I didn't know what to expect from "Ghosts of the Abyss," exactly. Extremely aware of James Cameron's fascination with the ruined ship of Titanic, I feared that the vessel on which we would embark with him will sink in shallow ground, concentrating merely on the wrack - and not the heart. I was wrong.
"Ghosts of the Abyss" is an entrancing 3-D look into the abyss that's found 1200 feet to the bottom of the ocean. The abyss where the once magnificent Titanic now lies, ruined. Using extraordinary technology, Cameron, along with his crew, bring to life the Titanic and its many ghosts. These ghosts are the people who were present on the ship, the artifacts and works of art that make up the ship and the stories that burn in the minds of those on the expedition - and likely the minds of many of the audience as well. Narrated and guided by Bill Paxton (with the aid of Jake and Elwood, the two small robot cameras who serve as our eyes), "Ghosts of the Abyss" is an amazing ride through the Titanic, its history, and more importantly, its humanity. Or rather, our own.
The film starts off with Bill Paxton's initial excitement of being presented with the opportunity to embark towards the legendary Titanic. His anticipation, however, quickly turns into fear. We see Paxton querying the Russian teammate on accident procedures while going down, cracking nervous jokes and nearly shaking with anticipation. But when his craft finally reaches the bottom, his fear turns into awe. In fact, the entire team is in awe, Russians included.
We witness the remnants of the ship, some parts of which are miraculously preserved, while others are badly eaten away. We see the china, we see the windows, we see the doors and we see it all so vividly, aided by this 3-D format. It takes some time for the eyes to adjust from surface to sea and vice-versa, but this is simply part of the IMAX experience. We witness the reanimation of the Titanic and even the characters that inhibited it, including the band that played on. We want to touch them, maybe even pull them into the boats. But then we remember, this is a movie. We can't turn back the clock.
But this doesn't stop the crew from discussing what happened and how they would react to such a situation, or rather, how they would like to. While there is plenty of discussion about the beauty and magnitude of the ship itself, the true heart of this documentary is never forgotten. That heart consists of the stories and the immense caring for these stories by those involved in the production. Even the tragedy of 9/11 sneaks in, drawing a distressing parallel between the two tragedies. One of the companion remarks that we've been in such terrible positions before, but we always get through it and keep going - which is what makes us human.
In my opinion, humble as it may be, 3-D is the format of the future. What "Ghosts of the Abyss," is able to accomplish is astounding. The film uses technology to involve the audience to a level that is not possible in a two dimensional film. But the film does not do this merely by exploiting technology, it does this by bringing together a heart-felt story, an inspiring team, and breathtaking visuals, all combined by an unforgettable IMAX experience. This is not the story of a ship. This is the story of humanity, at some of its tougher moments.
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Ghosts Of The Abyss is out April 10, 2003.