Asleep in the Deep
Way down in Davy Jones' locker rests the remains of the Titanic, a magnificent ship that wasn't supposed to sink. We've all heard the legendary story, and most of us have seen James "King of the World" Cameron's 1997 film adaptation -- some fans many times over. Although that Oscar-winning movie is not one of my favorites, I enthusiastically applaud Cameron for Ghosts of the Abyss, his incredible documentary about an under-the-sea expedition to the ship's watery grave.
Along with a team of historians and scientists, Cameron and friend Bill Paxton went back to the actual Titanic in 2001. Using technical equipment never before available, the group explored every nook and cranny of the doomed ship. "Jake" and "Elwood," two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVS), guide their way and help viewers discover poignant reminders of the passengers and crew, now only ghostly images superimposed on ethereal shots of the sunken vessel.
Why this trip back to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean? Because in a few years, the Titanic will be completely decomposed. "When I was young, Titanic was a legend, a myth," Cameron explains. "It wasn't until I saw it with my own eyes that it became real. It was a real event that happened to real people." Clearly, here's a filmmaker dedicated to doing what he can to preserve the true history of the Titanic.
Persuading Bill Paxton, who portrayed the salvage captain in Titanic, to come along for this undersea ride was one of Cameron's wisest moves. This appealing actor, with his fear of enclosed spaces and his wide-eyed reactions while viewing the ruined wreckage, adds both humor and pathos to a trip necessarily burdened with hi-tech baggage.
Now that I've seen the 2-Disc DVD edition of Ghosts of the Abyss, I'm sorry I missed the IMAX version. It must have been fantastic! Still, I highly recommend this DVD experience. For one thing, it contains a 90-minute extended feature as well as the 60-minute original theatrical release. For another, the rest of the bonus features are outstanding. Among the bonus highlights are: "Reflections from the Deep," a look back on the challenges of creating this documentary -- such as risky dives to the ocean floor in small submersibles; "The Mir Experience" which allows viewers to choose from different cameras and dive to the ocean's floor where the Grand Staircase can be seen from any direction; and "Echoes through Time," a description of how the ghostly figures were added to various scenes.
Besides being an enlightening and entertaining documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss draws parallels to the 9/ll tragedy by reminding us that sometimes the unthinkable really happens.
(Released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and rated "PG." Bonus DVD material unrated.)