Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flick Pick: The Abyss

The Abyss
(20th Century Fox, 1989)

Gripping undersea sci-fi from the last glory days of the Cameron-Hurd partnership. In many ways Ed Harris' and Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio's characters are biographical of the off-screen breakup, but the driving forces were a good yarn and killer effects, not least of which obtained by shooting the entire movie in a flooded never-completed nuclear reactor containment building in 55 feet (seven and a half million gallons' worth) of water, draped over and shot at night to capture the realism of being 2000' under the ocean. On a grueling shoot for cast and crew, Cameron cemented his legendary status as a screaming a-hole perfectionist in mid-divorce, having dive helmets made where crew members could only listen, and only Cameron could talk, but in the end it was nominated for four Oscars, winning one for Best Visual Effects. Due to delays and budget excesses, it basically broke even, and probably would have fared much better had Fox let Cameron put the ending in it he wanted; the studio's choice basically fumbled the ball on the 2 yard line, until the director's cut came out in re-release, adding thirty minutes' footage and a less ham-fisted finish to a movie now over three hours long.

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