It's become clear over the last seven years that James Cameron never really enjoyed making fictional motion pictures. Flush with cash and power from the ginormous success of 1997's "Titanic," Cameron has since gone underground (sometimes literally) to fashion himself a Jacques Cousteau-type of adventure character for the new millennium. He's armed himself with state-of-the-art camera equipment, expensive submersibles, and the massive power of IMAX sound and vision.
While not explicitly mentioned, "Aliens of the Deep" (IMDb listing) is a companion piece to Cameron's 1989 masterpiece, "The Abyss." Cameron takes viewers back down into the mysterious depths of the ocean, but this time he's documenting the silent reality of the deep blue sea instead of dramatizing it with special effects. Cameron loves his water and depth, and after polishing off his Titanic fetish with 2003's IMAX documentary "Ghosts of the Abyss," Cameron has decided to head back down beneath the surface to show audiences what life is like on the ocean floor.
As with "Ghosts," Cameron has enlisted the tricky cinema of 3-D to help create a community experience of exploration, and the format keeps getting better and better (evidenced by the recent "Polar Express" large-format 3-D release). "Aliens of the Deep" uses 3-D to effectively encapsulate this seemingly infinite world of mystery. Cameron and his various space and oceanographic crew (who can't act, but are pleasant company) encounter strange creatures along the way, including a plethora of shrimp, alien-like jellyfish called "space bagels," and what may be the ugliest fish ever captured on film (that's what an eternity in the dark will do to you). In 3-D, these strange sights pop off the screen, enveloping the viewer and giving them a front row seat to these creatures and grandiose landscapes. It's an incredible sight.
"Aliens of the Deep" makes an aggressive attempt at drawing parallels between life on the ocean floor and species that could possibly be found on other planets. Personally, I could watch ugly fish all day, but Cameron wants to educate the viewer on the importance of exploration both on Earth and in space, specifically the Jupiter moon called Europa. Because the film's goal is to excite the possibility of life on other planets, the underwater Earth footage is often cut short just when it's hitting an entertaining and jaw-dropping stride. However, this is a minor complaint in another solid documentary from James Cameron. Now, on the eve of his return to feature films with 2007's "Battle Angel," I hope Cameron's curious spirit returns again someday for another journey into the great unknown underwater. With IMAX-sized ambitions, he's the ideal tour guide for these fascinating expeditions.
Filmfodder Grade: B+