Sigfred Storstrand’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #8 of my Journey of July Scavenger Hunt
Task #14 - A movie set underwater
Watched The Directors Cut
Even in the darkest depths, this movie still glows of Cameron. Cameron has in interviews said he looks at himself less as a director and more an explorer. He has said shooting Titanic was an excuse for getting the opportunity to be the first person ever to investigate the real life wreckage of the eponymous ship. And this feels very much like early exploration from Cameron. It seems he was more interested in how he could bend the constructs of filmmaking with both practical effects aswell as early CGI. And he really did. The actors and himself have called this one of the worst experiences of their lives, but nevertheless, it turned out to be an extremely important film, due to the waters early navigated by Cameron.
I feel alot of parallels going on with Avatar here. The average joe being sent on a mission, that is taken over by capitalist governed military with their own agenda ,fucking with an ancient civilization who revolts, turning into an epic environmental tale with extravagant effects on a scale never seen before.
While Avatars effects obviously are better, it treaded on an effects-path already treaded, while not fully navigated. With The Abyss, they filmed the famous scene with the tentacle so that it could be used without the effect, just in case, because no one had any idea if it would even work. But it did. And even though it does look kinda funky, its the kind of funky i really like. It made for a fantastic sequence. The rest of the effects in the movie are also great. 40% of the movie was filmed under water, which is really just ludicrous, but it turned out fantastic, making a memorable adventure-thriller with LOTS of iconic scenes.
I wasnt expecting much really. The only reason i wanted to watch it, was because i was so tired of reading about the "revolutionary effects" without having any real anchorpoint. And while that is a great moment, the movie is filled to the brim with other great stuff. Which really surprised me. This is a really dense movie. There is so much going on. Great performances, great effects, great ideas, great action, beautiful visuals, and even some feels. From what i had been hearing, this movie had aged hard. And if you simply look at the CG effects, i could be liable to agree. But as a whole, i think this movie stands out as one of the great ocean-epics, on par with Das Boot and Waterworld.
The whole defibrillator scene almost broke me. While it is a scene ive seen countless times before, there was something so incredibly authentic about this one in particular. Ed Harris screaming and punching the shit out of Mastriani showed some really raw emotions. Their whole love-story was absolutely on for the ages. The fucking "I LOVE YOU WIFE" scene was so beautiful.
Seeing Mary Elisabeth Mastriani in the opening credits i was going to start off this review saying something about how they casted the wrong Mary Elisabeth, but man, she broke free and did one hell of a performance. Ed Harris aswell is just a fantastic actor. And dude, Michael Biehn is the balls. Fantastic cast.
The thing that didnt do much for me though, was the whole explaination of the aliens attacking humanity in the end. It was super cheesy, and it makes me even more convinced that James Cameron hates humans. It gets too preachy, and i aint into that shit.
But it didnt pull me out too much, as the percentage of how much it really meant to the overall film was pretty low.
All in all, a fantastic claustrophobic epic, with loads of great effects, a great performing cast, so many great ideas, perfectly directed. The directors cut did not feel too long, and i dont see how the movie would have worked this well for me with 40 trimmed minutes. I dug it, and i absolutely think i will revisit this great classic, while also giving zero shits about the environment in the future.