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Worth A Look: 6.67%
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2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Aliens of the Deep
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Life Aquatic with James Cameron"
3 stars

Although the title makes it sound like a nifty 50's-era B-movie, “Aliens of the Deep” is actually the latest 3-D IMAX effort from James Cameron to combine his fascination with undersea exploration, his love for technological challenges and innovations and his apparent unwillingness to face the challenge of directing another feature in the wake of the success of “Titanic.” (In his defense, it took George Lucas twenty-odd years to make his return, though you would think that the rust he demonstrated might have shown Cameron the error of his ways.) As he did in his previous IMAX short, the Titanic exploration “Ghosts of the Abyss,” Cameron plunges into the depths to provide viewers with sights that they (or anyone, for that matter) have never seen; his mission this time is to join a group of astrobiologists and marine biologists to take a look at the creatures living far beneath the surface of the ocean–by studying the kinds of specimens that can live in such extreme conditions, the theory is that they can get a rough idea of the kinds of life that might possibly exist on other planets in equally arduous circumstances.

Some of what they find is spectacular to behold. We see, for example, something that looks for all the world like a series of enormous underwater chimneys billowing black smoke; the chimneys are revealed to be large columns of coral and the “smoke” is really jets of highly pressurized water superheated from magma deposits beneath the ocean floor. (At one point, there is some suspense when a submersible vehicle strays too close to one of those jets.) There are also a variety of undersea creatures bizarre enough to give the fictional ones seen in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” a run for their money. My favorite is the one that one scientist cheerfully describes as “the ugliest fish I have ever seen”; it looks like something out of a Roger Corman movie from the Fifties and it even appears to have feet for good measure. It is so strange, in fact, that if Disney were to market a line of plush toys based on it (not that they would ever do anything so crassly commercial), I would pick one up in a heartbeat.

Despite these fascinating sights, this is a less interesting experience than “Ghosts of the Abyss.” One problem is the 3-D photography itself–while previous IMAX films have looked astonishingly lifelike, the visuals here never really seemed to come together as beautifully as they have in other such films. (This may have something to do with the fact that I wear glasses, but that hasn’t interfered with previous IMAX films.) A more important flaw is that there never really seems to be any focus to the film; while “Ghosts in the Abyss” had a perfect premise, this one seems a little more scattershot and takes forever to get started. (Advice to filmmakers: if you are planning to do an underwater documentary, do not spend the first five minutes above ground giving us the kind of speeded-up visuals that come uncomfortably close to Madonna’s “Ray of Light” video.) Another crucial flaw is the shockingly flat commentary from the observers; though they are experts in their fields visualizing things that they have only previously theorized about, all that they can come up with to articulate their feelings are such deathless turns of phrase as “This is insane ” and “This is off the hook ”. Amazing, even in a James Cameron documentary, the dialogue still stinks.

< Of course, judging an IMAX project by the same criteria used to critique normal films is probably unfair–the limitations of the format essentially prevent complicated storytelling or rapid pacing and they tend to be aimed at families and tour groups looking for a safe way to waste forty-odd minutes gaping at the wonders of the process. The problem, however, is that the awe that the process once inspired, which made even the worst films watchable, has long since disappeared and those working in the form have to figure out a way of expanding their horizons before audiences grow tired of watching the same old stuff. As it is, “Aliens of the Deep” can only be comfortably recommended to deep-sea students and hard-core Cameron buffs.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11467&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/28/05 01:07:23
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User Comments

3/13/06 tatum Nice when docu, silly when it goes "Abyss" at the end 4 stars
3/06/05 captian planet Captian planet he's our hero...gonna take pollution down to zero... 2 stars
1/31/05 bongeezer Fantastic Images... Cool on the IMAX screen 5 stars
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  28-Jan-2005 (G)
  DVD: 01-Nov-2005



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