James Cameron has made his fair share blockbuster masterpieces but his documentary Ghosts of the Abyss is a complete and utter failure. Cameron is no stranger to the Titanic, but his expansive subject matter provides for an hour-long saga of tedium in his latest venture. Filmed for the IMAX format and shown in headache inducing 3-D, Ghosts of the Abyss seems best suited for the Discovery Channel. Cameron means to take us on an exciting and haunting journey to the lower depths of the most famous underwater cemetery. What we see, though, are scientists gawking at the micro-organisms that now cover the Titanic, and the intact internal beauty of the ship. The sense of wonder and loss that consumed Cameron’s Academy Award winning Titanic is noticeably absent here. Recreations of the doomed passengers are hokey and resemble “Haunted Places” on the Travel Channel. Cameron expects the viewer to be on the edge of their seat when two underwater cameras get trapped in the Titanic. Actor Bill Paxton laments “We couldn’t just leave them, they were part of our team.” This is when you begin to realize that this is not a documentary about the Titanic as much as it’s a self-congratulatory ode to those obsessed with its technological marvel and their own fascination with invading it. If the participants were Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski perhaps there would be something of profound interest here. The final insult is when the pop song “Just the Two of Us” blasts over the soundtrack as Cameron’s underwater tech babies are saved in the very place where thousands have died. Do we really need to see Cameron and his team of scientists blown up to such nauseating proportions? Paxton tries to add some humanity to the rampant egotism, but is repeatedly trumped by Cameron’s insistence on technological masturbation.
- James Cameron
- Lewis Abernathy, James Cameron, Dr. Lori Johnston, Don Lynch, Ken Marschall, Vince Pace, Bill Paxton, Charles Pellegrino, Tava Smiley
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