It's not uncommon for a filmmaker to be haunted. In fact, it's often the ghost that drives them, pushing them, always, to reinvent the familiar, to make strange territory of our common ground. And that nagging desire to return to the site of the haunting - the need that rattles down the hallways of a filmmaker's brain -- is what lures the audience, again and again, into the flickering dark.Scorsese, by Manhattan. And Cameron, by the sea.

To examine the scope of his post-Titanic career, one might see water everywhere. While having yet to produce a feature film since the success of 1997's Titanic, Cameron has dedicated his talents as director, producer, and narrator to a host of ocean-related films and documentaries, pulling us down to further examine the Titanic and re-discover the Bismark.Latest among them is the fascinating Ghosts of the Abyss, the newest IMAX 3-D experiment to grace the giant screen. Ghosts is very much grounded in a reverence born from tragedy.

Conceived and directed by Cameron, the large-format film takes the audience 12,000 feet below the blue, into the illuminated darkness surrounding the Titanic. Sunken in 1912, the ship itself has since become a thing of myth, and Cameron, along with the help of Titanic co-star, Bill Paxton, takes to the adventure brilliantly.The overwhelming success of the film is not as a documentary, for Ghosts ultimately has little to say that hasn't been said elsewhere, and to greater effect. Rather, the informational aspect of the film bows gracefully to the visceral, an experience delivered through Cameron's state-of-the-art 3-D camera. Rejecting the dogma that 3-D film exists solely for the purpose of flying jet planes into our faces, Cameron finds effect in subtlety. The 3-D here is not a gimmick; it's a device, used tactfully in the service of scale.

Never have we seen the Titanic until now, in such detail, its size so apparent, its hull looming ever toward us. The 3-D quality simply provides us with more space, bringing the image forward, filling our vision and placing us directly at the scene, planted firmly into one of the two mini-submarines.And despite Paxton's occasionally hammy narration, there is an honest sense that those involved in the exploration are quite in awe.

Using two advanced, mobile cameras, Cameron directs us into the dim caverns of the Titanic, through hallways and dining rooms, across objects and windows preserved to this day. The creative use of photographs, animated maps, and live-action re-creations all help to orient the audience along the tour, always keeping us firmly aware of where in the ship we are and how it all appeared, so, so long ago.Ghosts of the Abyss is not without its adventure, wrapping us up in dangerous ocean swells, technical problems, the suspense of submerging always downward, and concluding with a comical rescue of one of the debilitated cameras. And the drama is not purely historical either, as the film draws a haunting parallel to modern events in its final moments.Overall, Ghosts is an experiential film and hits home in all the right places. While certainly not the best record of the mythical sinking, the film certainly provides a unique and entertaining dimension to the past, and one quite worth seeing.

Ghosts Of The Abyss is out April 10, 2003.

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