movie. It's hard to put your finger on. Ultimately I have to blame/credit Cameron. A few scenes were just not nearly tight enough. A few special effects felt a little forced. A few casting decisions maybe didn't give the character depth I would have wanted. A few scenes felt absent an acting director. Then the ending - it's the punchline, but it misses. I wonder if Cameron was just too distracted by all the tech he had to half invent to do the movie.

I always felt like Cameron needed to tie the creatures into something more, and not just a "Hi, sorry to bother you, know we've never met, but we are thinking now may be a good time to destroy you all." Atlantis, sea stories of old, aliens, history of life on earth...whatever, but something. Maybe, just maybe, a back story where long ago two races diverged from a common ancestor (Morlock-Eloi style) and we figure out we we are the bastard cousins of some better race, and maybe some of us can learn to reunite and... well, you get the picture.

The thing is, when you get right down to it, it may have just been a better movie without the sea civilization. Just a good old human story underwater might have done it.
posted by Muddler at 8:47 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Although I note that the description mentions "accidentally pissing off James Cameron," so maybe I'm misremembering that? I don't think so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on August 11


Ed Harris had a nervous breakdown mid-movie because he almost drowned. Repeatedly. In all of those scenes where you see the actors free-swimming from one place to another the actors actually had no air. They had to get in position, finish the shot and wait for a rescue diver, over and over again. Sometimes the rescue diver was late. All this several stories underwater, far too deep to quickly or safely reach the surface. Most of their working days were spent like that.

Cameron himself was spending upwards of 12 hours a day underwater. I'm pretty sure that's flagrantly unsafe, but then so was most of the shoot.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:48 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


The ending only sucks in the theatrical cut. The director's cut - where it's clear that the aliens appreciate that Bud went down to deactivate the nuclear bomb to save them knowing it would cost him his own life - works perfectly well.

The OSC novelization is even better, as others have mentioned, and I find it perfectly appropriate that the only truly great piece of writing on Card's resume is his elaboration on James Cameron's ideas.
posted by mightygodking at 8:49 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


From a 1990 profile of Elliott in the LA Times:
During last year's opening of "The Abyss" at Radio City Music Hall, the audience burst into ripples of laughter and applause when they briefly saw Elliott's mug on the big screen as an oil driller.

"(Director) James Cameron was sitting in front of me, and he actually turned around and looked at me," Elliott said. "It's just weird for people to suddenly see me pop up in a film--people who know the joke with me about a guy who really wants to get into show business."
But that doesn't mean that Cameron wasn't into his performance on set. In fact, in an interview from a few years ago, Elliott claims Cameron wrote the role for him:
I did end up in The Abyss, but I didn't get the part I auditioned for. That was during the 1988 writers' strike, maybe? Maybe there was another one after that, I can't remember. But it was during a writers' strike that I went out and read for the role Todd Graff got, the guy with the little white rat that he carries around on his shoulder. James Cameron liked me and we talked a lot, and then I heard I didn't get the part, and a few weeks later, I got invited down to North Carolina, and he was literally writing my role on legal paper while I was on the set. Handing it to me and saying, "Okay, you're gonna say this, that, and that thing." And I had a great time doing that movie, actually. He was really great to me.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:53 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I always get it mixed up in my head with fellow deep-sea thriller Leviathan, which came out a few months earlier.

Ditto, but with Sphere.


Sphere came out in 1998 (and sucks), but DeepStar 6 also came out in 1989 (and sucks), the same year as The Abyss.
posted by furtive at 8:53 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


In related science news, BBC: Physicists make 'tractor beam' in water.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:54 AM on August 11


From IMDB:
Writer Lewis Abernathy sold the [DeepStar 6] script at the same time that friend James Cameron was working on his own "underwater monster saga". Despite Cameron's asking that he delay this movie to avoid competing with The Abyss (1989), Abernathy went ahead and was thereby deemed persona non grata with Cameron and associates until they patched together their friendship when Abernathy accompanied Cameron on the September 1995 filming of the wreck of the Titanic for Titanic (1997) (but not any actual dives to the wreck itself).
posted by furtive at 8:57 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


So, Cabin Boy is the sequel then?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:00 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen it since it came out, but what specifically spoiled the end for me was that I thought the spaceship resembled a ring of enormous of athletic shoes. I could tell they were going for crazy-non-Euclidian, but they ended up with a stitched-suede-panel look.
posted by bendybendy at 9:02 AM on August 11


The ending only sucks in the theatrical cut. The director's cut - where it's clear that the aliens appreciate that Bud went down to deactivate the nuclear bomb to save them knowing it would cost him his own life - works perfectly well.

But there's no real difference in the endings. It's perfectly clear in the theatrical ending that the aliens save Bud because of his selfless act of self-sacrifice. The big difference in the deleted material is the big tidal waves they're using to wipe out humanity (or at least humanity on the coasts, which is really the only kind that matters) and they decide to call that off too.

Sorry, but Cameron just swung and missed. It wasn't the fault of meddling studio execs.
posted by Naberius at 9:03 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Muddler:
I always felt like Cameron needed to tie the creatures into something more, and not just a "Hi, sorry to bother you, know we've never met, but we are thinking now may be a good time to destroy you all." Atlantis, sea stories of old, aliens, history of life on earth...whatever, but something. Maybe, just maybe, a back story where long ago two races diverged from a common ancestor (Morlock-Eloi style) and we figure out we we are the bastard cousins of some better race, and maybe some of us can learn to reunite and... well, you get the picture.

The thing is, when you get right down to it, it may have just been a better movie without the sea civilization. Just a good old human story underwater might have done it.
I think you nailed it upon reconsideration. The aliens are the least interesting thing about the film. They're a pretext for the inciting incident and to illustrate how different people can react differently to the unknown but all their power comes from being unknown. Any exposition, any portrayal of their motives or methods diminishes what they are--a thematic element. Frankly, the movie might have been perfect if it was never 100% clear if there were aliens or if people were overreacting to natural phenomena/paranoid/hallucinating.

That's why I loved big chunks of Sphere so much as a teen. (The novel. Not the movie. Never the movie.)
posted by whittaker at 9:07 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


That's just a few words up the ladder from being MAN #2. I don't even recall if his character was named, but the fact that it was Chris Elliot made me hang by thumbs and call if I got work.

My comment was intended to be a... joke... or maybe more ironic. It's sort of a David Lettermanesque early 90's thing.... Kind of like our friend Mr. Elliott, one of the finest comedians of all time IMHO.
posted by Nevin at 9:08 AM on August 11


Wanna buy a monkey?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:10 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


My husband's engagement ring is a titanium Abyss ring. Nobody has ever not known what that meant when we say it.

I think The Abyss is as well-known as Terminator, but there's just not as much to say about it. It's not as dumb, nor does it scratch the Shit Blows Up itch. And then the ending is...you know, but so much of the in between is good, though kind of quiet. Ed Harris is the master of just kind of scratching his teeth on the scenery but not actually taking a bite.

And on preview, yeah, the aliens are the least interesting thing about the film. I always think as I'm re-watching that they're going to meet the aliens, who are then just going to go away, like nobody will ever believe that it happened. And then there's the legitimate human drama that happens and it's because they were pursuing this mystery and got reckless but they get no alien payoff. That's my fantasy version of this movie.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:11 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


the novelization [...] IIRC is the only novelization I've ever read that doesn't change any of the lines from the movie itself

For the record, because of the long lead time publishers need, novelizations are based on shooting scripts and are done long before a final cut of the film is close to finished. So any changed lines on set, or ad libs, or post-production rejiggering won't make it into the novelization.

Famously, the ending of the Pretty In Pink novelization has Duckie and Molly Ringwald's character* end up together, as that's how the script had the ending before test audiences saw through Duckie's passive aggressive Nice Guy creeper act and made the studio change it.

It's been, gosh, 26 years since I read the novelization, but doesn't Card make a big deal about how closely he worked with Cameron on it (even claiming it was the closest collaboration since Clarke & Kubrick!)? That might explain why this novelization stands out as being particularly true to the movie.

*What's her name... Eddie?
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:13 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I can see where Cameron was going with the alien city/ship looking much less magnificent on the surface. That is what happens 99% of the time when you take something that's gorgeous underwater and lift it out.

From a storytelling standpoint though it is a disappointing reveal, and it really really does not belong right in the middle of the emotional payoff.

In my view the problem is that the movie needed more aliens or less. We either needed to get a growing sense of who the aliens were and what they wanted over the course of the film, or we needed them to stay hidden at the end: Rescue Bud and the rest of the crew but in a way that leaves no evidence, so the group can decide what to do with their shared secret.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:14 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Since this thread has segued into somewhat of a Chris Elliott appreciation thread, I thought he did his finest and weirdest work in Eagleheart: Paradise Rising, this past season. If you are Chris Elliott fan, and not many are, check it out.
posted by any major dude at 9:19 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


''The worst moments for me were being towed with fluid rushing up my nose and my eyes swelling up,'' says Mr. Harris. ''Once, the regulator was put in upside down so that one-half of what was going into my lungs was water. For a brief second, I thought, 'This is it,'
From this 1989 NYT article on the filming of the Abyss.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:21 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


This is how a harem girl dances
posted by phearlez at 9:22 AM on August 11


Thanks to you guys, I'm trying to recall the experience of seeing the film in my head now (it's been a very long time) and figure out how much of my problem with it is plot and theme related and how much is just because it looked like crap.

I still think the thematic elements of the ending are, as TFA notes, kind of ham-handed and on the nose, (am I correctly remembering that this movie actually has the cliche montage of man's inhumanity to man complete with Hitler and some war scenes and a mushroom cloud?) and they kind of come out of nowhere.

But I'm thinking a lot of my initial disappointment (which really did color my overall impression of the movie no matter how much I still realized I was blown away by everything up til then) came from the fact that it's just such an ugly, shitty looking effects shot.

What Cameron wanted, I'm sure, was something like the ending of 2001 where the experience of contact is nigh-incomprehensible to the human who's doing it. I mean does Keir Dullea spending the rest of his life in what seems a moment in some fancy hotel room, then coming back as a space baby make any damn sense at all? But that works. And this just doesn't.
posted by Naberius at 9:23 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Some insight into why Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has basically disappeared from films in the last twenty years or so, except for The Perfect Storm; focusing on theater, family, etc. Seems a shame such a fine actor doesn't have more movies to her credit.
posted by e1c at 9:25 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


The scene where Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio drowns is a remarkably compelling piece of cinema inside of a Big Action Movie. It's so good.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:27 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


IIRC, Card was actually on-set and developed the novel in parallel with the film. Hazy on that detail, though.

The movie lacked the backstory of the aliens. The Builders of Memory (what they called themselves) were terrified of the growing Cold War tensions on the surface, which could pollute or kill them. Bud's sacrifice convinced them we weren't irredeemable.

The original incident of the movie was an accident - the Builder never meant to come so close to the sub to begin with. I believe she was wounded but can't remember that detail either.

Point being, they misunderstood us as much as we didn't understand them. They took a leap of faith on a selfless act and that made a lovely story.

To me, anyway.
posted by Thistledown at 9:29 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Naberius:
What Cameron wanted, I'm sure, was something like the ending of 2001 where the experience of contact is nigh-incomprehensible to the human who's doing it. I mean does Keir Dullea spending the rest of his life in what seems a moment in some fancy hotel room, then coming back as a space baby make any damn sense at all? But that works. And this just doesn't.
I just flat-out do not think that kind of abstract presentation resides in any part of James Cameron's DNA as a filmmaker. As a screenwriter he's all about the structures of audience engagement as a very visible set of laid pipe in a manner you see written about in all sorts of Save the Cat-esque how-to books.

This isn't bad per-se. But it just means that he's very limited in the ways he could preserve the mystique of the aliens.
posted by whittaker at 9:30 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


From this 1989 NYT article on the filming of the Abyss.

Oh lord that article is harrowing. I note that it did not mention any of the actors having any past diving experience either.
posted by elizardbits at 9:37 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


For the record, because of the long lead time publishers need, novelizations are based on shooting scripts and are done long before a final cut of the film is close to finished. So any changed lines on set, or ad libs, or post-production rejiggering won't make it into the novelization.

Cameron wrote a forward for the novelization, which I believe discussed his desire for it to be something more than just a straight adaptation, hence the development of character and alien backstories.

The unifying thread was the lack of communication between people. Ed and Lindsay's marriage failed because they couldn't communicate well. Michael Bein's character went nuts due to a depressurization thing, which made his normally calm and professional (his SEAL team was none for having no causalities) more paranoid and the aliens didn't understand the humans, humans didn't understand the aliens, so everyone was going off half-cocked or in the wrong direction.

Theere was a neat physiology thing about the aliens, where as a hive mind, they absorbed the memories of their dead, so no one ever truly died in a way.
One of the things that gave humanity a chance was a guy on the sub that got destroyed was thinking of his family when he died, which is something the aliens could understand (a sort of returning to the hive thing), so they made a larger effort to understand humanity, hence the water things exploring the undersea lab, which freaked the normally steady and calm military commander, which spiraled everything out of control further.

In the book, Bud was the great communicator and manager (which backfired with Lindsay 'cause her mother was a manipulator, so she hated when Bud tried to help her get what she wanted because she was used to her mother manipulating her to get what mom wanted), which is why his team loved him (and Lindsay sort of hated him, 'cause SHE built the undersea lab, but everyone loved Bud), so it made sense that the aliens bonded with him and eventually understood things.

The original incident of the movie was an accident - the Builder never meant to come so close to the sub to begin with. I believe she was wounded but can't remember that detail either.

I believe she was injured from examining a human spy satellite, and the radioactivity had damaged her, casing her to rush back to the hive mind before she totally died (and couldn't be absorbed back into the hive mind), and sideswipe the sub, bringing in the civilian and military humans.

Oh lord that article is harrowing. I note that it did not mention any of the actors having any past diving experience either.

Yeah, they all had to get certified before filming.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:41 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I'm going to watch The Abyss again before dying on any hills, but I rather enjoyed the ending, and yes, there's no denying that T2 and Aliens have saturated our culture to a far greater degree.

I want to say that Cameron's other movies are a little bit funnier with stronger, younger casts. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Leonardo DiCaprio. Ed Harris is seriously talented, but fucking old, man. Avatar is another example of a miss; I enjoyed the movie a lot, I think giving Bigelow the Oscar that year was a travesty; but having said that, I can't remember who's fucking in Avatar, and I don't want to see it again.

Cameron was just so on his game with T2 it's ridiculous. Special effects, casting, plot, pace. It's unbelievable.
posted by phaedon at 9:42 AM on August 11


Is this the meeting of the We Love the Abyss Club? Let me emote all over you! Ending or not, one of my favorite movies -I still remember the sense of complete awe and wonder I felt watching this movie for the first time- I joke all the time this (esp. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's role) is why I ended up working on deep sea oil rigs....

...where I quote this movie endlessly. I've practically memorized it. Our drill is at 15k feet: "It's a bottomless pit, baby. Two-and-a-half miles straight down." I discover we're not drilling in the right direction - "Shit! We've got a problem!...Bearing's going. It's not holding! We're swinging out of position here!" Someone comes to me with a problem - "Yeah, I'm calm. I'm a calm person. Is there some reason I shouldn't be calm?" and then shout "WHAT?" Someone's talking about pulling an extra shift for cash - "Yeah, what good is the money, six months later your dick drops off?" Watching a video of some weird sea creature exploring/getting sucked into a pipe - "So raise your hand if you think that was a Russian water-tentacle." Someone gives me crap about what I've said about the pressure - "When it comes to the safety of these people, there's me and then there's God, understand?" I quote the crane quotes to the crane operators; I've bonded with 55 year old Cajuns who think women don't deserve to be out there by quoting dialogue back and forth to each other. "I can't believe you were dumb enough to come down here. Now you're stuck here for the storm. That was dumb, hot rod;" or the whole "deep-how deep-it's classified" sequence.

But the ones I quote almost all the time, to the point one rig nickname is derived from one of these quotes, are: "Your Lieutenant's about to make a real bad career move!" "I got to tell you, I give this whole thing a sphincter-factor of about 9 point 5." And "It's not easy being a cast-iron bitch. It takes discipline, and years of training. A lot of people don't appreciate that." And all the goddamn time, applicable to almost every situation - "Set me on fire and put me out with horse piss;" or "He's showing signs of pressure-induced psychosis."

I've also been known to plant The Abyss taglines into powerpoint presentations - "Deep below the blue surface, there lies a place no one has ever dreamed of" etc.

Goddamn I love this movie. And yeah, count me in the titanium wedding ring club too.
posted by barchan at 9:42 AM on August 11 [40 favorites]


I watched this multiple times on DVD. It was one of the very first DVDs with extras and there was a commentary track but it wasn't audio, it was subtitles. It was great, it had all sorts of little tidbits about how each scene was constructed and how absolutely technical a director Cameron is.

What blew me away was it took something like 3 yrs to film everything. The first take they shot of the drowning scene Cameron hated but he was unable to get one of the actors, I forget which, back 3yrs later and so they set everything up and filmed it with a suit filled with ping pong balls and then used reactions from 3 yrs before. There were a good many scenes like this where the subtitled text would say this was filmed in '84, then the angle would change and it would say, this was filmed in 89, and back and forth.

Cameron, love him or hate him, is incredibly good at what he does. He puts out a ridiculously polished visual product. His stories aren't great but they do appeal to a very large audience.
posted by M Edward at 9:47 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


There's a pattern developing where I realize all these movies I thought were amazing are "underappreciated"...
posted by odinsdream at 9:50 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


M Edward
I watched this multiple times on DVD. It was one of the very first DVDs with extras and there was a commentary track but it wasn't audio, it was subtitles. It was great, it had all sorts of little tidbits about how each scene was constructed and how absolutely technical a director Cameron is.
I love, love, love that annotating subtitle track (I think Van Ling put it together?) and I wish more films on home video did that. Unfortunately, the closest I've seen elsewhere is the 'trivia track' terrible extra where it pops up every five minutes to say something like "Did you know: This diner was in the background of an Elvis movie or something?".
posted by whittaker at 9:52 AM on August 11


the movie needed more aliens or less.

Agree with this.

Not that I'm equating the two, but Mark Twain had a somewhat similar problem with Puddin' Head Wilson. He found that he had a story with two plots and struggled to resolve the confict -- not entirely satisfactorily, he felt.

Those Extraordinary Twins
[A]s the short tale grows into a long tale, the original intention (or motif) is apt to get abolished and find itself superseded by a quite different one. . . . Much the same thing happened with "Pudd'nhead Wilson." I had a sufficiently hard time with that tale, because it changed itself from a farce to a tragedy while I was going along with it -— a most embarrassing circumstance. But what was a great deal worse was, that it was not one story, but two stories tangled together; and they obstructed and interrupted each other at every turn and created no end of confusion and annoyance.

[...]

Here was a set of new characters who were become inordinately prominent and who persisted in remaining so to the end; and back yonder was an older set who made a large noise and a great to-do for a little while and then suddenly played out utterly and fell down the well. There was a radical defect somewhere, and I must search it out and cure it.

The defect turned out to be the one already spoken of —- two stories in one, a farce and a tragedy. So I pulled out the farce and left the tragedy. This left the original team in, but only as mere names, not as characters. Their prominence was wholly gone; they were not even worth drowning.

[. . . ]

By this time the whole show was being run by the new people and in their interest, and the original show was become side-tracked and forgotten . . . Their story was one story, the new people's story was another story, and there was no connection between them, no interdependence, no kinship. It is not practicable or rational to try to tell two stories at the same time; so I dug out the farce and left the tragedy.

posted by Herodios at 9:57 AM on August 11


Some insight into why Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has basically disappeared from films in the last twenty years or so....

A tangential comment after reading that article, because I am going to twitch madly unless I make this point:

THE PROPER NAME OF THE MOVIE WITH MERYL STREEP WHICH THEY MENTION IS "DANCING AT LUGHNASA", NOT "DANCING WITH LUFTHANSA". IT WAS A MOVIE ABOUT IRISH SISTERS, NOT GERMAN STEWARDESSES.

Thank you.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on August 11 [8 favorites]


I thought it would've been neat if during the pre-storm exposition some kind of reference was made to historical legends sea monsters and mythic gods/goddesses that the NTIs could later be reminiscent of, but maybe that would've spoiled the surprise.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:02 AM on August 11


I remember walking out of the theater rather disappointed in 1989 when The Abyss first came out. The film was incredibly exciting up to the ending, which seemed abrupt and almost like a cop-out, as if Cameron didn't know how to end his movie and just wrapped it up with a cursory feel-good finale.

When the Special Edition came out in 1992, I caught it again at a screening in L.A., and it was like a completely different movie. The plot was basically the same, but it was all fleshed out more, so that there was more depth (ha-ha) to the character's motivations and relationships. Bud and Lindsey's relationship took on more layers, and the story developed at a more natural pace.

That all made the newly expanded ending so much more powerful and meaningful, for me at least. It made the original ending feel less arbitrary and perfunctory, not just by beefing it up and giving it more detail and emotional depth, but because of the previous additions, the ending felt more organic and it was easier to see how it fit in with the rest of the story. This version of The Abyss, I absolutely loved.

Either way, the whole "unhinged Navy SEAL" storyline was just fantastic -- a masterpiece of tension, suspense, and action. It has rightly been copied by just about every deep-sea action film ever since.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 10:10 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


THE PROPER NAME OF THE MOVIE WITH MERYL STREEP WHICH THEY MENTION IS "DANCING AT LUGHNASA", NOT "DANCING WITH LUFTHANSA". IT WAS A MOVIE ABOUT IRISH SISTERS, NOT GERMAN STEWARDESSES.

Thank you. That was a fabulous way to start a Monday morning.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:12 AM on August 11


DANCING WITH LUFTHANSA

Thinking of registering? Need a unique metafilter name?

*ahem*
posted by Fizz at 10:14 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I remember having read the novelization and thinking that the movie just couldn't stick the landing without these entirely unfilmable alien revelations and decisions. The novel has the aliens stopping the defusing by letting Bud(?) see the wire color when he cannot, in fact, see it. From that moment forward in the movie, as I recall, it's completely unclear exactly what has happened to cause this change. I enjoyed the character work and the tension but why suddenly everything works out seemed inscrutable.

Which might have been fine - there's interesting ground to cover in a movie, I think, with things happening beyond the ken or control of the characters. But Abyss doesn't set that up.
posted by phearlez at 10:15 AM on August 11


"The CRANE! We've lost the CRANE! It's on it's way DOWN to YOU!"

I saw this in the theater with my mom in 1989, she got up and walked out during the scene in the flooding sub and she didn't return. To this day I can bring up this movie in conversation just to hear her gasp in clautrophobic terror.

That "reviving Lindsey" scene...On paper it's this predictable (why would the movie bother dragging it out so long if she wasn't going to make it?) cliche, but Harris -- and the whole cast -- sells the hell out of it to the point that I'm gritting my teeth, punching into my fist and welling up along with them all watching it play out. One Night starting out calmly following Bud's orders to keep zapping her, but then breaking down crying while reading the dead EEG (the only part of her line there that I can understand is "goddamn")...I give the movie an extra star for that scene alone. But then of course it loses one for the ending. (Though not nearly enough for me to condemn the whole thing.)

Also, what an outstanding villain Michael Biehn is! That intensity is kind of terrifying.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:31 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


To this day I can bring up this movie in conversation just to hear her gasp in clautrophobic terror.

Yeah, apart from my massive sense of letdown at the ending, I have to say the rest of the film was so immersive (see what I did there) and occasionally terrifying that the DVD once literally sent a friend of mine to the emergency room with a hyperventilating panic attack.
posted by Naberius at 10:42 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


It made more money than The Terminator and came very close to matching Aliens at the box office. It holds a higher critical rating than Avatar and Titanic (according to the almighty Rotten Tomatoes, at least). And yet it has utterly failed to reach the same levels of cultural saturation as Cameron’s other works.

Poor James Cameron, can't catch a break.
posted by mazola at 11:10 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


The Abyss: I like you more than I can say; but I'll not sink into a bathos of sentiment.
posted by sylvanshine at 11:21 AM on August 11


I don't mind the aliens looking crappy at the end. What really bothers me is that, in a movie that is so intensely procedural about dealing with the dangers of deep-sea diving, it is utterly disappointing to have the characters brought instantly to the surface with no ill-effects because alien magic.

Maybe there could have been a way for the aliens to sweep aside all the claustrophobic danger the rest of the movie has sucked us into not-just-believing-but-feeling that would've felt awe-inspiring and liberating, but that just wasn't it.
posted by straight at 11:23 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


From what people are saying, I must have seen the director's cut*, because I remember getting all that back story and the tidal wave stuff. I liked the idea of the ending, it's just that there was no way to get the awe factor filmed. I almost think they might have done better going the Pulp Fiction glowing-briefcase route, because whatever set they made would have been a disappointment.

* What I actually saw was the 8mm tape distributed "not for commercial use" to the military. Some of those did actually turn out not the same as the theatrical release on opening day.

I saw it in crew's lounge on a Trident submarine, X hundred feet underwater. Sitting right where the wall of water rushes in to the sub in the film. Whee!
posted by ctmf at 11:28 AM on August 11 [12 favorites]


And I didn't realize he ended up being able to see the colors. I thought he just guessed, which is even more bad-ass. I still think of that scene when I have to make a decision without all the information I want. *shrug* *snip*
posted by ctmf at 11:32 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


What really bothers me is that, in a movie that is so intensely procedural about dealing with the dangers of deep-sea diving, it is utterly disappointing to have the characters brought instantly to the surface with no ill-effects because alien magic.

Yeah, "They must have done something to us!" is glaringly weak...Bravo for the attempt, Jim, but if you absolutely have to make it alien magic for the scene to work, at least show the NTIs pushing a "DEPRESSURIZE HUMANS" button or something.

(And if that happened, right next to the "DEPRESSURIZE HUMANS" button I would want to see a "COHAAGEN, GIVE THE PEOPLE AIR" button.)
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:34 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I like what you did with the title. Mostly.*

And why do these creatures always travel with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?
Why indeed, it's one of those tropes that does bug me, aren't there other music genres that convey wonder just as well, or better?

That said, The Abyss is a movie that I love and I used to get flashbacks when working offshore (not enough to be worthy of a nickname though).

*Mrs A. and I use the "mostly" probably more than is healthy.

posted by arcticseal at 11:36 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I loved the whole "underwater cowboy"/frontier theme: One Night's hat, that song they play in the subs near the beginning, the general grubbiness.

So many great details: Harris's blue hand, the eerie fluorescent glow of the breathing liquid...

And yeah, the resuscitation scene is a total classic.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:51 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


What really bothers me is that, in a movie that is so intensely procedural about dealing with the dangers of deep-sea diving, it is utterly disappointing to have the characters brought instantly to the surface with no ill-effects because alien magic.

Deus ex aquatica.
posted by phaedon at 12:11 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I would like to know what all the characters' new nicknames became after that little adventure.
posted by ctmf at 12:15 PM on August 11


What really bothers me is . . . alien magic. . . . I'll not sink into a bathos of sentiment. . . . That "reviving Lindsey" scene . . . Harris -- and the whole cast -- sells the hell out of it to the point that I'm gritting my teeth, punching into my fist and welling up along with them all watching it play out.

The Abyss: Bothered by Bathos in the Benthos


that song they play in the subs near the beginning

That's "Willin'", a Little Feat song written by Lowell George. Unfortunately, for some reason the one used in the movie is the cover by Linda Rondstadt.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:17 PM on August 11


It holds a higher critical rating than Avatar and Titanic (according to the almighty Rotten Tomatoes, at least). And yet it has utterly failed to reach the same levels of cultural saturation as Cameron’s other works."

I'm not sure Avatar has achieved all that much cultural saturation, though, especially given its box office megasuccess. I'm not seeing a lot of pop culture references to it today, and we're just five years out from its release. Give it another twenty, fifteen, maybe even ten years and I bet you Avatar's "cultural saturation" will have dropped below that of The Abyss.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:27 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I should add that: "Willin' is a 'truck drivin' song' so the connection between the song and cowboys under the sea depends on how you like to slice and dice your working class mythologies.

Also that: George wrote "Willin'" while still a member of the Mothers of Invention. Accounts differ on what Zappa thought about the song and what effect it had on George's tenure as a Mother. Pretty sure George, Zappa, and Ronstadt were none of them dive certified.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:29 PM on August 11


God, the ending of this movie (which I haven't seen since the mid-'90s) must be *terrible*, because I can remember the rest of it. Something about...aliens? And a big wave?
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:33 PM on August 11


Avatar's cultural saturation consisted mainly of jokes about blue cat people sex.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:44 PM on August 11


To this day whenever I bring up a system even if it's just my desktop I'll notify with "Virgil Brinkman back on the air"

Ed Harris is my generation's Lee Marvin.
posted by fullerine at 1:10 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]


phaedon: "What really bothers me is that, in a movie that is so intensely procedural about dealing with the dangers of deep-sea diving, it is utterly disappointing to have the characters brought instantly to the surface with no ill-effects because alien magic.

Deus ex aquatica.
"

Why would you think an alien civilisation capable of building an underwater city and moving it through two and a half miles of water (and that's the bare minimum of their apparent skills) would not be able to deal with blood nitrogen saturation?
posted by Happy Dave at 1:47 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


-Deepsea Challenge 3D
-James Cameron embarks on another Deepsea Challenge, this one in front of the camera
posted by kliuless at 2:22 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Then there was the director's cut, and nope. The studio was actually right. The material they made him cut didn't really need to be there, and that was Cameron's original ending.

The regular, studio-cut ending is lame. It takes the context of what the aliens are doing completely away, and it makes no sense. The aliens raise their ship to the surface, and...roll credits. Wat?

The original/director's cut has the whole Cold War context to it, with the running tension of a WWIII breakout. The aliens coming at the end to say "stop it, you guys!" makes perfect sense, even if it's still silly. So no, I disagree completely; the director's cut is much better.

The problem is the timing of the release itself. Maybe right when the movie was made and released, the Cold War was still going on, but just barely. But by the time the director's cut came out in the 90s, the Cold War was over, and the "U.S vs. the Russians" made it look instantly dated. It would've worked better before the late 80s.
posted by zardoz at 2:57 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Why would you think an alien civilisation capable of building an underwater city and moving it through two and a half miles of water (and that's the bare minimum of their apparent skills) would not be able to deal with blood nitrogen saturation?

Because the whole movie kept selling us on the dangers of blood nitrogen saturation (and even have a character die from it, IIRC) only to handwave it away at the very end without even showing us HOW, even in passing, the aliens/jellyfish people did it? As much as I love The Abyss, that particular Deus Ex Machina ending had WAY too much Deus and not enough Machina. It always felt too much like an egregious cheat to me and it took me out of the movie right at the end.
posted by KingEdRa at 3:03 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for the sequel: Son of Abyss.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:04 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I'm still waiting for the sequel: Son of Abyss.

It's about how the cast reunite to get revenge: Son of Abyss Must Pay.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:07 AM on August 12


Why would you think an alien civilisation capable of building an underwater city and moving it through two and a half miles of water (and that's the bare minimum of their apparent skills) would not be able to deal with blood nitrogen saturation?

Mainly because it's not likely that they'd have a need to deal with it, unless their own race has a problem with it. How often do they run into humans down there that they want to help?

I keep thinking of this exchange from Thank You For Smoking, which isn't quite the same situation but still:

Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they're looking to make.
Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?
Jeff Megall: It's the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn't they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?
Jeff Megall: [Long pause] Probably. But, you know, it's an easy fix. One line of dialogue: "Thank God we created the, you know, whatever device."
posted by doctornecessiter at 3:47 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Because the whole movie kept selling us on the dangers of blood nitrogen saturation (and even have a character die from it, IIRC) only to handwave it away at the very end without even showing us HOW, even in passing, the aliens/jellyfish people did it?

Meh, they saved Bud, so saving the crew didn't seem like a big deal to me at all. If anything, it was a fairly standard trope that aliens do magical things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 AM on August 12


The whole decompression thing did jar a bit for me, as well as the drilling platform being lifted by the rising city. Having said that, a couple of inconsistencies in a well constructed film world is pretty much the antithesis of modern films which are all inconsistencies all the time with a couple of things that make sense thrown in.

If I ever see the book in a charity shop I will pick it up.
posted by asok at 7:36 AM on August 12


It's about how the cast reunite to get revenge: Son of Abyss Must Pay.

So the aliens are the same ones from Starman?
posted by phearlez at 8:05 AM on August 12


It won’t add much to this thread to say that I pretty much agree with Snyder’s conclusion (“if we’re going to have over-the-top blockbusters, we might as well appreciate the ones that preach peace and love. If The Abyss preached it a little too loudly, is that so wrong? ”).

My biggest “problem” with the movie — which I loved at the time and still do — is that it’s really 3 movies in one, but not all at the same time. It starts out a Cold War thriller, becomes a first-contact sci-fi film a la Close Encounters, and closes a preachy “issues” sci-fi film a la Day the Earth Stood Still.

It's on that last point that people really get hung up. We take our preachy sci-fi just fine when it starts out preachy and doesn't pull the rug out from under you (see also: Avatar). I think the Director’s Cut made this a little more explicit, by expanding the threat that the aliens posed. They weren’t just interested in helping us for no reason at all. As in Day the Earth Stood Still they wanted to crush our civilization before it got too destructive, perhaps out of self-interest.
posted by axoplasm at 10:55 AM on August 12


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