the abyss20th Century Fox
1989
PG-13

“Howdy. Uh…how are you guys doin’?”

When a nuclear missile sub mysteriously sinks, the Navy commandeers the crew of a civilian deep-sea oil rig to help in the rescue operation. This perilous mission becomes a wondrous odyssey into the unknown as forces from the ocean’s deepest region begin to make contact with the divers. For Bud Brigman and his estranged wife Lindsey, it becomes also a test of their physical and emotional limits. Their journey into the endless night of the ocean’s depths lays bare the human heart in an elemental confrontation between death, love and something else…the strange inhuman watchers in The Abyss.

The Abyss. James Cameron’s other movie classic that didn’t involve future kill-bots, Xenomorphs or a doomed luxury liner. There’s another one that seems to be escaping my attention, but whatever.

My history with this movie was…surprising, actually. The Abyss was, as I recall, one of a handful of movies that were released at the same time, that featured a story of deep-sea unknown terror. It was one of those movies that I didn’t really noticed back when it was released, as there were other more important flicks I needed to watch. Yeah, that’s it. The Abyss was eventually bought on VHS by my parents because…I don’t know, really. I do know we recently acquired a VCR the previous year, so I remember going through the family movie collection one weekend afternoon, bored and wanting to watch something–anything–and spotting this. So I watched it. And I’ve rewatched it many times since then.

The Abyss is one of those Science Fiction movies that only the 1980s could produce, in that it has that mix of wonder as well as that touch of excitement and fear that normally would be the hallmarks of a classic Spielberg movie from the era. The story is the classic humans encountering aliens…only the twist being these aliens dwell deep in the ocean, instead of outer space. Well, maybe they were from outer space at one time, but they clearly loved the ocean floor property. Location, location, location, and all that. You got the scientist that wants to study the mysterious goings on, the blue-collar guys that are hired by the U. S. Military to dive down, and the military soldiers on board as well, all with their own agendas, that leads to some interesting drama and tension. Oh, did I mention the scientist and the foreman of the boat are estranged husband and wife? Yeah, there’s that, too.

Rewatching, the effects themselves hold up surprisingly well. Especially considering this was kind of the prototype use of the liquid CGI rendering that was featured heavily in Cameron’s future sequel to the Terminator. Of course, the movie ends in a very positive and hopeful kind of way that, depending on your disposition, will make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or trigger your cynicism powers.

Overall, The Abyss is one of those classic science fiction movies that, while not one from my childhood per-se, still holds nostalgic value as well as being a great sci-fi yarn that I still watch from time to time.

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