DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Ghosts of the Abyss, Blu-ray+3D+DVD (2003/2012)

A fascinating reduction of an IMAX 3D documentary on an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic.

Published on September 12, 2012

Ghosts of the Abyss, Blu-ray+3D+DVD (2003/2012)

Documentary on visiting the actual Titanic wreck
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Bill Paxton, Miguel Wilkins, Dale Ridge
Studio: Walden Media/Walt Disney Studio 109708 (3 discs) [9/11/12]
Video: 1.78:1, reduced from IMAX for 16:9 display, 1080i HD
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, DD 2.0, French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, French
Extras: 2D Blu-ray also has 90 minute extended feature version, and “Reflections from the Deep” bonus footage
Length: 60 min. (orig. theatrical feature & 3D version), 90 min. (extended 2D feature)
Rating: *****

It was natural that director James Cameron wanted to return to his greatest inspiration: the wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic, for this haunting documentary. It was originally produced for IMAX 3D showings, and used the most advanced 3D technology they had for the world’s largest-format filming in September 2001, when the team went to the spot where almost 1500 people drowned about a century ago. (Cameron was able to get a plug for his 1989 movie The Abyss into the title of this one.) With a team of American and Russian scientists and actor friend Bill Paxton, Cameron, with lots of equipment, made his way to the most intimate exploration of the wreckage that has ever been done. In the middle of the exploration, the crew got news of the 9/11 attack, which really shook them up.

The landmark vessel is explored from stem to stern using mini-subs, submersible ROVs, animation, and even images from Cameron’s Titanic feature film—of ghostly crew, captain and passengers on the sunken ship. Many of the details of the luxury ship have not been seen by anyone since it went down in 1912, such as stained glass windows and ornate doors. The underwater robots allowed the expedition to safely see deep into the remains of the ship, providing some surreal images.

The 3D is excellent, and the soundtrack has plenty of appropriate deep sounds which shook up the sofa to which I have a subsonic transducer afixed. It wasn’t until writing this up that I discovered that had I watched the 2D feature instead of the 3D I would have seen a half-hour more.  But I don’t think I want to return to the bottom of the Atlantic right now, in 2D or 3D. I learned two shocking facts I hadn’t been aware of before—not having seen Titantic yet (waiting for the 3D conversion): One was that some First Class passengers loaded the first lifeboats with only ten people when they could have carried many more to safety. And that the ship’s crew were ordered to seal off the lower decks so that the steerage passengers were blocked from getting up to access the insufficient lifeboats at all!

—John Sunier




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